Dear Colleagues,

I know many of you have questions about the fall, and you’ll be able to ask them in tomorrow’s Town Halls. But I thought it might be helpful if I answered the most common questions now.

Illness/ Isolation: Many of you are wondering how best to handle illness this fall—not only the illnesses of your students, but also, possibly, your own. As always, you have the discretion to set policies for your courses, within the limits set by the Student Handbook. The one exception is if you or your students are put into isolation. People who test positive for Covid-19 will be required to isolate for ten days, but many of those people will have mild symptoms, if any, and will therefore be able to carry on with their courses. (Students who are more seriously ill may request an Extension of Time to complete their work). We ask that you maintain academic continuity through isolation, and we’ve gathered a list of suggestions for how you might do so with relative ease.

Masking: Many of you also have questions about teaching while wearing a mask. Doing so may feel a little strange at first, but the Bok Center has created guidance about creating a sense of warmth and engagement even in a masked classroom. Those of you who are teaching in larger classrooms may find it helpful to use a microphone; you should find one waiting for you (contact if you need assistance). You should also find a supply of masks, in case anyone forgot theirs (contact the building manager if you need more). In general, students have been very good about remembering to wear their masks and the few who forget have been quick to comply when reminded. If, however, you run into any difficulties, you may refer students to the DUS and their resident deans.

Remote Teaching: Some of you have asked whether you might continue teaching remotely. The FAS is returning to in-person instruction, which means that no lecture, seminar, or section should be taught online. Exceptions may be granted for medical reasons (you may apply for a modification through University Disability Resources). Exceptions may also be granted on very limited pedagogical grounds, specifically, for courses that cannot be taught effectively in person. (Contact for more information). As for office hours, you are free to hold them either in person or remotely. If you choose to hold your office hours remotely, please remember that students may be zooming in from crowded dorm rooms and make sure to provide some way for them to discuss sensitive matters more privately.

This fall will also see two other, happier, changes. First, our new policy on simultaneous enrollment, which we voted for in the spring of 2020, is now in effect. Under this new policy, students may enroll simultaneously in any approved course without petitioning; they may petition to enroll simultaneously in courses that haven’t been approved, but permission will be granted only rarely. Second, we’ve improved our course evaluation system to allow for formative feedback. As you know, it’s good to check in with students midway through the semester to gauge what’s working and what’s not. (The Bok Center has guidance about this). Now you’ll be able to use the course evaluation system for soliciting this feedback, rather than having to create Google forms or Qualtrics surveys. Because this feedback is meant to be formative, rather than evaluative, it will be for your eyes only: no one else will be able to read what your students write. And if midterm feedback is helpful for us, it’s even more helpful for our students. Please use the Midterm Progress Report to let students know how they’re doing, particularly if you have any concerns.

I hope this information is helpful. If you have any additional questions, you’ll likely find them answered on the FAS website or in the Covid-19 Guidance. Otherwise, you should contact the administrative dean for your division, who will refer your question appropriately.

With all best wishes,


Amanda Claybaugh
Dean of Undergraduate Education
Harvard College Professor
Zemurray Stone Radcliffe Professor of English

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