‘Harvard Will Be Open for Fall 2020,’ Provost Writes, Ruling Out Delay Until Spring


Whether on campus or virtually, Harvard will resume teaching and research in fall 2020, University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 wrote in a message to Harvard affiliates Monday afternoon.

As University administrators decide to what extent the coronavirus pandemic will prevent normal operations, Garber’s message ruled out one option floated by other universities and some students: delaying the upcoming semester entirely.

“A range of scenarios has been and will continue to be evaluated for the fall, from fully restored on-campus activities – a “normal” return to campus – to delaying the opening of the University until next spring semester,” Garber wrote.

“Yet for us the most important decision is a clear one: Harvard will be open for fall 2020,” he added.


University President Lawrence S. Bacow said in an interview earlier this month Harvard was considering “lots of different scenarios” for the upcoming semester.

As administrators determine what precisely the fall will look like, Garber wrote that they will evaluate “epidemiological data and public health models.”

“If our community has not developed sufficient levels of immunity through recovery from the disease or vaccination, and if safe and effective antiviral therapy is not available, we will likely need adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, reliable and convenient viral testing, robust contact tracing procedures, and facilities for quarantine and isolation,” he said.

If Harvard pilots a partially or fully virtual semester, Garber wrote that it will look very different from the past several months. With more time to plan ahead, faculty will develop courses for classrooms scattered around the globe, and affiliates will “reimagine” research, extracurriculars, and professional development.

“Should we not be able to resume a fully on-campus experience, our efforts will not end with a shift to remote teaching and learning,” he wrote.

Ending his message, Garber did not rule out the possibility that the fall semester might serve as a mirror image of this spring, beginning remotely and transitioning to in-person activities.

“Even if we must begin the semester remotely, we hope to return students to campus as soon as it is possible to do so while providing for their safety and that of the entire campus community,” Garber wrote.

“In its 384-year history, Harvard has overcome many adversities, drawing on the courage and determination of its community,” he added. “This extraordinary time calls on us to build on that history, working together in ways we never have before.”

—Staff writer Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.