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Harvard Fall Planning

Dear GSAS Students,

By now, I hope you have had the chance to review the message from Provost Alan Garber, which outlines principles for fall 2020. FAS Dean Claudine Gay has also communicated on planning specific to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. While the trajectory of the Coronavirus Disease pandemic remains unknown, it is heartening to hear that Harvard is making efforts to reopen education and scholarship, even if much of that will need to be accomplished remotely.

Because the GSAS community is so diverse, these plans will impact each of you differently.

  • If Harvard determines that instruction will continue remotely, GSAS is committed to ensuring that PhD students with a teaching guarantee are provided with teaching or comparable work for the fall 2020 term. Many of you were instrumental in plans for remote teaching this spring, which took place in an incredibly short time. By beginning conversations now about remote teaching for the fall, Harvard can ensure excellence in the student educational experience.
  • International students will face unique challenges in the coming academic year, dependent upon ease of travel and visa accessibility. The Harvard International Office is available to help and has developed a Coronavirus FAQ that may answer questions you have.
  • As Provost Garber mentions, Harvard is developing approaches focused on restarting our research program. This includes access to campus-based research facilities, with a focus on protecting the health and safety of the community. I know that, for many of you, this is the aspect of graduate study you are most concerned about. Know that Harvard is working hard on this and will communicate once plans are ready to share.

Your input will be critical as Harvard and the FAS develop plans for the fall. I encourage you to share your ideas and perspectives by emailing The FAS expects to reach a decision about fall 2020 in July.

Since the Coronavirus Disease pandemic began, GSAS has focused on helping our students during this crisis. Our initial focus was on the immediate safety needs of students and on assisting those who found themselves in severe financial need. GSAS is in the process of working with our University partners to evaluate the categories of need students have and to try to address them. We will continue to communicate as more information is known.

In my past messages, I’ve said that this is an unprecedented time, one filled with uncertainty. I know it is hard to hear that we don’t yet know what fall 2020 will bring academically and personally; it is hard for me, too, to not have answers for you at this time. Yet, I am committed to continuing to work towards answers and to being in touch as soon as we know more.

With all best wishes,

Emma Dench
Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History and of the Classics

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