≈104 Days

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≈104 Days

Harvard College students currently living on campus apply to continue their residence through the summer

By MICHAEL KIELSTRA

On Wednesday, April 29, those students who would be staying on campus in the coming summer received an email from the Dean of Students Office. They were promised a private bathroom, a private kitchen, and access to laundry facilities warned that common rooms and dining halls would be shut, and told to prepare to be term-billed $200. “A lot of my friends in other colleges, they don’t have this option, and [they] have to pay a lot of money to either live [in] their on-campus housing or look for housing off-campus,” says Arhan Kumar, a first-year student who is staying on campus since “there are no flights to India at all.”

The students I spoke to all stayed due to some sort of travel concern. Vlad Ivanchuk, a first-year, lives in Ukraine, which closed its borders in mid-March. Jessica Moore, a junior, is immunocompromised due to chronic illness and did not feel safe going through Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta. Ralph Estanboulieh is from Syria and is worried that he might not be allowed to return if he left the US. “Students unable to travel due to immigration/visa restrictions” was in fact first on the list sent out to those students still on campus of categories of students who would be eligible for summer accommodation. (The others were “Students who are unable to safely return home due to housing insecurity, financial insecurity, or other extraordinary personal circumstances related to health and safety” and “Students who have previously been identified as independent for the purposes of receiving financial aid.”)

Those students who were eligible found the application process straightforward. Ivanchuk was surprised by its simplicity. “They just listed the eligibility criteria and you had to pick which criteria you satisfy… once you picked that, I expected there would be another page where I would have to provide details… but actually it was the end of the application,” he says. When I asked whether he would compare it to completion or a competitive comp process, Kumar says it felt much more like a completion comp. “There is a compulsion that… they would give the housing,” he says, “and I was right, at least in my case.”

Kumar’s case, however, is not the only one. There are not a lot of private kitchens on campus, and those that do exist are usually tied to several beds. Suites in DeWolfe, for example, have one kitchen, one bathroom, and four beds, which would mean that the maximum capacity would be drastically reduced under social distancing conditions. Moore in particular believed that Harvard was “much harsher about who could stay this time than last time. “My Dean [Dr. Linda Chavers] told me that there were only 140 slots open,” she said, “and they were giving priority first to international students, then to students with health concerns, and then to students who have housing instability for financial reasons.” Anecdotally, though, she does not know of anyone who fits any of those three criteria who was rejected, and several of her friends who were applying based on financial insecurity did get housing. Graduating seniors were not allowed to apply.

Those students who were successful were billed $200 in total, with the promise of “financial aid available to eligible students.” At the time I spoke to them, the students did not know how this eligibility would be determined. The cost does not seem to increase or decrease with any given student’s standard aid package: I spoke to students on full financial aid, and students who were paying full tuition, and none of them gave me any numbers other than $200. Khumar and Ivanchuk both felt that this was a very low cost; Moore agreed, also making the point that “$200… seems like such an arbitrary number… why charge people anything if it’s only $200?” Part of this money presumably goes towards paying the support staff on campus: Moore told me that she had been told to expect “a summer Resident Dean and a few summer proctors,” but nowhere near the usual number of people.

Students stayed in their current rooms until May 17 and 18, on which days those without kitchens in their suites will be moved. In the email sent to all students accepted for summer housing, the Dean of Students Office said that, “if you are currently in a suite with a private kitchen, we will do our best to keep you in your current assignment,” but made no promises.

Michael Kielstra ’22 (pmkielstra@college.harvard.edu) wrote this article three thousand miles away from campus.