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Common Spaces Set to Open Across Campus to Students With Reservations

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Some common spaces across campus are slated to reopen this week and next week as part of a new pilot program introduced to provide additional study space to on-campus students, Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair and Harvard Library Vice President Martha J. Whitehead announced within the past week.

Gone, though, are the days when students could freely enter libraries, the Smith Campus Center, and other study hubs and nonchalantly occupy a table all day. Students must now reserve these spaces at least a day in advance and complete a coronavirus test to gain entrance to these locations, O’Dair's Friday email noted.

Once inside, students are expected to adhere to a slew of rules — face coverings must be worn at all times, food and drinks are prohibited, and group study is not permitted. Everyone must maintain at least six foot distance from other patrons.

In a Thursday email, Harvard Library Vice President Martha J. Whitehead announced that Cabot Library would be offering study space to undergraduates beginning Oct. 13.

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“I continue to be impressed with the level of expertise and caution being applied to all aspects of the University’s pandemic response, and the incredible work of our own teams in the Library,” she wrote. “Our restart plan is proceeding successfully due to careful planning, ongoing assessment, and the dedication of hundreds of individuals. That same degree of care is evident in the Cabot study space pilot, and I look forward to building on the experience we gain from it in the months ahead.”

O’Dair said in an interview last week that students can expect to see more study spaces open as the semester progresses.

In her email, O’Dair also outlined the opening of music practice spaces in Memorial Hall, which are scheduled to reopen for piano, as well as orchestral and jazz percussion instruments on Oct. 14. Students will only be allowed to use these spaces up to twice a week and must register for a practice room at least two weeks in advance.

Amelia M. Cossentino ’23 said she is “super excited” to have access to the practice rooms on campus. Before vacating campus in March, Cossentino — a tuba player in the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra — said she used practice rooms around campus at least twice a week. Since returning to Cambridge, however, she has only been able to play her instrument in small outdoor settings.

“It definitely makes me feel better about being on campus — it makes it feel less restrictive and it makes it feel more similar to what life was like before COVID,” she said. “It kind of elevates it to a higher level of similarity to what it used to be.”

Director of Choral Activities and Senior Lecturer on Music Andrew G. Clark said he believes access to practice space is “vitally important” for music students to regain access to practice spaces. He added the new space will impact both students’ class needs, as well as improving mental health and well-being.

“I've seen so often through the years how making music, making art as a space of refuge, as a space of rejuvenation,” he said. “I think it's going to be of great benefit to the students’ health and well-being to begin to have more access to spaces and opportunities.”

He also noted while some Harvard affiliates have regained access to laboratories, music students have not had equal access to necessary spaces.

“It was a little disappointing to me that some of our students had access to their scientific laboratories to do their coursework, but the same students who needed a practice room to do their coursework in the music department did not have the same kind of access,” he said. “So it catches us up and levels the playing field.”

“It just brings us one step closer to being able to have what we need to do the work that we need to do,” Clark added.

—Staff writer Sydnie M. Cobb can be reached at sydnie.cobb@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @cobbsydnie.

—Staff writer Declan J. Knieriem can be reached at declan.knieriem@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DeclanKnieriem

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