Dear Harvard College parents and guardians,
I am looking forward to welcoming you and your student to Harvard in the coming days. In anticipation of the new academic year, hundreds of deeply committed faculty members, administrators, and College staff are working hard to ensure the campus and our community is ready.
As I begin my fourth year as Dean, I have taken some time this summer to reflect on where we have been and where we are heading. Our world has seen great happiness, but also horrific tragedy, and unrest. Each of us knows the important issues facing our Harvard community — addressing the pervasive problem of sexual assault and harassment on our campus, working to build a greater sense of inclusion and belonging across all facets of our community by increasing student-administration collaboration on initiatives to create a more equitable and inclusive Harvard community, strengthening the General Education program and academic support services, and creating opportunities for social engagement. As your student comes to campus, I have asked that they consider how they will use their talents and their time to help address these challenges over the course of this year. I believe that no one person has a monopoly on good ideas or the truth — and I have seen in my time as their Dean that we are at our best when we listen to each other and work together as a community.
As a parent of students in college myself, I know that having a child in college is both rewarding and a bit nerve-wracking. Harvard offers important resources to support you as parents, including a Parent and Family Programs Office and website which contains information we hope you will find helpful as you plan for the upcoming year. We will also be planning webinars for new Harvard parents and guardians this fall and discussions about our liberal arts and sciences program later in the year.
I also want to remind you of the federal laws that Harvard College must follow with regard to sharing student health and academic information. Harvard College students have access to Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) for any medical and mental health care they may need while studying at Harvard. Under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), written authorization from a student is necessary to release medical record information to parents and guardians, though we encourage students to include parents in discussions about major medical problems and their treatment.
I would also like to provide you with additional information on Freshman Move-In Day, on August 22. I encourage you to stop into the Family Welcome Lounge and Community Social anytime between 11 a.m.-5 p.m. There will be space to take a rest from unpacking, enjoy a cold drink and talk with other families, students, staff, and administrators. From 2-5 p.m., the Freshman Family Resource Fair will offer an opportunity to talk with representatives from various campus offices and learn about the resources available to your students. Both of these events will take place in the Science Center, Cabot Library. And of course, don’t miss the Official Welcome in Sanders Theatre at 3 p.m. A full listing of family Move-In Day events can be found here.
Additionally, I need to share with you that under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) students have control over the release of their academic information. In compliance with this law, Harvard College treats your student’s information confidentially and provides them with control over the release of that information per FERPA law. Therefore, to learn about your student’s progress through Harvard College or to gain access to a student record, you will need to speak with your student.
As a parent, I know nothing feels better than hearing my child say, “I love it here!” But these four years are also a time of challenge and personal growth, and there will be bumps in the road. It’s helpful to remember that while these bumps can be jarring, they also present opportunities for students to learn and grow, and to develop the essential capacities of resilience and recovery from unplanned setbacks. These capacities will prepare them for an uncertain and changing world. Please know that the College offers myriad academic and mental health support services for our students. We encourage you to speak with your student to offer guidance and remind them of the resources available to them on campus.
On behalf of the entire Harvard College community, I want to express gratitude for the faith that you have placed in your student and in this institution. You are part of our Harvard family. We look forward to continue working in partnership with you to help your student toward greater maturity and becoming the responsible citizens and citizen-leaders the world needs. Together, we can make these years truly transformative.
Danoff Dean of Harvard College