Yale Daily News

With classes largely returning to in-person learning this semester, the question of how students who test positive for COVID-19 should keep up with classwork remains uncertain.

Last semester, students who tested positive for COVID-19 were able to continue their classwork while in isolation because classes were remote. However, the return to in-person classes creates a challenge for students who test positive for COVID-19 and have to miss in-person classes while in quarantine. There is no standard University protocol for how students should continue their learning in such situations; rather, it is up to students to make individual arrangements with professors. 

The News spoke to three students who tested positive for COVID-19 this semester about their experience keeping up with coursework while in isolation. All three students stated that while they felt supported by their professors and deans, the lack of standardized protocol regarding how students should keep up with coursework while in isolation was frustrating. 

“I would say any support received was entirely from professors on a case-by-case basis,” a student who tested positive for COVID-19 after the first week of classes wrote to the News. “My dean and head of college reached out, but checking in with how I am feeling is different from administrative support or protocol so that I don’t fall behind in my very expensive classes.”

Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun told the News that he advises that students who test positive for COVID-19 stay in close communication with their instructors and residential college deans to create a plan for keeping up with coursework.

He explained that instructors have a variety of options for helping students who have to miss in-person instruction, which include recording lectures, using Canvas to post material or creating peer support teams. Seminars, however, cannot be recorded because of default Faculty of Arts and Sciences policy.

“Classes have different formats, so instructors are in the best position to recommend the best approach for students to keep up with missed class time,” Chun wrote to the News. “Students who need to make up examinations or postpone deadlines for coursework because of incapacitating illness — and this includes isolation and quarantine for COVID-19 — should talk with their residential college deans about dean’s excuses, which provide those accommodations specifically.”

The student who tested positive for COVID-19 after the first week of classes but requested anonymity for fear of revealing private medical information explained that two of their classes were recorded, one of their seminars did not meet during the time they were in isolation and one class they simply missed. They explained that the support they received regarding keeping up with classwork came entirely from professors and not from the University at large.

“It was stressful to coordinate, but my professors were understanding about my having COVID so they themselves were not hard on me for missing anything,” the student told the News. “But the University did not have any protocol set up, and I was entirely at my professors’ mercy.”

Amy Zhou ’23 also spoke to the News about her initial confusion and stress about how to proceed with classes while in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 during the first week of school. 

She explained that her dean was incredibly supportive, and that she eventually took it upon herself to reach out to her professors to make individual arrangements for recording lectures and Zooming into seminars — a request which some of her professors, but not all, granted.

“I was basically given no instructions at all after testing positive about how to continue my studies,” Zhou told the News. “I was very confused about whether I would receive official instructions or if I should just take it upon myself to reach out to my professors, which I eventually did.”

Collin Robinson ’24 shared a similar experience with the News, having tested positive at the beginning of the semester and getting out of quarantine during Labor Day weekend. 

He explained that because he tested positive at the beginning of the add/drop period, solidifying his course schedule was made more difficult due to his inability to meet his professors and classmates in person until after his quarantine. 

“It felt kind of lazy compared to the support they gave last spring semester when everyone was on Zoom,” Robinson said of the support he got from the University after testing positive. “Yes, I was an individual case, but I felt kind of tossed aside.”

All three students noted that their timing of getting sick was lucky, since it was a relatively less busy time of year. But they all expressed concerns that the students who test positive during midterms or other periods of heightened academic stress may fall behind more quickly and struggle with a lack of support since the University does not have any standardized protocols for how students in isolation should keep up with coursework. 

One standardized solution that all three students independently suggested was mandating that all lectures be recorded and sent to students in isolation, since COVID-19 remains an active threat in the community. 

At the time of publication, 99 percent of undergraduate students are vaccinated and five undergraduate students have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past week.

Julia Bialek currently serves as a public editor for the Yale Daily News. Previously, she covered the student policy & affairs beat as a reporter on the university desk. Originally from Chappaqua, New York, Julia is a junior in Saybrook College studying political science and history.