"The goal of these changes is to minimize the need to gather in large groups and spend prolonged time in close proximity with each other in spaces such as classrooms, dining halls, and residential buildings," Harvard President Lawrence Bacow said in a message to students.
Students were set to begin their spring break on Saturday; now they're being told not to come back.
"There are a lot of classes that involve labs that you really can't replicate online. The sports teams are all devastated," Harvard sophomore James Casey said. "It's more than just the classes. It's a lot of different things kind of all just coming to an end right at once."
Harvard's campus will remain open with "appropriate measures to protect the health of the community." But the school is strongly discouraging any non-essential meetings or events of 25 people or more.
"To our students, especially those of you graduating this year, I know that this is not how you expected your time at Harvard to end," Bacow wrote. "We are doing this not just to protect you but also to protect other members of or community who may be more vulnerable to this disease than you are."
Harvard said it is "still working on the details" concerning possible room and board refunds for the remainder of the semester.
Students interviewed by WBZ-TV didn't like the new policy.
"I think it's going to be a logistical nightmare," one student said.
"It's going to cost a lot, a lot of money and I think a lot of people are going to have trouble finishing their classes at home," another commented.
Harvard professor Dr. Myra White said that while classwork will be online, it will lack the important element of human interaction.
"When you have a really good class, you have a sense of what psychologists call 'emotional contagion,' that we catch each other's moods," White said.
Amherst College announced on Monday that it would be holding all classes online after spring break, citing concerns about how many students travel during their time off. Smith College says students have until March 20 to move out and online classes are expected to start on March 30.
Other colleges including Tufts, Amherst, Emerson, Suffolk University and MIT will also move classes online.
Governor Charlie Baker announced a state of emergency Tuesday, as 92 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Massachusetts.
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