By Molly Meisels and Fruma Landa
On March 11, following the lead of Harvard University, SUNY, CUNY, and other prominent institutions of higher learning, President Ari Berman announced that Yeshiva University undergraduate classes would move to online instruction until April 3, the last day before Passover break. Virtual instruction will begin on March 16, the day classes resume following COVID-19 campus closures. There are no current updates about in-class suspensions following April 19 — the end of Passover break.
All undergraduate classes, including science labs and art studio classes will be moved online, conducted via Zoom on students’ Canvas accounts. The administration has offered training tutorials on how to use Zoom, better equipping students to adjust to the unprecedented learning technology. Students have mixed reactions to the online learning. Hadassah Penn, SCW ‘20, told the YU Observer: I really value physical class time as a way to see my friends and strengthen relationships with professors and peers, so I’m sad about spending so much of my last semester away from that. It makes sense that we’re switching to online classes, though, and I truly appreciate YU’s taking appropriate measures to ensure student safety as much as possible.”
Students in science labs and art studio classes are concerned about their education with online learning. “I absolutely understand that social distancing is necessary to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, and the university made the right choice in moving to online classes,” said Zippy Spanjer, SCW 21. “Still, it’s disappointing to miss out on the hands-on portions of microbiology. No simulation or online session can replace the skills learned in a hands-on lab. I really enjoyed the lab portion of the course, and I’m looking forward to having them again after Pesach.”
Due to the new online learning, most students residing in the dormitories have left campus for the foreseeable future. With other campuses like Harvard University shuttering their dormitories with the campus closures, some YU undergraduates have expressed relief at the dormitories remaining open. Penn shared, “I’m very grateful to YU for allowing students to stay in the dorms. I know that other colleges are forcing students out, but YU has been taking really good care of us here.” In his email to the student body President Berman stated, “If you are a student who will not be able to travel home for Passover, please let us know, and we will work to help you with holiday arrangements.” Student Life conducted a survey to better assist those who do not live on campus but reside in Midtown or Washington Heights.
While President Berman assured that the libraries would remain open for students, on March 13, YU Security posted their Temporary Visitor Access policy, which outlined library closures. “The Library Visitor Policy for the Mendel Gottesman Library building on the Wilf Campus and the Hedi Steinberg Library on the Beren Campus is suspended. The Libraries are now closed to visitors, as well as to students,” the new policy said. This policy extends to the Betai Midrashim on the Beren and Wilf campuses, which have also been shut to all students and visitors.
In an effort to maintain normalcy, even when classes have been moved online, the administration is conducting virtual Career Center, Office of Student Finance, and Office of the Registrar appointments. Additionally, student council presidents are proposing virtual events until students return to campus. In an email to club leaders the presidents said, “Community doesn’t stop just because we’re off campus!” They are gathering ideas from student leaders on how to best support their efforts during this crisis.
Other events, such as the Yeshiva College Dramatics Society play scheduled to take place between March 28 and April 1, remain cancelled. “We are all of course very disappointed and frustrated. So much time and effort has already been put into rehearsals, meetings, and production for this year’s show. It’s sad that we won’t get to see the fruits of the labor of the countless talented and dedicated members of YCDS who have given their free time, hearts, and souls to this show,” shared YCDS with the YU Observer. “But at the same time, we partially knew this was coming as so many schools have cancelled classes and events because of this invisible menace. It’s hard to be upset with anyone or place blame when all of these closures are coming at the advice of the DOH and are being done for the safety and security of the student body.”
Additionally, the NCAA Division III basketball championship has been cancelled, leaving the YU Macs disappointed after a successful season. Some students are running a petition to crown the Macs Division III champions. The petition explains that “…[t]he Yeshiva University Maccabees reeled off 29 wins in a row and cemented themselves as the best team in the country […] In a run that will not soon be forgotten, the Macs proved that their dominance on the court extended far beyond the Skyline Conference. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic (rightfully) forced a cancellation of the NCAA Tournament, Yeshiva should be crowned the Division III champions.”
Dr. Yael Muskat, Director of the Counseling Center, assured the student body that “the Counseling Center is still available for students who need mental health support ”and announced that “the Counseling Center is working hard to find ways to remain with you all, even when our connections cannot be face to face.” A conference call was held on Friday, March 13th at 10:00 a.m. for the Wilf Campus and 11:00 a.m. for the Beren Campus “to discuss how to help manage any anxiety, and thoughts and feelings that these circumstances bring.”
An appointment with a therapist at the Counseling Center can be made by emailing Counseling@yu.edu. Students can call Counseling Center at (646) 592-4210 (Undergraduate Beren and Cardozo Law School) or (646) 592-4200 (Wilf) in case of urgency. In case of an after-hours emergency call 911. Students should email Counseling@yu.edu to schedule follow up appointments for counseling or psychiatric services at the Counseling Center.