fbpx Coronavirus (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions | Harvard Kennedy School

General Information

General information about operations on campus, remote classes and work, and how to stay informed.

Coronavirus Information for Students
Remote work

Will the campus buildings be open during our remote work-only period? 

The Kennedy School campus will remain closed until further notice. Please do not come to the buildings without first consulting Beth Banks, Associate Dean of Human Resources, to determine if a visit is necessary.

How long will I be expected to work remotely?

The Kennedy School campus will remain closed until further notice. The University is continuing to monitor conditions in the Boston area, and we will provide plenty of advance warning before expecting people to be back on campus. 

If I cannot do my job remotely, will I still be paid?

Harvard University has issued guidance on pay continuity. The University has announced that for those employees who are covered under the Emergency Excused Absence policy, the University will continue pay and benefits for an additional month, until June 28, 2020. Since the effects of the virus cannot be fully foreseen, this and other policies will be revisited on a periodic basis.

I am a union employee. How will I be affected by remote work?

You should talk with your manager to determine if the functions in your job may be performed remotely. If some or all of the functions of your job cannot be performed remotely, see the previous question about pay continuity.

Can I take computer equipment home with me?

Email your manager the components you intend to bring home. With approval, you can bring your docking station, monitor, keyboard, mouse, webcam, and power adapter.

Can I bring home my desktop computer?

You can bring home a desktop only if you need a special function such as high end publishing or video editing that cannot be done on a standard laptop. Your request must be approved by the manager who is responsible for tracking desktops that leave campus and by HKS IT to ensure the computer has been encrypted. Please email requests to ithelp@hks.harvard.edu and include the user's name as well as the name of the computer.

Will the University reimburse or subsidize costs associated with working from home, e.g. Wi-Fi, cell phone usage, office equipment, or other office supplies?

Please see the Guidelines for Purchases of Supplies and Equipment During COVID-19 document from the HKS Office of Finance on their KNet Page.

I need help with my HKS-issued computer, laptop or other technology, what should I do?

HKS IT Service Center continues to support HKS faculty and staff during COVID-19.  Technology-related questions and issues can be addressed by phone (617-495-DESK) or email (ithelp@hks.harvard.edu).  For more information and hours of operation, please refer to the IT KNET page.

Can staff and faculty travel for Harvard business?

All University-related travel, both international and domestic, is prohibited until further notice and should not be planned or scheduled at this time.  Personal travel, both international and domestic, is also strongly discouraged.  If you must travel, make sure you are aware of and adhere to restrictions for your destination and place of return.  Review Harvard Global Support Services' (GSS) international travel guidance and visit the Harvard University travel guidance page

Do we still honor flex schedules during this 100% remote work environment?

Yes, if the business needs can support the flex work arrangement and pending your manager’s approval.

Will the maximum vacation balance policy change due to COVID-19?

At this time, the maximum vacation balance policy will not change. Staff are encouraged to use vacation and personal time.

Are staff still able to apply for Short Term Disability or Family Medical Leave?

Yes, please contact your Senior HR Consultant to review the information and applicable processes.

What do I do if I test positive for COVID-19? ​

Please speak with your manager and report a presumptive or confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis to HUHS by email at healthservices@huhs.harvard.edu.  If you are unable to work, sick time should be recorded in PeopleSoft. 

Do I need to provide a doctor’s note stating I have COVID19 or when I am able to return to work?

In general, written medical documentation will not be required unless you have been away from work for substantial amount of time and may need short-term disability.

What if I do not have enough sick time?

As indicated in the Enhanced Workplace Policies on HARVie, employees may use up to 14 unearned sick days (i.e. they may accrue negative sick leave balances of up to 14 days) for illness, to meet self-isolation or quarantine requirements. Harvard reserves the right to recoup this time from the final paycheck of employees who terminate before they rebuild their accrued sick time.

What happens if I need to take care of a dependent?

According to the Enhanced Workplace Policies, employees may exceed the regular limits on the use of family and dependent care sick time (normally 2 to 12 days per year for staff) to care for dependents who are ill, or whose schools or care arrangements have been disrupted due to COVID-19. Use of family and dependent care sick time is still subject to the availability of regular sick time, plus an additional 14 days of “unearned” (i.e., not yet earned) sick time. For example, if an employee has 15 sick days already accrued, all 15 days plus an additional 14 days of unearned sick time could be used for family and dependent care.

 For more information and tips, visit the Harvard University remote work site.

HKS buildings and facilities

Will the building remain accessible?

HKS buildings are closed.
At this time, admittance is by special authorization only.

If you have any questions please reach out to: 

  • Debbie Issacson for Students
  • Beth Banks for Staff and Fellows
  • Suzanne Cooper for Faculty

Will security remain onsite?

Yes, there will be Security presence on the Quad. HKS Security can be reached at 617-495-1330.  For off the Quad buildings, Security presence will continue as normal but if assistance is needed at off quad building please call HKS Security.

Will the mailroom remain operational?

Basic mail will be sorted on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:00AM - 5:00PM only.  

Sorting and mail delivery for USPS, UPS and FedEx mail to 124 Mt Auburn, 114 Mt Auburn, and 1 Brattle will also take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays.   Note: Only authorized employees can pick up mail from their respective areas.  These employees must have prior written approvals from their managers.

Note: Packages sent to the school should be absolutely necessary and work related.  Do not send your personal mail and packages to the mailroom.  No packages and mail will be resent to home addresses. 

For any questions concerning mail services, please contact the Campus Planning & Operations helpdesk at 617-495-1306 or email cpo_alerts@hks.harvard.edu  

What about Office Supplies deliveries?

Ordering of all office supplies including other materials (furniture etc.) are suspended at this time, until further notice.  So, we do not anticipate any vendor deliveries during this time period.

Will custodial staff remain onsite?

HKS will have a small staff onsite once or twice a week to conduct essential cleaning in all buildings.

Who do I contact for Room Reservations questions/concerns?

Room Reservations staff will be working remotely, for any questions or concerns, please contact hksreservations@hks.harvard.edu or contact via phone at 617-495-1306

Will HUDS (Harvard University Dining Services) remain operational?

