Anvay Tewari

As the Yale community adjusts to an online spring semester and the cancellation of commencement, Yale students and faculty are facing another round of shutterings: all summer study abroad programs.

In a Friday email, University Provost Scott Strobel and Vice President for Global Strategy Pericles Lewis wrote that all University-sponsored international travel — including study abroad programs — is banned through Aug. 15, just days before the scheduled start of the fall 2020 semester. They added that all on-campus summer activities, including campus visits, would be cancelled until at least June 28, and that the University will make decisions about activities after that date once more information is known about the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We understand fully that many of our students — and students at partner institutions around the world — rely on activities during the summer as an integral part of their academic program,” Strobel and Lewis wrote. “It is difficult to impose restrictions on these activities, but these extraordinary times necessitate extraordinary measures to ensure everyone’s safety and health.”

Strobel and Lewis also discouraged nonessential domestic travel — especially to the tri-state area of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, which is currently the largest hotspot for the novel coronavirus in the United States. According to its website, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges residents of those three states to remain within the area, and the governors of those states have “full discretion” to enforce the travel advisory.

As of Sunday afternoon, Connecticut had 5,276 cases of COVID-19, while New York and New Jersey had 114,996 and 34,124 cases, respectively.

According to Lewis, some of the University’s main considerations when deciding to postpone events or travel now include the protection of the health and safety of the community and the need for advance notice for people to plan ahead. Still, Lewis added that making these decisions — which are guided by the advice of medical and public health experts — takes time.

“We try, however, to wait and make decisions once we have all the best possible public health information, so we typically won’t be able to make decisions about this fast-moving pandemic more than a month or two in advance,” Lewis wrote in an email to the News.

In this case, he wrote, the University is giving about two months’ advance notice so that those with previous plans can make alternative arrangements.

In emails to the News, multiple study abroad coordinators expressed their disappointment over these new regulations while acknowledging that the University’s decision was inevitable.

According to Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures Mick Hunter, the Light Fellowship — a popular program that has been cancelled this year but usually offers experiences abroad in China, Japan and Korea — is critically important for students in those language programs, many of whom take advantage of the fellowship to fulfill language requirements.

“Losing that opportunity this summer is a great blow, though of course we all understand why the Provost made the decision,” Hunter wrote in an email to the News.

Due to the cancellations, Hunter said, students must either reapply for the Light Fellowship for next summer or enroll in L3 language courses in the fall semester, in which case the department may see higher-than-normal enrollments for intermediate classes.

According to the German Language Program Director Theresa Schenker, the German department is open to offering summer courses online to replace study abroad opportunities. While she noted that she and her department are “sad, of course, that we can’t take students abroad this summer,” she emphasized that the safety of all involved parties is their top priority.

Beyond just fulfilling requirements, multiple language professors stressed the cultural experiences gained from studying abroad.

“It’s a fabulous experience,” French Language Program Director Ruth Koizim said. “And I have yet to meet a student who does not feel that his or her program abroad was anything short of life-transforming.”

According to Language Program Director of Italian Language and Literature Anna Iacovella, the Italian department’s Siena program has been growing over the past few years and relies on its family-based aspect to foster cultural exchange. While she is disappointed by these cancellations, Iacovella wrote to the News, she added that it is “unrealistic” to hope for a summer program in Italy. She wrote that she instead envisions a modified course load with online instruction.

She added that the Italian Department is waiting for instructions from Department Chair Millicent Marcus GRD ’74, who told the News that no updates were available as of Sunday afternoon. 

According to multiple professors, Yale Summer Session will announce updated guidelines later this week, though YSS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In an email to the News, Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun wrote that his office expects to announce updated guidelines about the International Summer Award and the Domestic Summer Award — grants available to students on financial aid for travel — sometime this week.

As of Sunday afternoon, the United States has recorded 311,536 cases of COVID-19 and 8,499 deaths.

 

Valerie Pavilonis | valerie.pavilonis@yale.edu