A message from Dean Douglas Elmendorf

Dear Students, Staff, and Faculty of Harvard Kennedy School,

As you saw in the latest University-wide message, the Harvard community will be taking new measures to help keep us all safe as COVID-19 cases, including those of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, rise sharply. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have risen to the challenge of pursuing our learning and work as fully as possible while protecting our health—and we will continue to do that.

Different Harvard schools will implement Harvard’s new measures in somewhat different ways because of varied programs during the January term, variation in whether students live on- or off-campus, and other factors. Moreover, HKS and other schools have not yet worked out all the specifics that need to be resolved but want to get out some general information as quickly as possible.

Here’s what we know now about what will happen at HKS:

  • All HKS January-term classes will be held online. In addition, off-campus courses and student travel organized by HKS generally will be canceled. More information will be forthcoming as soon as possible.
  • Staff, faculty, students, and others should generally work from home between January 3rd and January 21st, although the HKS campus will be open for people who need access to it. The Café will be closed. More information about campus access will be forthcoming as soon as possible.

The need for changes in Harvard’s plans within just the past week highlights the importance of our remaining flexible, although I realize that the uncertainty we face can be troubling. We will keep you informed as best we can, so please check your email for updates, and visit the Harvard COVID website and HKS’s COVID website for reminders of various policies. As the latest University-wide message says, Harvard is planning to return to more on-campus activities later in January, public health conditions permitting.

Anyone at the Kennedy School who needs to talk with someone about navigating these issues should reach out for support. Potential sources of support include Harvard’s CAMHS for students, the Employee Assistance Program for staff and faculty, and the Harvard chaplains for everyone. But please understand that these teams are only now receiving this new information themselves, and they, like the rest of us, will need some time to recharge over the break.

Please take the important steps to protect you, your families, and your friends: Get your booster shot right away and mask, minimize contact, maintain distance, and keep testing (through the Harvard system or in other ways).

I share your disappointment and frustration that the sharp increase in COVID cases in Boston and elsewhere is creating still more disruptions to our lives and work after nearly two long years. However, I take comfort in remembering that, since the beginning of the pandemic, we have found our way through the many uncertainties and obstacles together. I know that we will continue to do so.

Best wishes,