The Café located in Wexner ground floor will be closed and catering unavailable until further notice.

I am a student graduating this year; will I be able to access my locker and/or bike? When is the last date to gather my belongings?

Lockers/Bikes may be accessed by reaching out to Deb Isaacson who will coordinate with Security.

  • Lockers: Security will schedule a time for you to come to campus to retrieve items from your locker. Locks will not be cut, and items will not be removed without prior notice from the registrar’s office.
  • Bikes: Security will schedule a time for you to come to campus to retrieve your bike.
Any questions regarding building operations, maintenance, and work orders, please contact the Campus Planning & Operations helpdesk line at: 617-495-1306
Staying healthy

What should I do if I suspect that I have been infected with the COV19 virus, or if I came in contact with someone who has tested positive?

Please refer to this guidance: https://huhs.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/Self-Isolation_Guidance.pdf

The rapidly changing nature of this public health emergency raises questions and anxieties, here are some things you can do:

  • If you may have been exposed to COVID-19 and have symptoms, contact your primary care provider and also let HUHS know (healthservices@huhs.harvard.edu) so we can advise you. Please do not go to a medical office or emergency room without calling first.
  • If you think you may have had an exposure but no symptoms, please review and follow HUHS’ guidance to determine whether you should self-isolate.
  • Even if HUHS is not your healthcare provider: Please notify us via email if you are tested for COVID-19 (healthservices@huhs.harvard.edu), so we can continue to assess the impact on our community.
  • It is essential that we all practice and promote good, basic hygiene: wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; cough/sneeze into the crook of your elbow; avoid close contact with those who are sick; stay home when you are sick; and take any other precautions required by your job.
  • Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Review information and resources to manage fear and anxiety.
  • For students with the Student Health Insurance Plan, we have implemented temporary benefit changes in response to COVID-19. Please review our FAQs.
Staying informed

Visit the Harvard coronavirus website and KNet for information on travel restrictions, gatherings, hygiene, and more. You can also visit Harvard's Frequently Asked Questions page

Community Messages

Emails from Dean Douglas Elmendorf to the Harvard Kennedy School students, faculty, and staff.

Updates on Harvard Kennedy School (5/6/20)

To the Staff and Faculty of Harvard Kennedy School,

We are now in the 8th week of our virtual Kennedy School and the 6th month of the global struggle against the new coronavirus.

Across this country and around the world, the spread of Covid-19 is bringing complications to the lives of nearly everyone, acute challenges to many people, and tragedies in some lives. I offer my deepest sympathy to all who have suffered and are continuing to suffer, and my profound appreciation to all who are helping others and keeping our societies going.

I hope that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy, and that you are finding ways to move ahead with purpose from day to day under these strange and unsettled conditions.

What you have done since the middle of March is simply amazing, and I am full of admiration and gratitude. We have pivoted successfully to remote learning for students and remote work for faculty, staff, and fellows: Well over a thousand class sessions have taken place over Zoom, as have countless meetings, conversations, office hours, seminars, and events—and more than a few coffee breaks and happy hours. We have been vigorously involved in helping public leaders and officials around the world respond to this crisis with effective public management, economic policy, international relations strategy, health policy, and more; to keep up with some of this work, please check our Covid-19 web page and subscribe to our newsletter. We have pitched in personally to help our local and global neighbors, and the volunteer opportunities web page created by our Center for Public Leadership presents more ways to do so. And we have cared for our colleagues, families, and friends who have needed large, or small, boosts during this hard period.

These important achievements of the faculty, students, staff, and fellows of the Kennedy School have been complemented by the work of our alumni and friends around the world. When I have been speaking recently with members of the broader Kennedy School community, I have heard about some of their own efforts (of which a few examples are captured on one of our alumni web pages) and about their pride in what is happening from our virtual campus. Although we are physically separated today, we are all truly connected in fulfilling the mission of the Kennedy School by advancing the public interest.

As we look ahead, we have much to do to build on the accomplishments of the past two months, and that is why I am writing now. With uncertainty about how the pandemic will be evolving in this country and other countries, travel and convening remaining difficult for at least a while, and with the global economy in a stunningly deep recession, “business as usual” is not possible. So, we need to redesign how we do our work. Our mission is not changing, but the way we advance that mission needs to adapt to our new circumstances.

Over the past several weeks, I have been in conversation with many people around the School about how we can make changes that will not only address our immediate challenges but also put us in a better position for the years to come. In the rest of this (admittedly long) message, I offer an overview of what we are doing now and plan to do in the months ahead.

Returning to Campus
As Provost Alan Garber explained in his message last week, the University will allow people to come back to campus only when it is safe to do so and in a manner that preserves our health. At some point, the University will announce overall guidelines for returning to campus, and the various schools will apply those guidelines to fit specific situations. For example, people who can maintain physical distancing in laboratories may come back before people who work in more-crowded office or classroom settings. And once on campus, all of us will need to follow certain protocols to ensure our safety.

I cannot hazard a guess about when the University’s policies and our application of them will bring us back to our offices, classrooms, and common spaces. As we plan, we will be sensitive to everyone’s caregiving responsibilities and commuting concerns as well as their health in our buildings.

I am delighted to report that nearly as many students accepted our offers of admission for next year’s degree programs as we had originally planned. Given the current circumstances, that outcome occurred only because of extraordinary efforts by Debbie Isaacson and her team in Degree Programs and Student Affairs, by more than 90 faculty volunteers who reached out to admitted students, by the research centers that held open houses, and by our current students and alumni who stepped up as recruiters. Thanks so much to all who pitched in to help yield a robust incoming class!

Unfortunately, we cannot take for granted that everyone who accepted admission will ultimately enroll, as health issues, financial difficulties, and obstacles to travel may cause some of them to withdraw in the next few months. Moreover, those same challenges will confront, and possibly discourage, some of our continuing students.

To minimize the “melt” of students during the summer and to sustain the enthusiasm of those who will enroll, we aim to keep all of our students engaged and excited through the summer, including by offering new learning opportunities for everyone and creating additional internships for continuing students (which a number of research centers have stepped up to do). We also need to honor our commitment that we will deliver an exceptional experience next year even if part of the year is conducted remotely—including the possibility that some students will be on campus and others will be at a distance for part of the time. Doing so will require the same broad community effort we have shown over the past 8 weeks, and I return to this point shortly.

