Stanford vs. Harvard: Draconian Vs. Parental Approach To COVID

Stanford vs. Harvard: Heavy Hand Vs. Parental Approach To COVID

Across the U.S., states are taking widely different approaches to COVID-19 and reopening.

Time recently looked at how two famous b-schools, Stanford Graduate School of Business and Harvard Business School, have taken nearly opposite approaches in tone when it comes to addressing reopening.


At the Stanford Graduate School of Business, students came back to campus this fall and were told to maintain social distancing with a number of protocols in place to limit campus activities. Additionally, students were asked to sign a campus compact outlining strict health and safety measures.

And while Stanford reopened campus at the start of fall, it was a different atmosphere than previous years. Students mention that they were patrolled around campus by enforcers donning green vests who would tell them what was allowed and what wasn’t.

“They were breaking up picnics. They were breaking up yoga groups,” one graduate student tells Time. “Sometimes they’d ask you whether you actually lived in the dorm you were about to go into.”

Ultimately, as the nation began to see a spike in cases again, Stanford University reversed course and decided to limit on-campus residential status to grad students and undergrads with special circumstances.

A Harvard Business School, students signed a similar compact agreement. According to Time, Harvard’s approach was much more hands-off when compared to Stanford, with the Boston b-school relying largely on trusting its students to abide by guidelines and the Bay Area b-school commanding enforcers to ensure students follow the rules.

At Stanford, students were required to sign the compact in order to enroll in classes, receive pay for teaching, and live in campus housing. In response, over 1500 grad students signed a petition requesting a revised campus compact. Additionally, grad students urged one another to not to sign the school’s campus compact arguing that the “coercive nature” of the contract was problematic.

“It specifically targets grad students who are at the mercy of the University for paychecks, housing, visa status, degree progress, etc.,” the students state in the call to action. “Meanwhile, faculty, staff, and administrators, who are also part of the campus community and who we also need to do their part to maintain the public health of our community, are not required to sign.”

Students specifically called out the university on threatening to evict students during the pandemic.

“This is a blatant abuse of power by the University and an overreach of their jurisdiction over graduate students’ lives,” the students state in the call to action. “The University should only be suggesting reasonable and proportionate consequences for violations, such as education or community service.”

In early September, after facing heavy pressure from students, university administrators solicited grad student input and released a revised compact.

Across the nation, Harvard Business School adopted a more “parental approach” in asking its students to behave when campus reopens.

“I feel like we’ve been treated as adults who know how to stay safe,” a Harvard second-year MBA candidate tells Time. “It’s worked—at least here.”


While the b-schools differ in their tone to enforcing restrictions, both universities shared a similar fundamental approach in what those restrictions actually allowed and didn’t allow. For instance, both universities required on campus students to report daily health statuses using an online portal and required students to wear face masks on campus.

And it appears that, despite the difference in the two universities’ tones, the results of positive cases have remained relatively low overall at both Stanford and Harvard.

At Stanford, since June 29, a total of 53,697 cumulative tests have been conducted with 50 being positive.

At Harvard, since June 1, a total of 194,924 cumulative tests have been conducted with 165 being positive.

Sources: Time, NPR, Stanford University, P&Q, Stanford University, Harvard University

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