Amay Tewari

Though nearly all Yale College classes will be taught remotely in the fall, the University will welcome first years, juniors and seniors to on-campus housing, according to a Wednesday morning announcement from University President Peter Salovey and University Provost Scott Strobel.

In order to maintain the on-campus population at about 60 percent of normal throughout the year, Yale will allow sophomores, juniors and seniors on campus in the spring semester. Per the announcement, only courses that require an in-person component — like studio- and lab-based classes — will take place in person, with students and instructors observing social distancing guidelines. 

“We wanted to say something now, so that the community can plan, but it is important to understand that this is a fluid and dynamic situation,” Salovey said in an interview with the News on Tuesday. “Conditions can change…they could change locally, they could change for higher education more generally between now and Aug. 24. So…these decisions are the best decisions we could make based on the facts we know now. But we’re going to have to be flexible and ready for change should [public health] conditions worsen.”

Salovey added that the administration’s intention in the timeline of its announcement was to finalize as many details as possible while giving those affected as much notice as possible. 

Yale College Dean Marvin Chun said the University will arrange housing accommodations for sophomores in the fall and first years in the spring, if remaining at home presents academic or unfixable technological difficulties. First-year international students who arrive in the fall will be allowed to stay through the spring term, and emancipated individuals and students experiencing homelessness will also be allowed to live on campus throughout the year, he added.

Chun also addressed leaves of absence. In a Tuesday Zoom meeting with the News and other administrators, he noted that students will have to declare their intent to enroll for the upcoming semester by July 20. Still, he said, students will be able to change their minds until the 15th day of the fall semester, consistent with existing policy. Taking a leave of absence because of COVID-19, he added, will not prevent students from taking similar time off in the future. 

Chun added in a follow-up email to the News that by early August, Yale will announce sign-ups for a staged schedule from Aug. 24-30 during which students can return to campus. Exact details will depend on how many students actually plan to return to school, he said. 

The University’s public health guidelines will require all undergraduates on campus to undergo viral testing once a week. According to Title IX Coordinator Stephanie Spangler, administrators are currently planning for students, with professional observation, to swab themselves for COVID-19 at one of multiple testing sites around campus. 

“Unless a miracle happens, we will not be in a COVID-free environment come fall,” Spangler told the News. “We’re very fortunate that Connecticut has had a good experience based on its own adherence to all the public health guidance and we hope that continues, but we won’t be in a COVID-free environment. And also, COVID is a public health challenge. And public health challenges are challenges not just to the individual’s health and safety, but to the community’s health and safety. And the only way that each of us will be protected is if all of us are protected. So that’s how we’ve crafted these guidelines — we must picture the health of the community and at the same time the health of each individual.”

Spangler added that as of Tuesday, Connecticut has issued guidelines for visitors from 16 states that require those visitors to quarantine for 14 days. Should those restrictions remain in place for the beginning of the fall semester, Spangler said, students must quarantine. Administrators have identified empty residential spaces on campus where students can self-isolate, Spangler said. Students coming to Connecticut from abroad will also need to quarantine, according to Wednesday’s announcement.

Salovey added that students will be able to easily obtain masks from University supplies, and that the University will post reminders about adhering to public health directives around campus.

Yale’s public health guidelines will be enforced by a compact that all students will be required to sign. According to Chun, proven repeated shirking of public health guidelines could result in a student being sent home to finish the remainder of the semester off-campus. 

Chun and Salovey, along with other deans present at the meeting, all emphasized the need for students to adhere to public health measures.

“I know that students really want to come back to campus, but the only way we can welcome them back to campus is if they agree to abide by these behavioral requirements,” Salovey said. 

On-campus logistics will also involve changes to residential areas and social spaces. For example, each undergraduate student will have their own room, and suites will be rearranged to ensure this. Chun also wrote in a follow-up email to the News that for two students in a double, one student would move to an empty single, but the University would try to keep the two rooms close to each other so as not to disrupt suite social arrangements.

Chun also added that dining halls will operate on a “grab n’ go” or preorder model, and that social spaces — including libraries, common rooms and butteries — will operate at a quarter of their usual capacity. While residential college gyms may have difficulty operating due to their smaller size, Chun said, Payne Whitney Gymnasium will open its doors come fall.

Chun also wrote in an email to the News that students can visit each other across residential colleges provided they wear masks and maintain social distancing. Still, Yale events will be conducted remotely when possible, and the Ivy League will announce details about its fall season on July 8.

Vice President for Global Strategy Pericles Lewis added that the Schwarzman Center, previously set to open in the fall, will instead begin public operations in January, though larger events may remain postponed until further notice. Lewis also serves as Chair of the Academic Continuity Committee — one of the six contingency planning committees outlined by Salovey in April.

Lewis also explained the rationale for choosing the first-year and sophomore students to remain partially off campus: Since the vast majority of first years and sophomores live on campus, welcoming the entirety of both grade levels would have made it very difficult for the University to de-densify its residential halls to the necessary extent.

According to Strobel, tuition will not be reduced. Still, room and board will be reduced to reflect a shorter semester. Instead of reducing tuition for sophomores and first years that will remain off-campus for alternate semesters, Strobel said, those students will have the opportunity to take two free credits for next year’s Yale Summer Session. Chun added that Yale has cut the student activities fee from $125 to $50, with students paying $25 each semester. 

Yale will waive the student income contribution for those sophomores and first years who must remain off campus, Chun added. But in order to adapt to the newly remote conditions of the school year, the University will expand the range of remote student jobs. 

According to Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Tamar Gendler, Yale will expand its Undergraduate Learning Assistant (ULA) program “across the curriculum” to other disciplines such as the humanities. 

She added that students will also be able to apply for the new positions of “undergraduate technology assistants.” These students will provide support to individual faculty and courses to ensure smooth operations in an online learning environment, Gendler wrote in a follow-up email to the News. Individual departments and the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning will train UTAs, Gendler wrote, and “the allocation of ULAs and UTAs across classes will depend on student enrollments and faculty needs.”

Lewis also noted that while Salovey’s initial announcement of the membership of the six contingency committees did not include any students, undergraduate and graduate representatives were included in the development of Yale’s fall plans. According to a list on the FAS website, a total of eight students served on task forces with faculty and administrators. 

Administrators also told the News they will soon announce a town hall where students can ask questions about the upcoming semester, similar to one held on May 1. 

Valerie Pavilonis | valerie.pavilonis@yale.edu