I am pleased also that our executive education program has already initiated some courses in new online formats, with more courses in the pipeline. Because we cannot convene executive education courses on campus now, and because travel restrictions of various sorts will persist for some time, offering effective online courses is crucial to our ability to continue to reach participants across the country and around the world.

Academic Planning
To provide the learning experiences that our students expect, we need to reinvent parts of our courses and other activities to take advantage of technology’s possibilities rather than just accommodating technology’s restrictions. Such reinvention will be crucial if we need to begin next year with remote learning, and it can be hugely beneficial even if we begin next year back on campus together.

Making the needed changes will require intense efforts by many faculty and staff members over the coming months, and I am grateful in advance to everyone involved. To organize these efforts, numerous streams of work are underway or will begin shortly:

  • Kessely Hong, Tarek Masoud, and numerous colleagues in DPSA are creating a new, online mid-career summer program.
  • Gordon Hanson and Eleni Cortis are working with a number of faculty members to create summer learning opportunities for incoming and returning students that we have not offered before.
  • Suzanne Cooper, Jack Donahue, Archon Fung, and all of our colleagues who are renewing the MPP core are forging ahead in that process and will also consider how to leverage technology to make the most of the time that students and faculty have together.
  • The chairs of the School’s academic areas—Arthur Applbaum, Chris Avery, Hannah Riley Bowles, Amitabh Chandra, Bill Clark, and Rema Hanna—are working with Suzanne Cooper to set priorities for course development and offerings.
  • Deb Iles and her excellent team in Executive Education are working with faculty members to design new executive education courses.
  • Teddy Svoronos, Matt Andrews, and Dan Levy—all of whom have substantial experience in creating outstanding online learning—have agreed to work with faculty and staff colleagues to develop creative new approaches to both degree programs and executive education.
  • Karen Carroll Bennett, Kristin Sullivan, and their colleagues on our talented SLATE (Strengthening Learning and Teaching Excellence) and Educational Technology teams will be playing critical roles in all of those efforts, ensuring that each of our students can learn the material they come to the Kennedy School to learn.
  • Iris Bohnet, Debbie Isaacson, Amy Davies, and others in DPSA are creating new academic and non-academic lead-ins to the fall semester, including offerings on diverse perspectives, differences, and community building.
  • A team of colleagues in DPSA are working with students to develop new approaches to engage students with each other and with the School for the fall semester.

Separate from these curricular and co-curricular efforts, but worth mentioning here, is a group of faculty members led by Iris Bohnet that is collecting research and outreach by our faculty along a few thematic lines, with the goal of creating connections across areas and research centers to increase the impact of our work and enhance our ability to obtain funding for it.

Financial Challenges
As I have explained before, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the Kennedy School’s finances in very significant and unexpected ways. In considering the School’s finances, it is often helpful to think separately about the research centers and the core of the School. The research centers do about 40 percent of our total spending, using gifts, sponsored grants, and endowment payouts to fund research and outreach. The core of the School does about 60 percent of our total spending, using tuition from degree-program and executive-education students, endowment payouts, and other sources of income to fund the compensation of faculty and core staff, financial aid, infrastructure, and other expenses.

The pandemic has caused a sharp drop in executive education enrollment, increased the risk of a decline in degree program enrollment due to possible melt over the summer, and most likely reduced other sources of income (such as gifts) as well. The obstacles to being together on campus make the current financial situation more challenging—for the Kennedy School and for many institutions of higher education—than the global financial crisis of a dozen years ago. By our latest estimates, the lost revenue for the core of the School in the near term could be 25 percent of a typical year’s revenue. Because the research centers do not receive direct funding from degree programs or executive education, they will be much less affected in the near term.

The pandemic also will have a lasting negative effect on the School’s finances, as the economic tumult will probably reduce future gifts, grants, and endowment payouts; reimagining executive education to meet emerging demands will take time; and rebuilding our cash reserves to prepare for an uncertain future will be necessary. All told, the lost revenue could be 10 percent of typical revenue over an extended period of time, affecting both the core of the School and the research centers.

Financial Plans
Our current estimates of revenue losses are very uncertain, which makes planning difficult. But there is no doubt that we face serious challenges, and to ensure that the Kennedy School can thrive in the years ahead, we need to take appropriate actions now. Therefore, I have been working with the leaders of the core parts of the School and with the directors and executive directors of the research centers to develop a set of specific steps to pursue now, recognizing that we do not know whether these steps will be sufficient.

First, we are using our cash reserves, which have been accumulated over many years. Using those reserves in the current crisis is appropriate, but this strategy can only be a temporary one, as we will need to stop drawing down the reserves at some point and then build them up again over time. (A related issue is the possible use of the School’s endowment funds. Almost all of our many separate endowment funds—like almost all of the endowment funds elsewhere at Harvard and at many other institutions—are committed to particular purposes under the terms of the original gifts and are managed to maintain their purchasing power over time. Therefore, payouts from these funds are generally limited by investment returns. The extent to which endowment funds might be used to buffer the current financial shocks is not clear at this point.)

Second, we are deferring nearly all capital projects, including both facilities and information technology. The exceptions relate primarily to health and safety and to our ability to operate remotely. Again, this approach is appropriate in the short term but cannot be sustained without degrading the quality of the infrastructure we all rely on.

Third, we are trimming non-personnel costs, drawing on plans that departments had developed in case of an economic downturn. This step is worth taking but does not save much relative to the total need because most of our spending goes to personnel.

Fourth, in line with the message from Larry Bacow, Alan Garber, and Katie Lapp a few weeks ago, we are freezing all non-union salaries for the coming fiscal year (which runs from July 1 through June 30). As was explained in that message, the deans of all the Harvard schools also have decided to give back a portion of our salaries, either directly to our schools or to a fund to help Harvard employees. Many of you have reached out with ideas about how you and others can help more, including faculty members offering to teach additional courses at no cost, and a number of faculty and staff members offering to donate money to help Harvard colleagues who suffer financial problems. On the latter subject, the University is developing some options, and we will be in touch with specific information soon.

