What’s the Value of Harvard Without a Campus?

Penelope Alegria, 18, an incoming freshman, is torn between spending her first semester at school and remaining at home in Chicago. She really wants to make new friends and experience the campus.

If she does attend in person, however, the school’s stringent social distancing policies will render the semester unrecognizable from traditional freshman year frisbee-on-the-quad archetypes.

Ms. Alegria noted that the lack of communal spaces will be particularly tough. In information provided to students, Harvard said: “Most facilities such as common rooms, gyms, and large gathering spaces will not be open.”

“It really just sucks.” Ms. Alegria said. Besides, her parents, who are from Peru, would rather she stay home, and she knows how much they could use the $5,000. “They’re just kind of like, ‘Well, I mean, you’re still going to school, and they could possibly be giving you money to go to school, so, like, I don’t understand why you’re crying,’” she said.

Ms. Alegria finds solace in a group chat with other low-income freshmen, many of whom are also struggling with the decision. They take polls about which way they’re leaning. “The last poll was 24 votes for campus, six votes for home and three votes for elsewhere,” she said.

Ms. Gomez, who has been able to stay on campus this summer, said that F.G.L.I. students often can’t just remain at their “parents’ home for six months and become, you know, another burden on our on our family.” She added: “This is a very privileged thing for people to do.”

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