Spring 2021 Semester Plans

October 20, 2020
Divinity Hall on the HDS campus
Divinity Hall on the HDS campus / Photo: Kristie Welsh

The below message was sent to members of the HDS community from Dean David N. Hempton on October 20, 2020.

I first want to take this opportunity to thank everyone in our HDS community—students, staff, and faculty—for their forbearance, resilience, and cooperation as we have all encountered an unprecedented and threatening situation over these many months.

As you know, Harvard Divinity School and Harvard University have been closely monitoring the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since moving to online instruction in March 2020, HDS, along with the rest of Harvard University, has been considering how best to fulfill its educational mission for the 2020-21 academic year.

As always, the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff are of paramount importance. Public health officials at the federal and local levels remain concerned about the high level of risk associated with convening large numbers of people and the possibility of a resurgence of infections. Given this uncertainty, along with HDS's small classroom size—particularly while Swartz Hall is under renovation—and the challenges this presents to physically distance, HDS will conduct all spring 2021 courses online. In so doing, the School seeks to maximize community safety and to allow students to make informed plans for travel, living arrangements, and enrollment.

Since the spring 2020 move to online instruction, HDS faculty and others have been working diligently to recreate, and even amplify, the in-person class experience as best as possible given the circumstances. We are deeply committed to creating a spring semester that will serve our students' educational needs and aspirations at the highest possible level. With steps such as smaller class sizes, tuition on a per-course basis and flexible course loads, technological aides, and out-of-class virtual gathering and study opportunities, HDS faculty and staff continue to do all in their power to recreate online the individualized instruction and community experience that are a hallmark of our educational mission.

We will continue to adhere to public health information and guidance as we formulate our plans to reopen when it is safe to do so. Information specific to the HDS campus, including important resources for our students, faculty, and staff, is available on the HDS Coronavirus Updates page. Also, please continue to check Harvard's Coronavirus (COVID-19) web page. This will have the latest University-wide information, policy updates, and resources.

Please be assured that the leadership of HDS is doing all it can to preserve the integrity of our institution and its educational mission, and to communicate forthrightly and in a timely fashion with you on the specific challenges at hand.

I hope that we will continue to draw strength from each other and support one another during these challenging times. Thank you for being part of this very special community, and please stay safe and well.

David N. Hempton
Dean of the Faculty of Divinity