Fifth, and again in line with the University-wide message a few weeks ago, we have imposed a hiring freeze for both faculty and staff. Deans can grant exceptions to that freeze only “sparingly.” To address the Kennedy School’s medium-term financial challenges, I think we will need to reduce the numbers of faculty and core staff by 5 to 10 percent each:

  • For faculty, we probably will not conduct any searches for new faculty members next year (although final decisions about faculty searches will not be made until early fall). Then, retirements and other departures will gradually reduce the size of our faculty to below its level a decade ago.
  • For core staff, we will fill only those open positions that are most essential. Our core staff currently numbers about 300—similar to its size a decade ago—and we hope to achieve sufficient reductions through retirements and other departures. We also need to ensure that our staff and our work are structured for the greatest effectiveness in advancing our mission, and we will look for ways to improve. We continue to hope that we can avoid furloughs or layoffs among the core staff at the Kennedy School, but I am afraid that we cannot rule out those actions until some of the uncertainties described above are resolved.
  • For staff in the research centers, we also will fill only those open positions that are most essential. As in the past, staffing at the centers in the future will depend primarily on the presence of gifts and grants for specific projects.

Sixth, the leaders of the core parts of the School are working closely with the directors and executive directors of the research centers to coordinate our actions in response to this crisis. Although the School’s core and centers are being affected in different ways as the global situation evolves, we are working together as “One HKS.”

In Closing
An important part of my job is conveying to people outside the Kennedy School the crucial role we play. This includes showing donors and potential donors the power of gifts to the Kennedy School to make a better world—to improve public policy and leadership, so that our societies can be safer, freer, more just, and more prosperous. The School has always found a receptive audience, and we continue to do so today. I am working vigorously with our colleagues around the School and especially in Alumni Relations and Resource Development to tell the story of what we are doing and how others can join our mission.

As I was drafting this message, Cambridge had bright sunshine with the temperature in the high 60s. Spring has arrived. I realize that local weather changes have little or nothing to do with the challenges we face in the world. But still, I take this annual rebirth in the natural world in the Northern Hemisphere as a positive sign. Better days lie ahead—and especially if we keep working hard to make the days better.

Thank you for all you are doing toward that end.

Best wishes,

Follow-up to University’s Message About Finances (4/13/20)

To Kennedy School Staff, Faculty, and Students,

Many of you have undoubtedly read today’s message from President Larry Bacow, Provost Alan Garber, and Executive Vice President Katie Lapp about the financial challenges facing Harvard University. Their message is important and sobering, and I understand that it may heighten anxieties among members of the Harvard Kennedy School community. I am writing now to tell you what I know—and don’t know—about the financial challenges facing the Kennedy School and about our responses to those challenges.

Not surprisingly, the Kennedy School is subject to the various pressures that the University’s leaders describe in their message: Our revenue from executive education has dropped sharply as people have become unable to travel; ongoing concerns about the crisis will probably pull down enrollment in our degree programs next year, lowering tuition revenue; the payouts from our endowments will be restrained in coming years by the global decline in asset prices; and gifts and sponsored grants may be subdued for a number of years because of the global recession.

Over the past decade, the Kennedy School prepared for a possible recession and downturn in financial markets by carefully keeping our spending below our revenue and thereby building a substantial cash reserve. We are using that reserve now to pay staff and faculty, continue financial aid, and sustain the teaching, research, and practice of the School in other ways despite the drop in incoming funds. However, the combination of general economic problems and the specific obstacles to our teaching mission is causing us to use that reserve at a rapid rate.

We will need to make significant adjustments to our activities in order to stop drawing down the cash reserve before it is exhausted. Some University-wide adjustments are described in the message from the University’s leadership; other adjustments will vary across the University’s schools and administrative departments. At the Kennedy School, we have deferred investments in facilities and IT, and our finance team is working intensively with me and other leaders to map the implications of alternative scenarios for the next year and beyond. Based on the financial analysis and other information we are gathering, we will formulate additional changes needed for the Kennedy School.

I am sorry that I do not know yet what further changes we will have to make. Our priorities will remain the protection of the health and well-being of the Kennedy School’s people and the support of the Kennedy School’s crucial role in training future public servants and solving public problems. How best to advance those priorities at this difficult time is a question we will be able to answer better with the analysis now underway.

I will get back to you with more information in the coming weeks. I realize that uncertainty about changes at the Kennedy School adds even more stress to what is already a very stressful period in our lives, and we are working to resolve that uncertainty as quickly as we can. Thank you for your patience and for your commitment to each other and to our shared mission.


Douglas W. Elmendorf
Dean and Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy
Harvard Kennedy School
No News, Just Checking In (4/8/20)

Hello everyone,

We’re now in the fourth week of the virtual Kennedy School, and I hope you all are bearing up okay. As you may have noticed, various people have been encouraging the use of the term “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing.” I like that change: We need to endure physical separation for now, but we also need to keep up our social and emotional connections. I hope that you are physically distant from others outside your household, but have found ways to stay socially and emotionally close to your family and friends.

The recent news about the pandemic has been dark, with more people around the world suffering from the virus and being harmed by the economic fallout every day. Indeed, we don’t need to check the news to hear about people being hurt; many of us have heard this directly from people we know and care about, or have experienced these problems ourselves. Moreover, the world has not stopped turning in other respects, and those turns can bring bad news also, in the public sphere or in our personal lives. Concern and anxiety are natural reactions, and those emotions are wearing.

But I am an optimist by nature. I have been buoyed by stories of remarkable selflessness—of health care providers, first responders, workers who are keeping the essential operations of society running, and everyone who has jumped in to help those less fortunate. That last group includes our students, staff, and faculty who are delivering food, making masks, and applying their professional skills in many ways. I have been buoyed too by instances of effective public policy and leadership, including the examples described in a column in today’s New York Times. Many government officials and organizers in civil society, including our alumni, are making an important positive difference. And I have been buoyed by my family and friends, including many at the Kennedy School who have reached out to check on me as I have tried to check on others. One of our daughters decided that she’d rather be isolating here than in her home in DC. I don’t know whether the true draw is Karen’s and my company, better WiFi, or our dog Freya—but not every doubt needs to be resolved, and it’s wonderful to have her with us.

