How campus evolved over COVID
After two academic years heavily affected by the pandemic, campus in the 2021-2022 academic year saw a multitude of changes for new and returning Yalies.
Jessie Cheung, Staff Photographer
Over the course of the pandemic Yale instated many new policies, constructed new buildings and established new programs for students arriving in the fall of 2021.
This marked the first semester Yale housed four classes of students since the pandemic began. Members of the class of 2025 to the super seniors originally set to graduate in 2021 were able to enjoy the newly renovated Schwarzman Center, or the YSC. Aside from new buildings such as the YSC, many programs — such as the Good Life Center, club sports, butteries, artistic performances and club meetings — resumed in-person activities. But with Covid-19 still looming, the record number of students incoming in the fall of 2021 were subject to new covid testing and isolation policies.
For the first time since 2017, Commons dining hall opened within the newly renovated Yale Schwarzman Center on Sept. 1st, 2021. The center originally closed down in 2016 and was able to reopen its doors with the help of a $150 million gift from Stephen Schwarzman ’69. The center’s multifaceted facilities build upon three tenets: collaboration, wellness and belonging.
“It’s impossible to think about student life without also thinking about wellness,” Alexa Vaneghas ’20, a Woodbridge Fellow at the Good Life Center wrote in an email to the News. “Creating a Good Life Center in YSC not only emphasizes the communal nature of student life, but also helps create a campus culture that promotes wellness as a fundamental, accessible human right.”
The Good Life Center opened on Oct. 25 on the second floor of YSC as an extension of Laurie Santos’ original creation in Silliman College’s Byers Hall. The center’s programming shifted to the renovated space in YSC this year. The added, new location features a “Gratitude Room,” “Nap Room,” and classes about mental and physical education, among other programs..
Beneath Commons in YSC live two new cafes that opened this academic year: The Elm and The Ivy. The Elm serves as an all-day cafe with gelato and coffee, while The Ivy provides late night student favorite snacks and small plates. Additionally, the Well opened this year as well offering pub fare in the evenings and boasting handsome Dan-shaped beer taps.
Another new snack shop in The Underground of YSC is The Bow Wow, which unofficially replaced Durfee’s Sweet Shoppe as Yalies’ main to-go dining option. Students can use their lunch swipes here to pick up snacks including sushi, kombucha and pb&j’s and even grab basic toiletries or school supplies. However many students such as Jay Baptisa ’23 said that “Durfee’s was an integral part of [their] first-year experience.” Katie Oca, guest experience manager for YSC said that other student feedback pointed to the fact that The Bow Wow was “more efficient” than its previous counterpart because of the four self-service checkout kiosks and because it is “less enclosed” than Durfee’s was.
Another new institution at Yale this year was The Humanities Quadrangle (HQ), a newly renovated building formerly known as the Hall of Graduate Studies. The university calls the new building “a new era for the humanities at Yale.”
The building is now home to 15 departments and programs in the humanities ranging from the American Studies program to the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. It holds different lounges for studying and public collaboration.
“Having a building devoted to constant intellectual exchange across the disciplines is so exciting,” Paul Grimstad, director of the undergraduate studies for the humanities major, said. “The humanities program is right there on the first floor as you walk in from York Street, and we’re thrilled to be at the center of the action.”
The basement of the quadrangle holds Alice Cinema, a new film screening studio. Kathryn Lofton, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences AS dean of humanities and Lex Hixon professor of religious studies and American studies, commented on the theater’s significance. She told the News that the cinema is indicative of the role of film in Yale’s history and its future, as seen by the “stunning” list of Oscar Winners who helped finance the screening area.
The 2021-2022 academic year also marked the first time since Spring 2020 that club sports, recreational activities and club meetings could take place in person. After an 18-month hiatus, club sports finally made a return in the fall. Indoor and outdoor practices started on Sept. 7, and athletic competitions also resumed in accordance with public health guidelines..
Previous public health limitations rendered it difficult to hold athletic competitions. In the 2020-2021 academic year club sports leaders found it very difficult to get teams together.
“We tried to get guys together last year, but with the 10 person limit, it was obviously very difficult considering that the sport is 15 versus 15,” Mahlon Sorensen ’22, club men’s rugby president, said.
In the same sentiment, the University also lifted the 20 person cap on in-person student organization meetings on Sept 22. Bayan Galal, 2021-2022 president of the Yale College Council expressed her support for this policy change, sharing how “eager” the YCC was for its members to once again be able to meet again in person.
These new guidelines and buildings also, of course, had to manage the constantly changing Covid-19 policies regarding testing and masking. While Yalies started the year masking all around campus, by the end of the 2022 spring semester, students were only mandated to wear a mask in classrooms, Yale health facilities and on public transportation.
“I feel hopeful, like we can really get through this,” said Ted Shepherd ’25. “I know this means a lot to me and many others, finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Yale Schwarzman Center is located at 168 Grove Street.