Yale Daily News

Students faced a number of challenges readjusting to in-person classes after 18 months of remote instruction, including fluctuating COVID-19 restrictions and the effects of Hurricane Ida. 

Within the first few days of classes, Hurricane Ida swept through New Haven, flooding many University buildings and causing power outages in several classroom buildings and residential colleges. 

Some students were relocated to temporary housing, and classes in affected buildings were either relocated or held over Zoom.

For classes that still took place in person, Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Lynn Cooley and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Tamar Gendler urged faculty to be accommodating to students whose ability to prepare for and arrive at class was hindered by the storm.

“I turned back to the Zoom techniques I’d learned after a year and a half of Zoom U: Yale Edition and did my best to make it work,” Erik Harms, an associate professor in the Anthropology Department, told the News.

Many residential colleges were severely affected by the flooding. Jonathan Edwards’ buttery experienced flooding, while Davenport students reported their basement having an inch of water and rain leaking through the windows. 

Students also began in-person instruction with COVID-19 still looming.

Yale has recorded more positive COVID-19 cases this term than the corresponding period last fall. Prior to the start of classes, the University reached a 98 percent vaccination rate among undergraduate students.

Students who were initially set to live in McClellan Hall for mixed-college housing were notified only five days before classes began that they would be indefinitely moved to the Omni Hotel in order to increase isolation housing capacity on-campus should there be a need for it. 

Despite the changes, many students felt grateful to return to campus under semi-normal conditions.

“After more than a year of taking classes online, to physically be in a room with other students and to see people filling the streets, walking to class and interacting felt surreal,” Victoria Vera ’23 told the News on her first day of classes. 

COVID-19 restrictions casted uncertainty and challenges with the return of in-person extracurricular activities and events.

Students gathered on Old Campus in the fall to see the 194 student organizations represented at the extracurricular bazaar. In previous years, the event was held in Payne Whitney Gym, and last year the extracurricular bazaar was held remotely. 

“The extracurricular bazaar felt super disconnected last year, so we’re definitely excited to be in person,” Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Scientific Magazine Isabella Li ’22 told the News. 

There has been a surge in interest for a cappella groups — due in part to having approximately double the number of eligible students — that presents logistical challenges for recruitment coordinators.

In a typical year, groups perform in Dwight Jam and Woolsey Jam, two separate live events before the start of classes that give new students the opportunity to see groups present up to four songs at each showcase. Instead, 400 masked students gathered in SSS to watch pre-recorded performances by all 16 members of the Singing Group Council.

Despite these altered circumstances, audience members enjoyed the return of the arts. 

“After a year of what felt like a major setback in all of the arts, it was beautiful to see everyone together in one space celebrating music, and all of the (very talented) a cappella groups,” jam attendee Soleil Singh ’24 wrote to the News. 

Six students and staff from Yale’s cultural centers expressed optimism and excitement about hosting more in-person and hybrid events in cultural center spaces this academic year, noting that safety remains a priority at each center.

La Casa, the Latino Cultural Center at Yale, is considering a hybrid system to keep track of live occupancy. Director of La Casa Eileen Galvez stated that the center has acquired high-quality walkie-talkies, tents and outdoor projectors to allow for in-person events while maintaining COVID-19 restrictions.

The Yale College Council is navigating the transition to in-person classes and responding to fluid public health guidelines. 

“Over the summer, the YCC has been hard at work on two primary groups of initiatives: laying the foundation for a productive year and ensuring a smooth transition and recruitment process for the Class of 2025,” YCC President Bayan Galal ’23 wrote in an email to the News.

YCC is prioritizing addressing students’ concerns and using them to inform their policy agenda for the upcoming year, according to Galal.

Despite restrictions on events and gatherings established as a result of the rise of the COVID-19 Delta variant and continued viral transmission, students remained hopeful.

“I think it’s mostly a balancing act between COVID regulations, making sure that everyone feels comfortable at events, and trying to incorporate traditions,” Grace Dietz ’24 told the News.

The first day of in-person classes for the fall 2021 semester was Sept. 1, 2021. 

Olivia Lombardo is a beat reporter for the News covering the Jackson School and the School of Management. She is a sophomore in Morse College studying Political Science.