So, despite the current darkness, and our uncertainty about how long the darkness might last, I am confident that a bright future lies somewhere ahead. Please hold tight to your determination and your compassion, and stay well!


Douglas W. Elmendorf
Dean and Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy
Harvard Kennedy School
Some Updates About Our New Lives at HKS (3/25/20)

To Kennedy School students, faculty, staff, and fellows,

I hope this message finds you and your loved ones healthy and in reasonably good spirits.

At my home, we have been living an isolated life for 12 days now. Our emotions seem to cycle from disappointment to worry to frustration to determination—and then back around again. Probably many of you are experiencing these emotions and others. Karen and I are bolstered by our daily runs and walks with our dog Freya, our long FaceTime calls with our 24-year-old daughters (who are similarly stuck in their apartments in DC and Wisconsin), and our interactions with students and colleagues via phone and Zoom.

We also recognize that our personal challenges pale next to the urgent problems of treating patients, slowing the disease’s spread, and supporting people who are losing their jobs and businesses. We are incredibly grateful to those who are on the front lines of those struggles, and our sympathies go to everyone who is ill—including Larry and Adele Bacow—and to their families and friends.

I have several pieces of news to share.

Continued Remote Work for Staff and Faculty
The Kennedy School campus will remain closed until further notice. The University is continuing to monitor conditions in the Boston area, and we will provide plenty of advance warning before expecting people to be back on campus.

I understand that the combination of working in unusual spaces, communicating only virtually, caring for other household members, and worrying about loved ones further away and about the state of the world can make moving our work forward very difficult. At the same time, the work we are doing matters a tremendous amount to many people, so I need to ask you to continue to do your best. If you feel especially stressed, please have an open conversation with your manager or area chair about how to balance your personal needs with the needs of the School, and then communicate unexpected disruptions when they arise. The University’s coronavirus website includes advice for parents and guardians working remotely with kids at home and enhanced workplace policies that address the use of sick time to care for dependents (including care related to school closures). Please reach out to your senior human resources consultant if you have further questions. With flexibility and compassion for each other, we can get through this hard period together.

Remote Teaching and Learning
On Monday and Tuesday, roughly 100 class sessions took place via Zoom. I want to offer my profound thanks to every faculty member and student who rose to this occasion, and to every staff member whose planning and execution enabled this massive shift. If you encounter technical difficulties during a class session, students should contact our IT team at 617.495.3375 or ithelp@hks.harvard.edu, and faculty and teaching teams should contact our Ed Tech team at teachingremotely@hks.harvard.edu. For broader concerns, students should reach out to your program director. Making the most of remote teaching and learning will require more experimentation and patience in the coming weeks, but I am pleased by our solid start.

We will also continue other aspects of the Kennedy School experience remotely. As small examples, I had my first virtual breakfast with students yesterday, and I will host the Dean’s Discussion Series virtually as well. Our research centers and programs are continuing much of their programming, including many of their weekly seminars. The team in Degree Programs and Student Affairs is devising plans for a remote New Admit Day, continued support and coaching through the Office of Career Advancement, a remote celebration of the awarding of degrees in May (a full Commencement will follow next year, as Larry Bacow announced), and more.

Change in Grading Policy
I recognize that students are making huge adjustments in their lives—developing new ways of interacting with classmates, trying out new approaches to learning, relocating in some cases, and looking for jobs in a more difficult environment. A number of students and faculty members have expressed concern that these adjustments have made learning more challenging for many students and especially challenging for some, and therefore that applying our usual letter grades would be unfair. Other students and faculty members have noted that some students need letter grades to satisfy various commitments (including requirements of their fellowships or military service) or want to receive a more traditional evaluation of their work. To accommodate both concerns, we are adopting the following approach for this semester:

The default grading scheme for all Kennedy School classes will be Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (SAT/UNSAT). SATs will be awarded to students whose performance would merit grades of D or better in elective courses and grades of B- or better in core and required courses; UNSATs will be awarded to students whose performance falls below those thresholds. Students who prefer to receive letter grades can opt-out of the SAT/UNSAT scheme at any time until April 24 (one week before the end of classes) and receive letter grades instead; the Registrar’s Office will provide more information about how to make this choice. Faculty members will continue to provide robust feedback to all students as part of the teaching process, and after the last day of classes, faculty members can learn which of their students have accepted the SAT/UNSAT default and which have opted back into letter grades. Any grades awarded for Spring 1 module courses will stand.

Research and Outreach in Response to the Pandemic
The Kennedy School is bringing its expertise to bear on the pandemic, providing crucial information to public leaders, policymakers, and the broader public throughout the United States and around the world. Our experts on health care, crisis management, economic policy, local governance, transparency and misinformation, public administration, international relations, energy markets, and more are helping people understand rapidly changing conditions and forge the best possible responses. You can read some examples on our website now, and our communications team is adding more examples as soon as they learn of them.

Indeed, this terrible situation reminds us of the central importance of our work at the Kennedy School. A writer for the Wall Street Journal asked several people what good might ultimately come from the pandemic. My answer was that I thought the crisis would restore belief in the importance of effective governance. I said: “Around the world, governments with professional expertise, appropriate resources, and principled leaders will save lives and maintain prosperity—and governments without those characteristics will cost lives and sacrifice prosperity.” Moreover, we are seeing that the caliber of public leaders outside of governments—including leaders of universities, service organizations, and private businesses—matters tremendously as well. The Kennedy School is training and advising the public leaders and public servants that the world needs, now and always.

Service in Response to the Pandemic
Many members of the Kennedy School community are also seeking ways to help others who are facing greater hardships. Some of this service is occurring through courses, where students’ knowledge of operations management and public administration is helping a local hospital and local governments. But much is happening outside of the official work of the Kennedy School, as students, faculty members, and staff members are pitching in to support the broader community. While we try to build a more systematic way to share information on these efforts, you can reach out to Kelsey Heroux to report any activities in which you are participating or to look for opportunities to contribute.

