David Zheng, Senior Photographer
At the end of each school year, Yale’s campus is flooded with alumni who visit to celebrate their class reunions. But for the second year in a row, campus will be quiet, as all alumni reunions will take place virtually due to the ongoing pandemic.
This year’s reunions will take place on June 4 and 5 for all class years celebrating reunions that are a multiple of five years post-graduation. The Yale Alumni Association announced the additional year of virtual reunions in February, saying in their announcement that even with vaccine distribution, there was still too much uncertainty to plan for an in-person reunion in June.
“We know this news will bring sadness and disappointment to many of you, as it does to us, but we hope it also provides a level of certainty in often uncertain times,” the official YAA announcement said. “We have been repeatedly and duly impressed – though not surprised – at how the Yale alumni community has banded together during the pandemic, and we know that by once again doing our part, we can ensure safe, fun, in-person events in the near future.”
Karen Jahn, the YAA’s senior director for Yale College Classes — the department that manages reunions and class outreach — told the News that the YAA held out for as long as they could before making the decision to hold the reunions virtually, but ultimately were forced to make the decision in February in order to give reunion chairs and alumni adequate time to plan for reunions. Although the YAA would have loved to hold reunions in person, the safety of all alumni involved had been “the most important consideration,” Jahn said.
The virtual reunions will feature faculty lectures, performances, special reunion tour videos and opportunities for classmates to interact with one another online.
“We know we can’t simulate the in-person experience of being on campus, but we hope to provide an experience that will allow alums and their guests to reconnect with each other and the university —just like we hope to do during an in-person reunion,” E.J. Crawford, the senior director of marketing and communications at the YAA, told the News.
According to Jahn, the planning process for this year’s virtual reunions began over a year ago, after Yale had to cancel the 2020 in-person reunions. In 2020, the virtual reunions were conducted with only 10 weeks of notice, whereas reunions usually take years to plan. For 2021, Jahn said, the YAA took advantage of the extra time to plan and hopes to deliver a seamless online experience.
Rather than hosting typical Zoom events, the YAA is partnering with a virtual events platform called All In The Loop, which is meant to deliver online programming and allow alumni to connect with one another on the same platform.
“Previously, we had some experience in the digital space and in online digital environments, but like it has done for so many, the pandemic accelerated our timetable,” Jahn said. “What we found is for all that might be lost from the in-person experience, we’ve gained so much in terms of accessibility – the online environment has meant that so many people who had previously not been able to make their reunion, for a variety of reasons, can now attend. There is something pretty magical in that.”
The YAA was officially founded in 1972.