The Fall 2021 Semester
March 29, 2021
Dear Members of the Yale Community,
Just over a year ago, many of us left campus uncertain when we might return. Since then, we have been looking forward to the day when we can reconnect with you in person. Now, as vaccines become more widely available, and we can envision the time when the pandemic is under control, it is possible to begin planning for that reconnection. The purpose of this memo is to provide a preliminary sense of what to expect when we begin the 2021-2022 academic year in late August.
We are cautiously optimistic that we will have a full residential program for our undergraduates if public health conditions permit. We expect graduate and professional school students to continue their studies in New Haven and faculty members to conduct classes primarily in person. Staff members who have been working remotely will be phasing into on-campus work, with the goal that most will be back on campus for the fall semester. We provide additional details below, and you will receive more information from other university leaders as we approach the next academic year.
Our plans are based on the assumption that public health conditions will improve in Connecticut and that a significant percentage of our faculty, students, and staff will be vaccinated by the end of summer. We are also preparing contingency plans in case of a further wave of COVID-19.
At the time of writing, over 30 percent of Connecticut residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine. This number is likely to reach at least 70 percent over the summer, and widespread vaccination will greatly reduce risk to students, staff, faculty, and community members. We remain focused on the public’s health and will adjust our plans as needed.
Preventing the Spead of COVID-19
Our health and safety guidelines for the coming semester will be responsive to COVID-19 infection rates and the status of vaccination programs. We likely will continue to require some preventive measures such as mask wearing and asymptomatic testing, and we will have vaccination clinics as needed. Dr. Stephanie Spangler, the university COVID-19 coordinator, will communicate with you through the summer about what will be necessary in the fall, and the health guidelines website will be updated regularly.
In the meantime, we encourage everyone to be vaccinated as soon as permitted. We are at an inflection point in the pandemic. At this critical moment, we must continue to be vigilant in mask wearing, physical distancing, and following other public health measures.
Teaching, Learning, and Campus Life in the Fall
We are planning for education at Yale to take place primarily in person. There may be some adjustments to classroom density or limits on lecture size depending on state and university guidance in force at the time. A brief period of remote instruction also may be necessary at the beginning of the semester, depending on public health conditions, travel delays, and the levels of community vaccination by late August and early September. Deans of schools will work with the provost’s office to determine appropriate guidelines for cases where remote instruction may be necessary or appropriate. Faculty and teaching fellows should assume we will return to in-person instruction in planning for the next academic year.
Yale has a strong commitment to its international students, many of whom have continued to study in New Haven this academic year. Those who are currently studying remotely should work with the Office of International Students and Scholars to ensure they have all the documents needed for visa appointments and travel to the U.S. for the fall semester. Deans will work with students who face travel delays to navigate their options.
We expect to follow a standard academic calendar, starting on September 1 for most schools, including Yale College; however, there will likely be adjustments to orientation programs and move-in protocols to minimize health risks. All cohorts of Yale College students are expected to be eligible for on-campus housing, and our plans include a return to normal housing density. We may have a phased move-in to allow for vaccination of arriving students who have not had the opportunity to be inoculated in their home states or countries.
We expect that campus facilities—including museums, dining halls, performance venues, and athletic and recreational spaces—will be open for students in the fall with enhanced safety measures in place. We will make decisions about student gatherings, such as performances and meetings of student organizations, based on prevailing public health guidance, state guidelines, and university policy. The Ivy League Council of Presidents will make the final determination regarding fall sport competition.
Educational Activities During the Summer
Most teaching this summer will continue in the residential remote mode that has been in place for the past year. However, if public health conditions improve, we hope for a gradual increase in in-person opportunities for those in New Haven this summer. Students enrolled in summer session, student employees, and undergraduates conducting research on campus during the summer will participate in an ongoing testing and contact tracing program. Students who have access to campus in the summer will sign the Community Compact.
Travel and Visitors
It may be a while before we know how state, federal, and international guidelines will affect visitors to campus, study abroad programs, field work, and other activities that require travel.
To maximize our ability to control the spread of the virus, we expect to keep most of the current restrictions on visitors to campus until at least the start of summer. Likewise, we expect that summer travel will be limited and will conform to CDC guidance. More information on visitor and travel policies will be available later in the spring semester.
Returning to On-Campus Work
The pandemic has disrupted all our lives, and we recognize how stressful the past year has been. We are committed to supporting all our colleagues, as those who have been working remotely begin to return to on-campus work. We are engaging with people across the university to receive input on how we can reestablish in-person work practices most effectively.
If public health conditions permit, we hope that staff members who have been sustaining university operations remotely will be phasing into on-campus work on a staggered schedule starting August 1. We are targeting all staff back on campus by October 1 to reconnect and build community after this unprecedented period of remote work. We expect to allow staff members who wish to work on campus to return before August 1. In addition, unit leaders may elect to bring select staff back to campus beginning June 1, to support summer activities and to prepare for the ramp-up of on-campus operations over the course of the summer. Unit leaders are requested to be flexible in developing transitional work arrangements and be mindful of staff who will be providing care for children or other dependents during the summer and at the start of the academic year.
We have an initiative underway to evaluate future ways of working at Yale, to assess whether we could thoughtfully incorporate remote work into long-term work plans. We will be providing additional guidance in the coming weeks.
Yale’s mission of educating aspiring leaders and creating knowledge to benefit humanity has never been more salient as we work to end the COVID-19 pandemic and build a more resilient future. We are grateful for the work that so many have contributed to make it possible for Yale to pursue these goals under conditions made necessary by the public health crisis.
The key to realizing our plans for the coming fall semester is our continued commitment to current health and safety precautions. We know members of the Yale community will take seriously our responsibility to one another as we finish this academic year and look forward to a return to more typical campus life in the fall.
Thank you for your resilience and commitment to our shared communities. We are excited to consider all that we have learned over the past twelve months and plan a safe and fulfilling new academic year.
Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology
Henry Ford II Professor of Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry