Indy Founder Reflects on a Remote Education

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This piece was originally part of a Harvard Independent themed series responding to, “How do you believe that the spirit and integrity of a Harvard College education can be best preserved in the upcoming fall semester?” Responses were collected prior to the July 6 announcement that the college would be adopting a virtual education model.

I encourage the College to pursue the “moderate density” approach that will include the academic approach of mostly remote learning.  Thankfully COVID-19 is most severe in the older population so that the risk for life-threatening complications for undergraduates is low, although not zero.  This density should allow all students to be in single rooms (occasional double) which is important for COVID control.  I would encourage all first-year undergrads (freshmen and freshwomen) to be on campus for both semesters.  In my experience, the opportunity to interact with others in the class (we were all in the yard) was a key formative experience and can still occur keeping 6 feet away!  Other students would attend if they have an extracurricular activity that requires physical attendance or form of study (lab).  Sports and other extracurricular activities (orchestra), if allowed by the Ivy League conference, should be organized or limited to one semester in order to facilitate the most students possible being on campus for one semester.  Other available slots could be filled by lottery.

Students will need significant ongoing instruction and feedback by others (Harvard Medical Students and students at the Harvard School of Public Health could be willing instructors to the undergrads, perhaps) about the reasons for and techniques of control.  Compliance is not just for the individual but, in fact, is perhaps more important for those working at the University and making the College experience possible.  Hopefully, this will not mirror our national debacle and become a political issue on campus.

Mark Shields ’70 served as the Indy’s founding publisher.

Photo: Marissa Garcia ’21.