Harvard and Stanford business schools pursue different – but equally successful – strategies to contain COVID on campus

Harvard Business School classes. Credit: Hensley Carrasco

Two elite programs, two wildly different approaches in tone and execution. In terms of the substance of their efforts, though, Harvard and Stanford [business schools] wound up aligning very closely with one another—and that may explain why, in the end, the schools both have achieved ongoing success in limiting the spread of COVID-19 in the age of pandemic.

Stanford’s business grad students were asked to sign a campus compact that specified strict safety measures for residents. Students at Harvard Business School signed a similar agreement. In both cases, state and local regulations weighed heavily, especially in limiting the size of gatherings. But where Harvard’s compact emerged fully formed and relied largely on the trustworthiness of its students, the process at Stanford was unexpectedly torturous, with serial adjustments and enforcers who sometimes went above and beyond the stated restrictions.

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Universities have struggled to strike a balance between the desire to deliver a meaningful college experience and the discipline needed to keep the campus caseload low in hopes of further reopening in 2021. In Stanford’s case, that struggle led to overreach and grad-student blowback that Harvard was able to avoid.


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