FAS Fall 2020 Planning

Harvard University will be open for fall 2020, though in a form necessarily adapted to the new realities of education during a global pandemic. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) is eager to reclaim the Harvard experience and return to campus-based operations as soon as possible. The vulnerabilities exposed by this pandemic, however, will shape how we pursue our research and teaching mission next year and, most likely, for many years to come. 

Already we are developing approaches for restarting our research program for faculty and graduate students, including accessing campus-based research facilities, that reflect our new understanding of what is required to protect the health and safety of our community.
Our most daunting challenge will be how and when to stage the return of undergraduates to their residential Houses. We will not bring students back until we can do so safely, in a manner that protects individuals and our broader community from undue risks associated with Covid-19. In order to fulfill our teaching mission and ensure that students continue to make progress in their education, we must actively plan for a wide range of alternatives for the coming academic year.

Edgerley Family Dean of the FAS Claudine Gay has asked Science Dean Chris Stubbs and FAS Registrar Mike Burke to spearhead planning for the fall. They have appointed 11 working groups that are examining a range of issues related to fall 2020, including the curriculum, scheduling, facilities modifications, and testing and contact tracing. The leaders of each working group comprise an executive committee, who will share a report with Dean Gay at the end of June. We expect to reach a decision about fall 2020 no later than July.

Guiding Principles

  • Our highest priority is to support community health and well-being.

  • We will sustain the excellence of Harvard in both learning and research and will continue to hold ourselves to high standards.  

  • We will adopt an evidence-based risk management approach to the COVID-19 challenge, and our decisions will be guided by public officials and health experts. 

  • We will transparently communicate our policies and decision-making processes, and any evolution in these, acknowledging that we are facing considerable uncertainty. 

Share Your Ideas

Your input is essential to planning. The Academic Divisions and SEAS are convening faculty conversations with departments. Mechanisms for graduate and undergraduate student input are also being developed, and discussions with student advisory groups have begun. You can also share your ideas and perspectives here: FASscenarioplanning@fas.harvard.edu.

Working Groups

The leaders (listed below) of each working group comprise an executive committee, led by Dean Chris Stubbs and Mike Burke.

Decision Framework

Leads: Chris Stubbs, Mike Burke
Decision flow diagram and framework

Five-year Horizon

Lead: Maya Jasanoff
Consider five-year perspective, advise on longer term impacts of AY 20-21 decisions. Provide a vision for where Harvard College is headed. 

Financial Planning

Lead: John Campbell
Establish framework for strategic financial planning. Evaluate fiscal impacts of fall scenarios. 

Go for Fall

Lead: Mike Burke
Determine what it would take for fully residential program in AY 20-21. Explore low-density and surge housing options.

Restarting Scholarship

Lead: Chris Stubbs
Determine process for staged return to on-campus scholarship.

Houses and Facilities

Leads: L. Mahadevan, Zak Gingo
Determine what we need to do in order to prepare undergraduate houses and other facilities.


Lead: David Laibson
Advise on interplay between offerings, deferrals, tuition and related issues. 


Leads: Jay Harris, Erika McDonald
Consider how to best use both 12-month academic calendar and 24 hour classroom scheduling.

Testing and Tracing

Leads: Latanya Sweeney, Mark Fishman
Advise on viral and serological testing, and contact tracing methods.

Remote Experience AY20-21

Lead: Amanda Claybaugh 
Coordinate Harvard College efforts on preparing for the remote elements of AY 20-21, including both formal courses and extra-curricular aspects.

Division of Continuing Education Coordination

Lead: Henry Leitner
Coordinate with DCE in planning for various scenarios, and help us leverage DCE’s experience in remote education.