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Trump bashes Harvard’s online learning plan for fall semester as ‘the easy way out’

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump took part Tuesday in a discussion about safely reopening America's schools in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.ANNA MONEYMAKER/NYT

President Trump blasted Harvard University for taking “the easy way out” by continuing to hold classes online this fall in response to the coronavirus pandemic, as he pushed Tuesday for schools and colleges to reopen despite rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in some parts of the country.

Harvard announced Monday that all undergraduate courses will be taught online in the fall and that only first-year students and undergraduates specifically invited for academic reasons — about 40 percent of its undergraduate population — will be allowed to return to campus in September.

Most other Boston-area colleges and universities plan to bring a majority of students back to campus in the fall while employing safety measures including face masks, frequently COVID-19 testing, smaller classes and a mix of online and in-person class meetings.


But Trump is pushing to get students of all ages back in classrooms, saying those who urge caution are motivated by politics.

“We want to reopen the schools. Everybody wants it. The moms want it, the dads want it, the kids want it. It’s time to do it,” Trump said Tuesday afternoon at a meeting held to pressure state and local officials to reopen schools, according to a pool report.

In the final moments of the meeting, Trump turned his attention to Harvard.

“I see where Harvard announced that they’re closing for the season or for the year,” he said. “I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s an easy way out. And I think they ought to be ashamed of themselves, you want to know the truth. But I noticed that today, and probably others are doing that.

“That’s called the easy way out,” he continued. “I don’t know if people are helping them. I guess their endowment is plenty big; they don’t have a problem with that. But that’s not what we want to do.”


Harvard representatives did not immediately respond Tuesday night to a request for comment.

Also at that meeting, Trump again insisted that the country has a high number of coronavirus cases — nearly 3 million as of Tuesday, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — because so many Americans have been tested.

“If we did half the testing, we would have far fewer cases,” the president said.

Public health experts have said there are likely many more unknown cases and asymptomatic infections because too few Americans have been tested to reveal the actual scope of the pandemic.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him @jeremycfox.