When Yale students were informed that the University would be closing, perhaps indefinitely, to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus, my immediate feeling was panic. I am one of many students who did not have the means to simply pack up and leave at a moment’s notice. It is something of a recurring theme at Yale, which is that students get left behind whenever changes big or small are implemented.
Before the sudden demand for every student to vacate the University, there was the unexpected switch to an expensive spring break meal plan, which effectively shuttered the dining halls for students who could not afford it. And even before the meal plan was announced, low-income students faced the constant need to get their refund checks from the financial aid office. The truth is that Yale was not designed for low-income students despite the steps they have taken to accommodate us. So, at the time of this writing, many low-income students, myself included, who could not afford a spring break vacation and the spring break meal plan now cannot afford the sudden trip home and the costs of online schooling.
While I understand that the abrupt shutdown of the University was done in the interest of public health, one must also understand that such actions need to be carefully planned out to mitigate any negative effects. It is of no use to try to benefit the public interest when you ignore the interests of the most vulnerable. Not everyone has a stable home to go to, much less a reliable internet connection, and not everyone can go about classes without the immense resources the University offers. With this sudden closure, students will forgo a steady stream of meals, health resources, internet connection, writing tutors, career advice, libraries, social events, meetings with professors and countless other things that a digital Yale cannot fulfill.
Thankfully, Davenport, my residential college, knew what to do, and through their generosity, I was able to leave campus and return home to Dallas. However, this does not erase the fact that I, and many other students like me, had to search and hope for assistance. I could have saved so much time and so much worry if I had had a clear set of instructions from the beginning. A plan. Anything that could have assured me from the start that I would be okay. Not an email with a bulleted list of maybes tacked onto what was essentially a University-wide eviction notice.
So now, after scurrying everywhere, I am finally ready to embark on the journey home. I can breathe, but only for a moment. I never imagined that I would be going home so soon, much less with the threat of a pandemic looming over me.
The journey home is a journey into uncertain and unknown territory. I think it is safe to say that I am terrified, but I am also saddened. Yale, for all the obstacles that were inexplicably thrown at me, is my second home. Despite the fact that I pushed my way forward during my time here, I can’t help but feel that I did not do everything I wanted to do.
It is quite difficult to do anything when the campus is closing. I feel cheated in a way. Here I am, a first generation student, having to abruptly pack up and leave behind a place that for many people in my community at home meant that I had beat the odds. Yet I am grateful for the privilege of simply having the ability to go home, as many other students do not. I think of my family in a time like this, and I know that while I will return to them in a hurry, I will return to them knowing that I made the most of the time I was given.
As I write this, the University looks defeated in the sunlight. Yale is nothing without its people. Libraries, courtyards, common rooms, residence halls and cultural houses sit near-empty as the last of the remaining students evacuate. For a moment, the silence is jarring. A far cry from my first week on Old Campus, where the sounds of excitement and new beginnings filled the air. Now the air is heavy with worry. When I board the shuttle to the airport, I will be leaving behind Yale itself, but I will take my experiences with me.
In my first year, Yale has been good to me even if it wasn’t always kind. The journey home is one filled with reflection and concern. I do not know what will come next, but I have faith that we will see this through. As I prepare for the days ahead, I want to say to my classmates and to this towering institution: Take care, we’ll see each other soon.
JESSAI FLORES is a first year in Davenport College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .