Tim Tai, Staff Photographer

Yale College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences will delay the start of the spring 2022 semester from Jan. 18 to Jan. 25, will move the first two weeks of classes online and will shorten spring break from two weeks to one due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

University President Peter Salovey and University Provost Scott Strobel announced the changes in a Wednesday evening email to the Yale community, which attributed the delayed start to the spring semester to “a recent, worldwide surge in COVID-19 cases, driven by the highly infectious Omicron strain.” Undergraduate students may move back onto campus beginning Jan. 14 and must return no later than Feb. 4. Classes will begin online on Jan. 25, with in-person instruction currently scheduled to resume on Feb. 7. 

“Of course, the past months have been difficult for many of us, but we also displayed unmatched strength, kindness, and ingenuity. We are grateful for your tremendous efforts,” Salovey and Strobel wrote. “Together, we will continue to navigate through this extraordinary moment in history.”

According to the email, Graduate School and the College will now use Jan. 18 through Jan. 21 as a period to administer online make-up exams for students who were unable to complete their finals in December following the Dec. 18 cancellation of manymany in-person exams.

Salovey and Strobel added that they are coordinating with the deans of Yale’s professional schools about school-specific logistics, and that students should expect to hear from their deans about schedule- and course-related changes. 

“I know the University is really committed to having an in-person semester,” Richard Martinello, medical director of infection prevention at Yale New Haven Health and a member of the public health committee which advises University COVID-19 Coordinator Stephanie Spangler, said Wednesday. “We’re seeing [that] rope into both potentially changing the calendar around a little bit, and also considering a virtual or hybrid start to allow a little more of a buffer.” 

The change to the spring semester schedule was first revealed early Wednesday afternoon in an email to the Yale School of Public Health community from the School of Public Health Office of Student Affairs. The School of Public Health email also announced that all SPH courses would be held virtually for the first two weeks of the semester, that spring break would be reduced from two weeks to one week and that the SPH add/drop period would be extended until Feb. 2.

The changes to the calendar come after the University reported 67 cases on Dec. 20 — its highest number of COVID-19 cases in a single day.

On-campus isolation housing capacity dropped to 50 percent as of Dec. 20, according to the COVID-19 dashboard. The dashboard’s isolation housing capacity tracker remained stagnant at 71 percent for several weeks at the beginning of the semester, but jumped to 91 percent around the same time that students confirmed to the News that the University had begun double-bunking students.

The University did not immediately respond to requests for comment about which public health measures will be in place upon students’ arrival to campus — including potential arrival quarantines, restrictions on in-person gatherings or grab-and-go dining.

A Dec. 16 email to students from Madeline Wilson, director of Yale’s COVID-19 Testing and Tracing program, announced that the twice-weekly COVID-19 testing requirement imposed on Dec. 6 would remain in place for the first two weeks of the spring semester. Students will also be required to test “within 24-48” hours after returning to campus.    

In their email, Salovey and Strobel also announced information about staff members’ return to campus as well as efforts to maintain University research. Staff members must follow previously announced work arrangements, but deans and unit leaders have the discretion to remove the twice-weekly, in-person work requirement until Feb. 7.

Laboratory research and work in studio spaces and libraries will continue after the winter recess ends on Jan. 3, according to Salovey and Strobel.

On Dec. 22, Columbia University announced that it would conduct the first two weeks of undergraduate instruction remotely in order to minimize disruptions for students experiencing delays in travel or isolating for COVID-19. Columbia students will be allowed to return to campus for this period of online learning. 

Brown University announced on Dec. 21 that University operations would continue in-person throughout the break and into the spring semester, with no plans to move online. 

In an email to students on Dec. 18, the University announced that the remainder of finals for undergraduate students would be moved online, and that students would be allowed to leave campus early out of concern regarding COVID-19. 

On Dec. 19, the University shifted its COVID-19 alert level from yellow – connoting “low to moderate risk” – to orange, connoting “moderate risk.” According to the COVID-19 dashboard, the change to orange could trigger adjustments to campus life, including restrictions on in-person gatherings, increased testing frequency and targeted quarantine for campus locations experiencing clusters of COVID-19 cases.

Spangler announced the change in a Dec. 20 community-wide email, though she did not stipulate that all the potential restrictions associated with orange alert level would take effect. Instead, she enumerated the actions the University had taken in recent days, including switching undergraduate dining to grab-and-go and eliminating in-person examinations for students in Yale College, Graduate School and some professional schools. In addition, University libraries will close at the conclusion of the exam period on Dec. 22 and remain closed throughout winter recess, and both the Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art will cease public visiting hours during the recess. 

Spangler also noted that a host of planned in-person gatherings have either been “postponed, transitioned to a virtual venue or cancelled.” She encouraged managers across the University to consult with senior leaders or deans in their departments to make “provisions” for staff who are able to work remotely.

“Some of the hope is that in South Africa, which was one of the countries initially heavily hit by the Omicron variant, they’ve seen a very rapid decline in the prevalence of COVID in the community,” Martinello said. “Of course, we have no idea what’s going to happen here, and there’s lots of reasons for that, but I think we know things are ramping up with COVID at this point and that with a little bit more time, there may be the opportunity for the semester to start more safely.” 

Yale announced on Dec. 17 that all eligible students would be required to get booster shots to their vaccines before returning to campus after winter break.

This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.

Update, Dec. 22: Spring break will start the evening of March 18 and end the morning of March 28. Yale’s senior administration originally provided the wrong spring break dates, which were also included in the School of Public Health email.

Update, Dec. 22: This story was updated with information from Salovey and Strobel’s Wednesday night email to the Yale community.

Lucy Hodgman is the editor-in-chief and president of the News. She previously covered student life and the Yale College Council. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, she is a junior in Grace Hopper majoring in English.
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.