A Letter from the Deans of Harvard Faculty to the Classes of 2020 and 2021 | Opinion

For the 2020 and 2021 promotions:

When the pandemic was only in its first months, we wrote an open letter to the Class of 2020 in which we celebrated your resilience, sadly acknowledged that you would not experience traditional rituals of in-person debut you’ve been waiting for, and put the best face we can on the Zoom and YouTube alternatives we’ve been preparing for you.

In this letter, we also all found comfort in what we called the University’s “firm promise” to have you back. The gathering “will be all the sweeter, all the more significant”, we promised then, “to have been postponed”.

At that point, in our naivety, none of us expected that not just the Class of 2020, but also the Class to follow – the Class of 2021 – would end up having their senior year start experience postponed. . And yet, that is what happened. Classes of 2020 and 2021, you together share the distinction of having attended – and graduated from – Harvard College during a historic pandemic.

In the decades to come, when you gather for meetings on campus, you will all be at the center of panels and roundtables. The student journalists of the future will ask you for interviews. They will want to know: How was it?

And you will have such varied stories. Some of your stories may be difficult to hear: they will describe experiences of anxiety, illness, grief, and missed opportunities. Some may also carry a tinge of anger, as you describe to these future generations all the things you think Harvard should have done differently.

Other stories will be more philosophical. They will focus on how, even though your experience on the Harvard campus was cut short, your life expanded in other areas: you deepened relationships with family, you took responsibility for maintenance of a home for the first time, you have rethought your priorities and life paths, you have discovered new regions of the country and even of the world.

Yet other stories some of you will tell, especially members of the Class of 2021, will delight future generations as you describe what it was like – as vaccines were rolled out but the pandemic persisted – to to be invited back into a much changed world. campus for your last spring semester: the particularity of attending online classes from your rooms, take-out meals, tests three times a week, universal wearing of a mask, the experience of a social life of House which had now largely rotated from Zoom to the outside (often cold).

Over the last few weeks of this semester, the Houses have invested a lot of effort in finding ways to give you all an unforgettable start. On the day of the Beginning itself, we recognized you, toasted you and celebrated online. But we knew, Class of 2021, that none of this could quite make up for the disappointment you felt, given the reality that you – like the class before you – would not experience a beginning in person.

But now you both come back! It’s finally your time for dresses, mortars, speeches, pipers, marching bands, swing bands, last chance dances and champagne toasts. Harvard – and all of us – are all dressed up and waiting for you. Welcome back, promotions 2020 and 2021! The hour of our long-awaited reunion has finally arrived.

Anne Harrington is Chair of Deans of Faculty at Harvard College and Dean of Faculty at Pforzheimer House.

This letter was written, edited and submitted by the Deans of the Twelve House Faculties and the Resident Dean of the Dudley Community.

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