In closing, let me mention that I wrote to our alumni and alumnae last Friday evening to describe some of what has been happening at the Kennedy School in the past few weeks. Many of our graduates are actively involved in addressing the pandemic in their own countries and communities, and they are also acutely interested in how we are all faring. I summarized some of our activities and said that I have been impressed by the resilience, creative problem-solving, and willingness to adapt that I have seen here. And I ended by saying that “I hope and expect that tomorrow will be brighter in part because of the work we are doing today.” Thank you for that.

Please stay healthy.

All my best,

Douglas W. Elmendorf
Dean and Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy
Harvard Kennedy School
Harvard Kennedy School Carries On (3/17/20)

To the Entire Harvard Kennedy School Community—Students, Faculty, Staff, Fellows, Alumni, and Friends,

I hope that you are washing your hands carefully, watching your health, and staying an appropriate distance from others in person—but reaching out to your families, friends, and neighbors in every other way.

I write today with one update and, I hope, some reassurance.

The update: In light of Sunday's announcements by Governor Charlie Baker to further increase social distancing in Massachusetts, and consistent with steps being taken at a number of other Harvard schools, I ask that Kennedy School students, staff, fellows, and faculty not come to any of our campus buildings after noon on Thursday unless absolutely necessary. To determine whether a visit is necessary, please consult with Debbie Isaacson (for students), Beth Banks (for staff and fellows), or Suzanne Cooper (for faculty). I understand that staying away from campus imposes particular burdens on some members of our community, and I encourage those members to reach out to Debbie, Beth, or Suzanne for advice and assistance. I also note that further actions by our state or local governments may limit access to campus more quickly or severely than we intend ourselves.

And, I hope, the reassurance: The work of the Kennedy School goes on, and that work has never been more important. As the pandemic unfolds, we are all observing the central importance of public leadership and public policy: Leaders who have prepared their institutions well, and who are stepping up to this challenge with appropriate policies clearly communicated, will save lives, preserve economic activity, and strengthen our ties to one another. We have never needed such leaders and polices more than we do now.

So, to our students, faculty, staff, fellows, and friends who undertake and support the teaching and research that helps to make great leaders and policies: Thank you for all you have done and will do. To our alumni who are leading governments and organizations, large and small, that are grappling with the pandemic and other public challenges: Thank you for making those of us at the School today so proud.

Although we are now operating remotely, and this week is spring break, our work is proceeding apace. Our faculty are hosting dozens of one-hour discussions on different topics for students whose plans have been so badly disrupted, and they are reconfiguring their courses for remote teaching after the break. Our staff are responding to urgent questions from students, supporting remote work on a scale we have not tried before, continuing our path-breaking research and engagement with practice, and sustaining the operations of the School. Our students are responding resolutely and constructively to the sharp changes in their lives while also looking for ways to assist others who are less fortunate. 

Of course, I don't want to understate the disruptions that we are all experiencing. I'm disappointed that so many of our plans for the next few months have been tossed in the air, and I found it painful to watch the School empty out physically, even though I know that so much will happen virtually. I'm also concerned about the health of my family and friends, of everyone in the Kennedy School family, and of so many other people across the United States and around the world. And I am worried about the broad economic fallout from the unprecedented shutdown in certain consumer services and more. I'm sure that many of you share these feelings, and undoubtedly you have other thoughts and concerns you would add as well.

In this time of great tumult and uncertainty, however, I am reassured by being part of Harvard Kennedy School. We have a special mission of public service whose importance is being demonstrated every day. And we are a collection of special people, committed to that mission and to each other. One student wrote me that she has been "overwhelmed by how administration, faculty and students have showed up to support each other, even when each person is dealing with their own individual adjustments." That's how I feel too.

Thank you all for being part of the Kennedy School—yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Please stay safe and healthy.

With my best wishes,

News about HKS's Response to the Novel Coronavirus (3/10/20)

Dear Harvard Kennedy School Students, Staff, and Faculty, 

 As President Bacow just announced, all Harvard classes will be shifting to online starting March 23rd after spring break. Therefore, students at the Kennedy School do not need to return to campus after break in order to pursue their studies for the rest of the semester. For staff and faculty, all Harvard offices remain open, and I offer some additional guidance about your work later in this message.
I am sure you understand that President Bacow and the other leaders of the University did not take this decision to change classes lightly, because they recognize the significance of the change for the lives of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors. But in the face of the COVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus, shifting to online classes is an important step to protect the health of members of the Harvard community and of the broader community in Greater Boston of which we are a part.

I am writing with specific guidance for the Kennedy School community that is consistent with this morning's message from President Bacow. Before I get to that guidance, however, I think it is useful to give some context.

The main objective of this shift in classes is to "de-densify" the University—that is, to separate people physically as much as possible. The more we can reduce the proximity to others as we work, the more the spread of the virus will be slowed, thereby mitigating the sharp impact on our health care system that might otherwise occur. This effect will be important for all of us and will be especially important for the members of our community who are at increased risk for complications from COVID-19 due to underlying health conditions. That is, slowing the spread of the virus is an act of public service, which is what we have all come to the Kennedy School to do.

I want to acknowledge the magnitude of this change in the Kennedy School's operations, and of other, related changes that I describe below. The current situation with the coronavirus is not what most of us expected just a few weeks ago. The responses we are making at Harvard will require hard work, cooperation, and patience on all our parts, and I know that many of us are trying to make appropriate adjustments in our personal lives as well. As we figure out the "new normal" for the time being, the combination of professional and personal stresses can be daunting. But public leaders can try to channel these natural emotions by focusing on what we can do constructively. Therefore, let us sustain each other and sustain the most important aspects of what we do and who we are at the Kennedy School. 

The rest of this message summarizes our current guidance for the Kennedy School community. The shifts in our operations raise many issues that we have not had time to fully resolve; we will work our way through these issues as quickly as possible, and we will keep communicating with you as our guidance is refined and extended. Further guidance is available on Harvard's coronavirus webpageand on the Kennedy School's coronavirus Knet page.

All classes will take place only online after spring break. Students should not come to their traditional classrooms and instead will need to participate via Zoom through Canvas. For now, we anticipate that students will be able to participate on their laptops from the School's common areas as long as they spread out widely (see more on meetings below).

