Eric Wang

In an email to the Yale community on Tuesday, University President Peter Salovey said he will announce the fate of the fall semester by early July.

Salovey’s message comes after weeks of speculation on social media, in which students and professors guessed at scenarios ranging from a complete cancellation of the fall semester to an online option where students still reside on campus. In his email, Salovey wrote that municipal and federal government updates — along with news of any advances in testing, therapeutics and contact tracing — will play significant roles in what the University ultimately decides. 

“I am as eager as all of you to have clarity on the most difficult of the questions we face: whether or when students will return to campus in the fall,” Salovey wrote. “I understand that we all need time to make plans. We will announce decisions about the fall no later than early July. If we can do so sooner, we will.”

Salovey also cited the six COVID-19 contingency planning committees that he and University Provost Scott Strobel announced earlier in the month, all of which are charged with adapting University operations to the pandemic. He added that the committees will consult both “colleagues around the University” and students as they prepare their policies. 

In an email to the News last week, Vice Provost for Global Strategy Pericles Lewis wrote that part of the work of the Academic Continuity Committee — which he chairs — will consist of adapting hypothetical on-campus instruction if social distancing measures still prove necessary.

“We are eager to return to regular instruction on campus as soon as the public health situation permits this,” Lewis wrote. “My committee is looking at what the best possible Yale education would be under various scenarios.”

Other groups include the Research Continuity Committee and the Creative and Artistic Practice Continuity Committee, according to Salovey and Strobel’s earlier announcement. 

Salovey also updated the Yale community on multiple financial concerns, including the budget and the endowment. The 2008 market crash, he wrote, caused the University to implement several safety measures in case another drop occurred. In the months preceding the COVID-19 outbreak, deans and heads of other Yale units presented budget revision strategies to administrators as a “stress test” to prepare for economic instability. 

According to Salovey’s message, the “stress testing” has allowed Yale to act “more decisively and with greater confidence.”

Salovey also cited an earlier message from Strobel that detailed budget reductions through salary and hiring freezes. Other measures, Salovey wrote, take the form of revised budgets from deans and heads of units, which will be reviewed by the University’s Budget Advisory Group. After the BAG approves these altered plans, Salovey will present the final budget to the Corporation in June. 

Salovey also took the opportunity to write about the endowment, saying that its value has been “reduced” due to recent market drops. Making up $1.4 billion of Yale’s $4.3 billion budget, the endowment’s decreasing value means that a gap has opened up between the funds the University originally projected to spend and the funds that the University can actually use. 

“In recent days, and as in the previous financial crisis, I have been asked why Yale cannot simply spend more from its endowment,” Salovey wrote. “After all, isn’t this a time of true emergency? The simple answer is that the endowment is neither a savings account nor a ‘rainy-day fund.’”

Rather, he wrote, the endowment comes with a network of caveats that restrict the use of a large portion of University funds for specific purposes. While the University will work to fully finance current programs, Salovey wrote, it must also consider the resources available to future generations.

Earlier this month, Yale opened 550 on-campus beds to healthcare workers, first responders and funeral workers. 

Valerie Pavilonis | valerie.pavilonis@yale.edu