Yale invites students back to campus for fall semester

Illustration of Sterling Memorial Library
(Illustration by Eri Griffin)

Yale University has invited students to return to campus in August with extensive public health protocols in place, including mandatory COVID-19 testing for all students.

Faculty, plus staff who interact with students, will also be tested; employees who do not interact with students will be encouraged to be tested.

President Peter Salovey and Provost Scott Strobel announced the news in a detailed message to the Yale community on July 1, amid health conditions that have steadily improved in Connecticut since April and after months of intensive contingency planning.

These decisions are possible because of the continued decline in community transmission of COVID-19 in Connecticut, the creation of a university-wide COVID-19 screening program, and the implementation of other health and safety actions,” they wrote.

In making decisions, university leaders drew on the counsel of six planning committees — for public health; for emergency policy; one each for continuity of academic, research, and creative and artistic practice; and for operations. Consisting of faculty, staff, and students, including experts from the Schools of Public Health, Medicine, and Nursing, and key university leaders, the committees worked with colleagues university-wide and consulted with other student representatives.

Many details about Yale’s plans and policies for the academic year 2020–21, including the fall semester starting in August, are available on the university’s COVID-19 website

President Salovey plans to hold a community town hall in July.

The university shifted to remote teaching and learning in March. Students finished the spring semester off campus. A phased reactivation of campus research and library operations began June 1.

Yale has maintained critical operations throughout the pandemic.

Scientists and health care providers have vigorously pursued COVID-19-related research and supplied medical care. With the Yale New Haven Health system, the university set up a field hospital in Payne Whitney Gymnasium for Yale and the greater New Haven community, in case one became necessary. Yale has continuously provided a campus home and other services for a small number of students, and it opened certain residential colleges to first responders and funeral home workers. Yale University Properties aided its downtown commercial tenants, and the university established the Yale Community for New Haven Fund. 

Now more than ever, the world needs the very best from Yale,” Salovey and Strobel said. “With great care for everyone’s well-being, we must do all that we can to continue to create knowledge and educate the next generation.”

Campus, further reactivated

In August, all Yale University schools — Yale College (undergraduate) and the graduate and professional schools — plan to more fully open for on-campus education and research.

All students are invited to return for at least part of the 2020-21 academic year, and all will be required to sign a community compact pledging to follow university and public health guidance and protocols.

In each semester, three of the four undergraduate classes may live and study on campus, reducing normal density and lowering the risk of COVID-19 spread. When not on campus, students are encouraged to take classes remotely.

Undergraduate seniors and juniors may be on campus for the full year. First-year students may study on campus during the fall 2020 semester only, and sophomores during the spring semester of 2021 only.

All graduate and professional students, most of whom live off campus, may return for the full academic year.

Undergraduate courses will be delivered in a hybrid residential-remote format in which professors largely teach online, with in-person instruction in some cases, such as certain discussion sections, lab and studio courses, and collections-based courses.

We here on campus are thinking of you and doing everything we can, despite the pandemic’s disruptions, to ensure that you can get the best of Yale,” Yale College Dean Marvin Chun wrote in a letter to returning undergraduates.

Yale’s graduate and professional schools will offer different combinations of in-person and remote teaching.

The residential/remote plan is an entirely new model for how we pursue higher education, and its benefits and challenges will reveal themselves as the semester unfolds,” Graduate School Dean Lynn Cooley wrote in a separate letter. “However, I am confident that with everyone’s commitment and cooperation with Yale’s safety guidelines, we will have an interesting, stimulating, and highly productive year together.”

While social distancing practices and other public health guidelines will affect campus routines, undergraduate students will be able to eat in dining halls, and all students will be able to use most libraries and Payne Whitney gym while observing social distancing guidelines. The Yale University Art Gallery and Yale Center for British Art will be open to the Yale community by appointment.

The university is awaiting news from the Ivy League about the status of varsity sports programs. 

Yale’s campus has already begun stirring to life.

On June 1 the university began its phased reactivation of research, reopening labs for research projects that are possible only on campus and resuming certain library services. The second phase, which broadens the scope of campus-based research activity, is scheduled to start July 20, and the third, still-broader phase on Aug. 24.

A limited number of personnel have continued to work on campus throughout the pandemic; most have worked remotely. As the university resumes a new mode of operations and students return to New Haven, a greater share of Yale personnel will resume campus work. In some cases, personnel may be reassigned within Yale to new high-priority roles. To minimize density, many employees will continue working remotely.

Yale leaders said a significant change in the public health outlook in Connecticut, in New Haven, or on campus could prompt them to alter course.

But months of extensive preparations and many precautions will allow Yale to resume more fully its educational and research missions, including COVID-19 research, which has continued throughout the pandemic.

The Yale community rises to every challenging time with spirit and optimism,” Salovey and Strobel said, “and we know this moment will be no different.”

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Part of the In Focus Collection: Yale responds to COVID-19

Media Contact

Karen N. Peart: karen.peart@yale.edu, 203-980-2222