A week ago, I was still on campus, and I would have never been able to imagine that I would be packing up my room and leaving Cambridge to never come back for 5.5 months. I thought I still would get to experience Harvard traditions like Housing Day (when first years learn of the upperclassmen house they will live in for the next three years), Yardfest, and even hosting events at Visitas, Harvard’s prefrosh admit weekend. Yet last Tuesday, all these potential experiences vanished abruptly when Harvard President Larry Bacow sent an email saying that classes were to be conducted through Zoom, and when Dean Khurana followed up with an email mandating every student to move out by 5pm on Sunday, March 15th.
Immediately, all my group chats started blowing up. People were in shock that their year had ended so abruptly, and everyone was panicking on what to do regarding storage and flights. As soon as I stepped outside my dorm room to go to breakfast, I see crowds of people (quite ironic) in front of Widener Library crying and taking pictures. The weather was beautiful, we hadn’t seen anything like it for months, but in that moment, no one really cared. Freshmen were saddened by the fact that they would never be able to experience the first year formal, or the thrill of being dorm stormed on Housing Day, but Seniors were so much more upset — imagine abruptly being told you only had 5 days left to live in the campus that has been home to you for three and a half years?
It is also notable to mention that while many of us can just pack all of our things in a van and cruise back to our families before Sunday, many students did not have anything else other than Harvard; their dorm room was their one and only home, and Harvard initially seemed ignorant towards the needs of these students by shutting them out and not listening to their needs as students. Luckily, Harvard’s student body was able to come together strong enough to convince Harvard to support students financially through flight tickets, storage, etc. Even better, some students immediately reached out to group chats, offering their home to stay at for any student who needs it for the next few months, and they were willing to house any student out of good will. This situation overall was super scary, but it was nice to know that there are incredible students at Harvard who will support each other when we are all dealing with such an abrupt crisis.
Harvard wasn’t the only school to close off dorms to students, however. As soon as Harvard made the decision to make us move out, news spread immediately throughout the entire nation through multiple media outlets, and so many other schools followed in suit. There are schools with students who are currently on Spring Break and have to return back to their college to get their stuff and move out, and there are students on Spring Break who don’t even get the opportunity to come back to campus and get their stuff. Harvard was lucky to make the decision before our break started this week, as hard as it was on the students.
So here I am now, all moved out of college and safe and social distanced in my home, writing about how crazy this past week was. I’m definitely still upset; Zoom is never going to be a perfect replacement for collaborating with incredible students in Cabot Science Library or even casually talking to friends in Annenberg Hall over New England Clam Chowder. But deep down inside, I know that Harvard had to make this hard decision, and I think Harvard made the right decision for the good of society. I hope that everyone reading this takes the right precautions to stay safe and help society, and hopefully we get to resume life as we love it soon.