Dear Harvard College Students,
The past week has been one of the toughest that any of us could ever have imagined facing together. Last Monday, you were attending classes and socializing with friends. Now, most of you have departed for the semester, and those who remain are adjusting to a very different campus. While the decision to de-densify our campus was disruptive and burdened you with enormous personal and logistical challenges, I believe it was the right thing to do for the safety and well-being of our community. Although absolutely necessary and required by the evolving global pandemic, the decision came with unintended and incredibly hard impacts on our community. I wish I could find the words to tell you how much I already miss seeing you on campus.
I know you don’t need me to tell you how fortunate we all are to be a part of this extraordinary community. Harvard College is extraordinary not because of its hallowed history, beautiful architecture, or famous alumni, but because of each and every one of you. As I walked around campus this week, I was inspired by your empathy, your camaraderie, and your generosity towards each other. Students who had never met one another before were helping each other pack, lending a hand as boxes were loaded into waiting cars, or simply being there as a shoulder to lean on for those struggling. And in the midst of juggling difficult logistical issues, you found time to support your friends, and to enjoy each other’s company for a few more days. Your responses to this difficult time reminded all of us how much we mean to each other.
I know we have all felt pain and sadness this week, and that the coming months will be difficult. Saying goodbye is one of the hardest things in life, and having to do so months sooner than you anticipated is an enormous burden for anyone. I know this week was especially hard for our seniors. But I take comfort in knowing we will find ways to reconnect in the coming weeks. Throughout the remainder of the term, our faculty and staff will do everything they can to stay connected with you. You already know that classes will continue, and that we will do our best to support your academic progress. And we will also do our best to foster a sense of community during this difficult time. I hope you will help us sustain our connections by reaching out to friends to see how they are and by finding new ways to work with classmates and faculty. I know that each of us will face different challenges as we adapt to these new circumstances, and not everything will go smoothly. But I hope that we will all be able to remain patient with each other and gentle with yourself.
As we navigate our way through the rest of the spring term, you will continue to hear from me. You might even hear me quote the mission of the College once or twice because I believe it has never been so important. But one thing you won’t hear from me is “goodbye.” Because while we may have temporarily gone our separate ways, our journey together continues.
I look forward to staying in touch as we meet this challenging moment together.