Because of our advance preparation and the piloting efforts underway this week, we are in a solid position to offer valuable learning experiences online. However, it will be important for both faculty and students to think about how to make the most of the online environment. We are offering support to instructors on both pedagogic and technological issues, and we encourage students to consult with their program directors about any issues they have; additional resources are available. And despite everybody's best efforts, we will undoubtedly encounter bumps and glitches along the way, so we ask everyone to be flexible and patient as we work this out as a community.

All classes in executive education also will take place only online after spring break. Our executive-education team will be expanding the ways in which they can bring students together virtually, so that our important executive-education teaching can continue.

At this time, all Harvard offices remain open, and we expect that most Kennedy School staff and faculty will continue to come to work on campus. 

However, the University continues to monitor the evolving situation with the virus closely, and our operational status may change in the future. Therefore, now is the time to think about your own preparedness to work remotely. If you have a laptop, please bring it home daily, know how to forward your office calls to a phone or your email, and establish remote collaboration and clear channels of communication with your team.

Moreover, if any member of our staff or faculty does not feel comfortable coming to campus now because of health concerns related to the coronavirus, please discuss your needs with your manager or representative in Human Resources. We want to work with you to address your concerns.

To best protect ourselves, and especially the most vulnerable members of our community, we need to modify many of our in-person interactions through at least the end of April.

The University is now strongly discouraging any non-essential gatherings of 25 or more people, because larger gatherings present more risk of disease transmission. All gatherings at the Kennedy School with 25 or more people should be conducted by Zoom or phone unless an in-person meeting is deemed essential by Suzanne Cooper (for meetings organized by faculty members), Beth Banks (for meetings organized by staff members), and Amy Davies (for meetings organized by students). Moreover, I encourage organizers of smaller meetings to shift them from in-person to online whenever possible. 

We understand that this restriction will significantly affect how we work with each other—but for just that reason, it will also significantly reduce the risk of transmitting the virus during our work. Therefore, I will be cancelling events that I host (such as the Dean's Discussion Series) and changing as many of my meetings to Zoom as possible, including most of my meetings with fewer than 25 people.

If an in-person meeting—of whatever size—takes place, appropriate precautions must be taken. The meeting should be held in a large enough room that the "social distancing" guideline of 6 feet between people can be followed. (An alternative formulation that might be useful is to choose a room with three times as many seats as people, so there can be two empty seats between people.) Any person who is not comfortable with an in-person meeting should be able to opt in to a meeting by Zoom or phone. The organizer of a meeting should record the people who participated in the meeting in case it becomes necessary to share additional information with them later.

Because in-person events will need to be postponed, we hope that our community can be creative in figuring out how to hold some events using technological tools or other alternative formats. After we get all of our courses working online, the team in Degree Programs and Student Affairs is eager to work with student leaders to brainstorm how to recreate parts of student events and the campus experience remotely.

I also discourage people from inviting visitors (such as guests to a meeting or a speaker for a small session) from outside Harvard to the School during this period. The University's protocols for people who arrive on campus are more difficult to implement for visitors than for ongoing members of our community.

If you have questions about this guidance, please consult Suzanne Cooper (for faculty members), Beth Banks (for staff members), and Amy Davies (for students).

We are also working with staff members who have frequent "front line" interactions with others at the Kennedy School to minimize the risk they face. Please be courteous during interactions with these colleagues by covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze and by washing your hands or using hand sanitizer before exchanging money or electronic devices.

Travelling can increase the risks of exposure to the novel coronavirus for you and for the community to which you travel; moreover, your return here can increase the risks of exposure for our community, and because of the rapidly changing situation, you could be unable to return from travel or to return without isolating yourself.

Therefore, for University-related air travel, the University has prohibited both international travel and non-essential domestic travel.Any travel carried out primarily in connection with your role as a Harvard faculty member, staff member, or student would be considered "University-related"; this includes attendance at conferences, professional meetings, and trainings, as well as appearances at other universities. Very little University-related travel should be deemed essential under the current circumstances. Indeed, many other organizations are cancelling events they had previously scheduled. Once again, if you have questions about this guidance, please consult Suzanne Cooper (for faculty members), Beth Banks (for staff members), and Amy Davies (for students).

For all other (personal) air travel, the University is strongly discouraging international travel and urging extreme caution for domestic travel. I realize that following this guidance can lead to very disappointing outcomes. As just one example, we have cancelled a long-planned overseas trip by my family and are not rescheduling the trip to any domestic destination. I urge students who have planned to participate in "treks" during spring break to cancel those plans as well. 

As I noted earlier, this summary of our guidelines leaves many questions unanswered, and we are working to answer the questions of which we are aware. Please offer your own questions and concerns to Suzanne Cooper (for faculty members), Beth Banks (for staff members), and Amy Davies (for students). We will try to respond to you directly or to incorporate answers to your questions in future email messages and on the Kennedy School's coronavirus Knet page.

In addition, of course, the situation with the virus continues to evolve, and Harvard University and Harvard Kennedy School policies will undoubtedly evolve as well. We expect to be communicating with you frequently.

I also want to emphasize, yet again, the importance of good hygiene: social distancing, as discussed repeatedly above; frequent hand-washing; covering coughs and sneezes; not touching surfaces unnecessarily; and not touching one's face at all.

This message is the third one I've sent about the coronavirus in the past five days, each message describing further sharp changes in how we learn and work at the Kennedy School. And on each day, we have all seen news stories about sharp changes occurring in the world around us.

We have entered a period of great uncertainty—for ourselves, our loved ones, our local communities, and the world as a whole—and we are responding at Harvard to both what we know and what we don't. The changes here will be challenging to implement, and even if we are mostly successful, we will miss our in-person interactions.

But I continue to have great confidence in our ability to face the new challenges effectively and to keep working and learning together. We are, after all, a group of people united by our commitment to public service and by our determination to overcome obstacles in fulfilling that commitment. We now face unexpected obstacles, but we will overcome them all the same. And we will overcome not for our own sake but for the sake of the many people whom we are called to serve—in our local communities, our countries, and our world.

Let us go forth together. Please continue to take care of yourselves and of each other.

With my best wishes,

New Actions at HKS in Response to the Coronavirus (3/8/20)

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students, 

I write again with further updates. 

