Dear Harvard College Parents, Families, and Guardians,
I am looking forward to welcoming you and your student to Harvard College in the coming days. Hundreds of deeply committed faculty members, administrators, and College staff have worked hard to ensure our community is ready for our full return to campus life.
As we begin a school year while still struggling to emerge from the pandemic, I have been reflecting on where we have been and where we are heading. The last 18 months have exposed and widened cracks in our systems and society. So much of our country has been significantly affected by the pandemic, the related economic toll, and the awakening to the depths of systematic racial injustices. These facets have shaken the very core of who we are, challenging us individually and as a community in profound ways. Our mission to educate citizens and citizen-leaders matters more than ever.
Despite what we continue to face, I am filled with hope for the coming year. First-year students have been communicating with their advisers and meeting new friends from around the world. Several students—new and returning—have shared with me how excited and nervous they are as they transition to life on campus. We know this unique moment will present opportunities for our students to develop the essential capacities of resilience and recovery from unplanned setbacks. We will do everything we can to encourage them to embrace this growth and to meet the challenges of the moment, and I am certain they will rise to the occasion.
As a parent of college students myself, I know that these years can be both rewarding and nerve-wracking, even without the additional concerns of Covid-19. To help ease this burden, we are offering some important resources to support you as parents and family members, including a Parent and Family Engagement website which contains information to keep you engaged in what’s happening in our community this academic year. We will also provide frequent updates on local health conditions.
As you and your student enter this new chapter, I 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 (including those living off-campus) 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 (HIPAA), written authorization from a student is necessary to release medical record information, though we encourage students to include you in discussions about major medical issues.
Additionally, I want to remind 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 directly.
Our Harvard community depends on certain core values in order to advance our research and teaching goals. We have reminded our learners that the standards of conduct in our Harvard Community apply to all students. In order to ensure that Harvard’s campus can reopen safely, students must adhere to Harvard’s vaccination and testing requirements. I know all of us wish this was behind us, but we will enforce these requirements to ensure the health and safety of your student and our entire community.
We look forward to working in partnership with you to support your student during what will be a unique academic year as they take their next steps to becoming the responsible citizens and citizen-leaders the world needs now more than ever.
Danoff Dean of Harvard College