In the wake of peer institutions and after experiencing its biggest COVID-19 peak in a single day, the University has moved all remaining final exams online. In a Saturday night email, administrators expressed hope to start the spring term in person, but urged students to bring home all essentials.
Tim Tai, personal photographer
Yale administrators announced on Saturday that they had moved all remaining final exams online, following a number of peer institutions, including Princeton and Cornell. Spring semester classes are still scheduled to start on Jan. 18, and experts have said a fully distance-based tenure is unlikely, but administrators have yet to rule out the possibility of a remote start of the semester.
Deans Marvin Chun, Lynn Cooley and Tamar Gendler released a joint statement on Saturday evening. According to the statement, students are encouraged, although not required, to leave campus early. On the same day, Yale’s COVID-19 dashboard was updated to reflect the highest number of COVID-19 cases reported by the University in a single day. According to its COVID-19 dashboard, Yale saw 110 cases in the seven days between December 10 and December 16, with 34 of those cases detected on December 15. Twenty-one of the positive cases during the seven-day period were among Yale undergraduates. Gendler told the News that the decision to move the finals to online is a direct result of the increase in cases in recent days among the undergraduate population.
“We hope to be able to start the semester in person, but in light of rapidly changing public health conditions, we ask that you allow for the possibility that some or all of the activities will take place remotely at the start of the semester. ”, We read in their e-mail.
The email urged students to take books, electronics and medications with them when they leave in case their return to campus is delayed.
The statement outlines a range of options to help Yale College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences students transition to the end of the semester remotely.
Students whose synchronous exams or written assignments are disrupted by travel “may request and will receive” permission from their residential college dean to defer them.
Students who postpone their academic work after December 22, the initially scheduled exam end date, will receive a temporary grade of temporary incomplete (TI) or authorized postponement of a final exam (ABX) on their transcript for this Classes.
Teachers can replace their exams with homework remotely. They can also cancel the final exam entirely and base the marks on work done earlier in the semester. Students whose professors decide to do so have the option of converting their grades into credits rather than grades, which will not count towards the regular CR / D / Fail grade limit.
Students receiving financial assistance can request reimbursement of expenses they incur as a result of their early departure from campus. Students are encouraged to submit travel receipts to SafetyNet under the “emergency travel” category.
Additionally, administrators announced that the 14 residential college gymnasiums were closed yesterday by the dean’s office at Yale College.
The decision to move the finals online comes after several Yale peer institutions took the same step. Columbia, Princeton, Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania all announced this week that they will be holding their final exams online.
Many Yale students have already started taking their final exams, which officially started on December 16.
Gendler explained that the decision was made so that students would not be infected with COVID-19 and must remain in isolation accommodation during winter recess.
“The concern was that if there was an outbreak, we might have a large number of students who would have to be quarantined and unable to go home for the holidays, and we don’t want that to happen.” Gendler said in an interview with the News.
Yale School of Public Health Dean Sten Vermund, a member of the public health committee that advises the university’s COVID-19 coordinator, Stephanie Spangler, attributed the spike in cases to a confluence of factors.
“I think the residual transmission cycles established at Thanksgiving meetings may be partly to blame,” Vermund said. “Then we see Omicron and that’s probably a little to blame for it, and then we have vacation preparations and vacation reunions.”
Vermund also pointed out that the cool, dry winter weather creates “friendly conditions” for all respiratory viruses, not just COVID-19.
The increase in cases within the Yale community and the spread of the more transmissible Omicron variant have sparked discussions about returning students to campus in January and what the spring semester will look like.
Professor of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, Public Health, Management and Economics Howard Forman speculated that students might be asked to start the semester remotely to reduce the risk of students bringing back the virus on campus.
“I guess that’s at least the lower end of what the school would do, just for quarantine purposes,” Forman said. “After coming back and doing the first round of aggressive testing, that makes a lot of sense to me. ”
According to Vermund, safety precautions for re-entry to campus in January are “still under discussion” and may change depending on the spread of the Omicron variant.
Vermund said “some sort of quarantine” would be a possible third line of defense against the virus after booster shots and periodic testing. Quarantines on arrival could result in distance learning for “a week or two” at the start of the semester, a possibility which Vermund said was under consideration.
However, Vermund stressed that the campus was unlikely to return to the abrupt closure of March 2020, stressing the vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing serious illness from COVID-19.
“My personal opinion is that the fully immunized and reinforced students, staff and faculty have created a huge security barrier,” Vermund said. “The consequences of the infection are not very important. Now, that doesn’t mean we just want to let the infection run roughly, because there are vulnerable people in our community – people who are immunocompromised or who don’t respond as effectively and efficiently to vaccination. So we want to keep cases to a minimum, but I think going into the type of lockdown like April 2020 isn’t even necessary remotely. ”
While the rise of the Omicron variant leaves a lot of unknowns, Forman said he hopes the semester can go relatively smoothly after a period of re-entry.
“If we test the students twice a week, we’re really in a pretty good position,” Forman said. “I hope we will keep things close to normal for the students. Yale did extremely well, and I think it would be disappointing to change that, especially when they did as well as they did.
Undergraduates are currently required to take a test twice a week.