Yale, seeking normalcy, keeps classes going

Just minutes after many of them heard about Tuesday’s terrorist attacks, Yale administrators convened at a regularly scheduled officers meeting in Woodbridge Hall and planned the University’s reaction to an incident likely to impact many members of the Yale community.

The administration immediately decided to not cancel classes and to ensure that adequate resources were available to worried students, faculty and staff. Yale President Richard Levin and University Chaplain Frederick Streets met to plan last night’s school-wide candlelight vigil on Cross Campus. Mental health staff was deployed to all the colleges and many administrators extended their Tuesday night office hours considerably.

Woodbridge Hall, which houses the offices of Levin and University Secretary Linda Lorimer, looked more like a crisis control center than an administrative hub yesterday morning. The deans of every school, Streets, Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead and President of the Council of Masters William Sledge met yesterday morning in the Corporation Room to discuss how to handle the crisis, whose gruesome details were still unfolding before their eyes on the television screen in Lorimer’s office.

Officials said they knew at once that hundreds of Yale alumni and relatives of community members would be affected by the terrorist attack in New York and Washington, D.C., since Yale has deep ties to the financial and political worlds. Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said the University’s first priority was to disseminate as much information to the Yale community as possible.

The Office of Public Affairs also released a statement to the general press saying that Yale would not cancel classes and would focus its energy on taking care of its community.

Administrators deluged student e-mail inboxes with information regarding classes, vigils, mental health services, blood drives, security and community meetings.

Scores of meetings and functions were cancelled Tuesday night in light of the tragedy. The Yale College Council’s meetings and elections are postponed and a reception for the new Vice President for Finance and Administration Robert Culver was canceled. All Undergraduate Career Services events from last night were cancelled.

After meeting with fall sports teams in Payne Whitney Gymnasium Tuesday Athletic Director Tom Beckett told team captains he would ask Levin for a week-long moratorium on Yale athletic competition. Yale will withdraw from all its scheduled games until Saturday with a decision on weekend games expected Wednesday.

At 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, four hours after the first plane crashed into Tower Two of the World Trade Center, Levin sent an e-mail to all students informing them that classes would go on as scheduled but that professors and students should use the class time to discuss the tragedy if they desired.

“I think it was a good idea not to cancel classes,” Ezra Stiles Master Paul Fry said. “I think it’s a time to talk about what happened and a time to help people get this off their minds for a while.”

Hours later, students received another e-mail from their college deans forwarded from the Dean’s office informing them that shopping period was extended several days and that freshman and sophomores schedules are due Thursday, Sept. 20 and junior and senior schedules are due Friday, Sept. 21. Professors and administrators said attendance at seminars meeting for the first time yesterday and today would not be a factor in determining admission.

Highsmith also contacted the Association of Yale Alumni, asking it to provide transportation to any students needing to get home to nearby locations. Travel to New York was made impossible by highway and transit closures.

Additional police officers and security staff were called in to provide a “sense of reassurance,” Highsmith said.

Ann Kuhlman, director of the Office of International Students, e-mailed foreign students offering comforting words and security information.

“The tragic events of today may provoke intense emotion in many Americans,” Kuhlman wrote. “If you feel unsafe, please let someone know.”

Yale Travel Services confirmed that no Yale staff, faculty or students booked flights at their agency on any of the four planes that were hijacked Tuesday.

Many college masters and deans also took initiative quickly and sent e-mails to students throughout the day offering words of support and providing logistic information on how to contact loved ones, where to give blood and where to attend vigils. Several colleges planned town meetings and extended dining hall hours so students would have common spaces to convene.

Administrators also e-mailed students the phone number of the Red Cross in New Haven, which is helping to locate victims in New York and Washington.

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