We will focus intensely this week on testing our capabilities to teach, learn, and work remotely.  

Slowing the spread of the new coronavirus may reduce the number of people who end up with the disease and certainly will give health care providers more time to prepare (to clarify clinical protocols and develop therapeutic options) and allow for better use of health care capacity (by spreading infections over a longer period). Therefore, slowing the possible spread of the virus on the Harvard campus is good for the University community and good for the broader Boston and global communities. The University has not made a decision to switch to remote classes and remote work—but we need to be ready in case such a decision is made, and we need to be ready by the week after break, which begins on March 23rd. 

Over the past few years, the Kennedy School and the University have invested in using Zoom, integrated with Canvas, for teaching remotely. This system has worked well for classes in the past, but we have not tried it on a widespread basis. Accordingly, we will test this system this week (before spring break) in as many courses as possible. Faculty and students should check their email frequently for messages from Iris Bohnet, Suzanne Cooper, Debbie Isaacson, Amy Davies, and Kristin Sullivan (our Director of Educational Technology), so that they understand what they need to do. 

We will also be testing the ability of the staff in our departments and research centers to work effectively on a remote basis. This testing will begin this week and will step up during the break week after we have completed the testing of remote classes. Staff members should check their email frequently for messages from Janney Wilson, Steve Duncan, and Beth Banks, so that they understand what they need to do. 

Accomplishing these goals will require very hard work and extensive cooperation by many, many people. I appreciate your help and patience as complications arise and we work our way through them.

I also want to emphasize some points about your health. 

I urge anyone who is at increased risk for complications from COVID-19 (the disease caused by the new coronavirus) due to underlying health conditions to consult with your physician about steps you should take to protect your health. Then, please reach out to Amy Davies (for students), Suzanne Cooper (for faculty), or Beth Banks (for staff) to discuss any needed individual arrangements, including a temporary change in work location.  

I urge everyone to take appropriate steps to protect yourselves and others: Practice social distancing as much as possible, both on campus and in your personal lives: Avoid large groups, spread out in classrooms or meeting rooms, and use video conferencing whenever possible. Employ good hygiene: Wash your hands frequently, with soap and for at least 20 seconds, and  cover coughs with your elbow. If you feel unwell, stay home.  

If you have good reason to believe that you have been exposed directly to someone with a presumed case of coronavirus, register with Harvard University Health Services, let Amy or Suzanne or Beth know immediately, and stay off campus until you hear back from HUHS. If you have been exposed to someone who has been exposed to someone with a presumed case of coronavirus, please let Amy or Suzanne or Beth know, and be vigilant about your social distancing. 

We will continue to update the KNET page regarding the coronavirus. That page includes links to the University's resources as well as the several messages we have now sent at the Kennedy School and other resources here. 

Let me close on a more personal note.  

I realized this morning, as I was running at Fresh Pond with my wife, Karen, and our dog, that I feel weighed down now by three separate factors, some of which, I am sure, are also affecting many of you. The first is the difficulty of deciding, each day, what changes in my personal routine and in the workings of the School are appropriately cautious but not over-reacting. We all face this difficulty in deciding what to do and not to do now. The second factor weighing on me is disappointment about the things that my family and the Kennedy School were looking forward to doing in the next few months that won't happen or will happen only with limitations. I know we all face this disappointment as well. The third factor is concern about my health, Karen's health, and the health of our daughters and other loved ones, some of whom are particularly vulnerable to diseases and some of whom live in different cities and are harder for us to reach now if they need us. I imagine that many of you have similar concerns.  

Unfortunately, I don't know any simple way to resolve these factors that are weighing on me. I think they represent a "new normal" for all of us for at least a while.  

However, I am encouraged and comforted by other developments: Locally, the University is pivoting aggressively in its routines to reduce the rate of possible transmission of the disease among members of the Harvard community, and Boston has wonderful medical professionals and institutions that treat diseases of all sorts. Beyond our local area, other institutions and other communities, across the United States and around the world, are responding vigorously to slow the spread of the disease and to develop tests and treatments for it. Moreover, global society and our daily lives co-exist, unfortunately, with many other threats to our health and safety. So, although new threats can be legitimately worrisome, we should not over-emphasize them in our minds.  

I feel supported and empowered by the dedication and empathy of the Kennedy School community, and I hope you do too. Let us keep working together—even if separated physically more than we would like—to surmount this new challenge and continue our learning. 



Important Coronavirus Update from Harvard and HKS (3/6/20)

Dear Members of the Harvard Kennedy School Community,

Please read the important updated guidance from the University regarding the new coronavirus. For University-related air travel, the University has prohibited both international travel and non-essential domestic travel. For personal air travel, the University is strongly discouraging international travel and urging extreme caution for domestic travel. Moreover, the University is now strongly discouraging all non-essential meetings and events with 100 or more participants. This guidance will be in effect through at least April 30th.

At the Kennedy School, we are ramping down activities over this weekend, and after that, no large, in-person meetings or events (apart from classes) should take place through at least the end of April. For example, there will be no in-person Forum events, Quorum Calls, large alumni gatherings, or other activities that generally draw 100 or more people. Organizers of large meetings or events that are scheduled to occur before the end of April should cancel or defer those plans. If you have questions about particular meetings or events, please contact Arthi Kasetty. However, all classes will go ahead as planned at this point.

In addition to preventing larger gatherings, we strongly encourage smaller gatherings at the Kennedy School to meet in larger-than-usual spaces to allow for greater social distancing. And we urge you to consider limiting your own individual attendance at larger events — professional and personal — outside the School.

The coronavirus page on the University website includes the latest information, helpful resources, and University efforts related to the virus. A recent article in the Harvard Gazette explains some of the contingency planning that is happening in the University’s central departments; similar planning is underway here at the Kennedy School.

Lastly, this is a good time for us all to remember two crucial aspects of our response to the virus: First, our best protection is good hygiene, such as hand-washing. Second, we are committed to a harassment-free learning and working environment, so I am confident that the stigmatization that seems to be occurring in some places for individuals from certain countries will not occur here.

Please take time to care for yourself and others during this challenging period. I appreciate everyone’s efforts to work our way through this situation together.



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