Wikimedia Commons

Six weeks into the fall semester, a cohort of undergraduates is still living at the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale, after a last-minute decision to use McClellan Hall for COVID-19 isolation housing left 47 students without on-campus housing.

The Aug. 27 announcement came as a surprise to the students, some of whom had already moved into McClellan, while others were just days away from move-in. Following a discussion with University administrators, some affected students chose to stay in the Omni for an indefinite timespan. Others opted to move into open University housing in their own residential colleges and elsewhere around campus. While Yale has provided the students at the Omni with amenities — including breakfast vouchers, Uber credits and laundry services — to make their stay more comfortable, there is no set timeline for students’ return to McClellan.

“This is an ongoing conversation among the public health advisers,” Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd wrote in a statement to the News. “So far this semester, the number of positive cases on campus has been very low, thanks to everyone’s cooperation in strong prevention measures. But we have seen other institutions’ numbers jump suddenly, even with high vaccination rates, and so we remain cautious.” 

The University originally planned to use Arnold Hall, located at 304 Elm St., as the only COVID-19 isolation housing for undergraduates. The decision to increase isolation housing capacity came in response to arrival testing data and the Delta variant-driven spike in cases nationwide, sparking concerns that Yale might see a surge of positive cases early in the semester.

Yale’s undergraduate vaccination rate has climbed steadily over the course of the semester and currently stands at 99.5 percent. COVID-19 cases are correspondingly low — in the past seven days of publicly available data, the undergraduate student body has logged zero positive tests.

McClellan Hall, located on Yale’s Old Campus, was intended to serve as mixed-college housing for upper-level students who wanted to live with friends from different residential colleges while staying on campus.

Boyd told the News that of the 47 students originally assigned to live in McClellan, 20 were placed in alternative on-campus housing, while the other 27 are still at the Omni.

“[The affected students] have been very patient, and we’re very grateful for their understanding,” Yale College Dean Marvin Chun told the News.

Still, several students expressed frustration over the decision at the time of the announcement, and some of their frustrations continue today.

Hank Michalik ’24 told the News that after the initial announcement, University administrators worked with him and his roommate to find open on-campus housing, ultimately moving them into a suite in Silliman College.

“We thought that was a pretty good deal,” Michalik said. “Silliman is pretty nice as well, … [but it’s] a pretty bad decision to abruptly kick everyone out of [McClellan]. If you’re going to be in college, why would you want to be living alone in a hotel in New Haven?”

To ameliorate the situation, the University is providing students at the Omni with several different amenities, including a dedicated lounge and complimentary WiFi, laundry services and breakfast vouchers. 

Yale is also providing students with two Uber credits per day for quicker transportation between the heart of campus and the hotel.

“The hope is that we can make it easier for them to have the Omni as a home base, but still keep the students connected to the campus community,” Boyd wrote.

The Omni Hotel is located at 155 Temple St.


Olivia Tucker covered student policy & affairs as a beat reporter in 2021-22. She previously served as an associate editor of the Yale Daily News Magazine and covered gender equity and diversity. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she is a senior in Davenport College majoring in English.