Online courses are back at HBS | Opinion

What we hoped would never happen again happened: Last Thursday, Harvard announced that the Business School would be moving online courses for all freshmen and some second-year MBA students for a week – starting September 27 – due to a significant increase in Covid-19 cases at school. Today marks what is hopefully their last day of online school.

This movement seems justified. The Business School had nearly 60 isolated students at the time of the choice. Despite making up 9% of Harvard’s student body, HBS students, mostly freshmen, made up two-thirds of Covid cases among college students in September – a development that has been attributed to social gatherings off campus with unmasked mixes among students. That’s 12 times the positivity rate at other Harvard schools, including the College, which faced its own more modest spike in Covid-19 cases earlier this fall.

This step back is also a little scary. We don’t even want to imagine our classes going back online, adding to the pain and disruption this dragging pandemic has already caused. HBS’s brief comeback online is a shocking reminder that Covid-19 is still very much with us. We need to take this as an indication that we all need to act responsibly when it comes to protecting ourselves and others from Covid-19 – even outside of our formal classes and university events, and even when no one is. looked.

Harvard’s decision to move the online classes for a single week to the Business School is a tactful response, and its bespoke nature is a tremendous source of relief. The choice is indicative of the University’s capacity for agile and proportional action in response to changing circumstances. It also suggests that we have learned a lot over the past 18 months about how to respond to Covid-19, with a better understanding of what is needed to curb an increase in cases: increase our testing rates and de-densify everything if possible. preserve the residential experience. We are also excited about Harvard’s cooperation with local government officials to ensure this epidemic does not spread to the city of Cambridge or beyond. This week’s online course came after local and state public health officials informed him. All of these short-term measures promise to bring long-term gains, both for our own peace of mind and for the real protection of our community.

Covid-19 requires constant recalibration of our behavior. In this new phase of the pandemic, we must anticipate the splash of covid cases even within our highly vaccinated community. When the number of cases increases, we have to adjust. It is not at all clear what the correct sizing is, and each person will have a different level of comfort or uncomfortable with social interaction. Nonetheless, we hope that the swelling of cases we have witnessed at Business School will lead to a greater awareness that Covid-19 is still a threat to our academic experiences and our health, and may discourage reckless behavior.

We also believe that the situation at the Business School speaks to the continued importance of Covid-19 testing on campus. HBS students previously tested for Covid weekly; now this rate has been increased to every other day. The exact same increase in testing rates was mandatory for undergraduates after our own post-move-in Covid spike; since its implementation, cases have declined. The university should consider anticipating outbreaks that might arise in its other schools and institute testing three times a week for all Harvard schools if possible.

The university should also find a way to immediately make it clear to its students and affiliates where the positive Harvard cases are coming from. Instead of aggregating all graduate students into one category on the school’s public Covid-19 testing dashboard, Harvard should specify which graduate school these positive cases are going through. This information would allow all students of the University to make more informed decisions about their own conduct and interactions on campus.

Even though we wish it didn’t, Covid-19 is still a threat. It is important that we continue to act responsibly, react swiftly, and do everything possible to prevent the spread of the virus on campus, not only for the safety of our community, but also to protect the sanctity of our experience. in person. We wish our peers across the river a good last day of virtual lessons.

This staff editorial represents the majority opinion of The Crimson Editorial Board only. It is the product of discussions at regular editorial board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to express their opinion and vote at these meetings are not involved in the publication of articles on similar topics.

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