Yale’s semester ended online for the first time
The transition was a first for the University and many of its professors and students. Not everyone liked the move.
After weeks of uncertainty, University President Peter Salovey wrote in a mid-March announcement that all classes would remain online for the rest of the semester.
The decision, which came after one Yale community member tested positive for COVID-19, sparked further changes to the University schedule, including a cancellation of on-campus commencement and summer Yale travel programs. Among students and faculty, the change was met with frustration and sadness — and an understanding of the need for such measures.
“The clearest relevant lesson we have drawn from our best-informed, wisest sources is this: pandemics are defeated by bold measures that blunt the curve of the rate of infection through the dramatic reduction of intense human contact,” Salovey wrote in a community-wide email.
In its centuries-long history, including world wars, global pandemics and large-scale, global crises, Yale has never experienced a move to online courses. Now, professors interviewed by the News said technology allows for education to continue virtually — but it’s “no substitute” for the real thing.
But virtual education has proven challenging for many. International students like Arrunava Moondra ’22, for example, had to attend classes at 2 a.m., instead of 2 p.m., due to the time difference. And, even for those who are not international students but instead live in different states such as California, the time differences can become a barrier to education.
“A language class that meets at 9:25 every morning East Coast time may be somewhat unreasonable for someone who’s international or even West Coast,” said Aadit Vyas ’20. “6 a.m. is pretty tough.”
Many faculty members were forced to teach classes while also balancing child care duties, as daycares and schools across the country have shuttered. For most faculty members interviewed by the News, the balance of academics and child care in two-parent households meant compressing a day’s work into just half the time.
Paola Bertucci, an associate professor of history and history of medicine, takes charge of her son’s reading and math in the mornings, while her husband Ivano Dal Prete, the director of undergraduate studies for the History of Science and Medicine Department, helps him with his science projects and playtime in the afternoon.
Hal Brooks, a theater studies lecturer, described a similar system of splitting up time between the two parents. “That’s worked out pretty well, but then there will be days when it’s four o’clock in the afternoon and I realize I haven’t started my work for the day,” Brooks said.
Those whose last semester at Yale College was cut short, the class of 2020, are acutely aware of the loss that their shortened semester brings.
For Evan Billups ’20, the pandemic does not erase her past experiences on campus, but “it definitely is going to deeply affect how I look back on senior year and especially senior spring which is supposed to be pretty much the best time that you have in college, and it’s really sad that that’s going to be how we remember it.”
Although President Salovey wrote to seniors that they would ultimately come together again and celebrate in-person and, in the meantime, have virtual options in May for celebration, seniors are still lamenting the missed final moments on campus.
Tyler Bleuel ’20, for example, misses the small moments, like studying on Cross Campus, going to Koffee? with friends and hiking to East Rock. Aadit Vyas ’20 misses the people.
In the end, however, the seniors understood why the measures were necessary.
“Though it hurts, I am grateful that our administration is responding to this epidemic and prioritizing the well-being of the students,” Vincent Vaughns ’20 said.
Over 1.4 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the United States.
Madison Hahamy | firstname.lastname@example.org