To the Harvard Administration,
First, thank you for your foresight. At the time, your decision to move us all off campus in the span of just a few days felt rash, but in hindsight, it was timely, appropriate, and wise. For the fall, we know that things are still highly uncertain. We know that you are making contingency plans. We know that you will make the decision that you think is safest, and best, and wisest, given the information that you have. That is all completely reasonable.
But we want that information, too. The student body, at times, has a tendency to overreact to administrative decisions. We believe that happens when we go from having no information at all to suddenly having all the information at once. We understand that you don’t know what the fall will look like. But what are you considering? Transparency now will prevent backlash later. Governments across the United States have had to present concrete reopening plans and conditions openly to their citizens, with all of their contingencies included; you should, too. You train us to challenge assumptions and be data-driven in our thinking. Give us the information that will allow us to meaningfully engage.
If some or all learning continues to be conducted remotely, we need transparency and two-way communication to ensure that we have the best experience possible. You should consolidate the information you have about the equity and quality of virtual education. Highlight not only the hopeful stories from virtual learning but also the most heartbreaking. Regularly share the options you’re considering for the fall.
Just as it should be easy for us to stay updated on your plans, it should be easy for us to communicate with you. We know that you’ve been soliciting student input, but it hasn’t been enough. You should ensure that all students are represented in the feedback you receive, especially those who are struggling the most right now, for whom it might be more difficult to give feedback. To share all of our voices, we need a centralized, consistently available platform for submitting feedback, as well as regular reporting of what you’ve learned.
In the months you have to prepare for the fall, the student body will be your best resource. We’ve struggled with staying engaged and motivated during asynchronous learning, and we know how difficult it is to build relationships and hold fruitful discussions with classmates online. We’ve lived through the countless inequities introduced by remote learning, from misaligned time zones to poor internet access to uncertain financial situations and home lives. We also have insight into the technologies, classroom formats, accommodations, and policies that have worked best to mitigate these concerns. We need you to listen to us. Let us help you think through the options, and show us that you take our opinions seriously.
We have spent the last eight weeks learning online. We know what we’re capable of and what we’re not. We know what resources we have and what we don’t. We know what we need from you. Tell us what you’re considering so that we can tell you what we think. We won’t hold you to it, we won’t pretend it’s set in stone. Just remember—the tens of different falls that you are imagining? We’ll have to live one of them. And we want to start preparing for them now.
The Harvard Technology Review Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Harvard Technology Review Executive Board. It is the product of discussions at Executive Board meetings.