Summer 2020 Courses Go Virtual, Fall 2020 Brings Beren Science Requirement Changes for Non-Majors

By: Molly Meisels  |  May 1, 2020

By Molly Meisels, Editor in Chief

Yeshiva University’s undergraduate Summer 2020 courses will be online and Stern College for Women’s science offerings have changed for Fall 2020, the YU Observer has learned. COVID-19 health concerns are behind the virtual summer learning, but Dean Karen Bacon remarked that the transformed science offerings are unrelated to the pandemic. 

In an email sent to the student body on April 24, President Ari Berman shared that YU will remain in session for Summer 2020 in a “reimagined” manner and that YU is preparing “for every possible contingency” for Fall 2020, promising to share further information as the government and health officials share health updates. In his email, President Berman directed students to view the YU website for more information on summer sessions. On the website, YU announced that all Summer 2020 undergraduate courses will be online in synchronous, asynchronous, and semi-synchronous formats. 

As opposed to typical online course formats, synchronous courses will “have a schedule of regular live meetings,” asynchronous courses will “have a set start and end date as well as deadlines along the way to keep you on track,” but students are not required to attend live sessions, and semi-synchronous courses will combine the two approaches. All courses will cost $564 per credit and will be open to Beren and Wilf students. In past years there has been no tuition difference between in-person and online summer courses. “The summer school tuition rate is heavily discounted and there is no distinction between synchronous and asynchronous delivery,” shared Dean Bacon. According to YU’s website, Summer 2018 and 2019’s price per credit was $540. Although there is usually a 4-course cap on the number of online courses YU students may take towards their bachelor’s degree, Dean Bacon said, “The courses taken this summer online, either at YU or elsewhere, will not count towards that cap.” 

While they understand the reasons for virtual learning, some students are concerned about virtual summer laboratory courses. “With YU going online for the summer I think it was the right call from a keep-humanity-safe standpoint but it definitely poses some issues concerning lab classes,” shared future physician’s assistant Sarah Brill, SCW ‘21. “I am in a genetics course right now and the lab is not what it would be if I were in class […] I think this will also pose a problem for the summer labs since the students will not be learning important techniques, especially within the chemistry and microbiology labs. If, however, Yeshiva has found a way to teach these labs as simulations, then I am sure that they will in no way deprive summer students of an enriching course.”

Aside from outlining their virtual Summer 2020 schedule, the YU administration released their Fall 2020 course offerings on April 27. These offerings introduce changes to the Beren Campus science requirement for non-science majors. In the past, non-science majors were required to take a 4-credit lecture/laboratory course in either Human Biology or Essentials of General Chemistry. As of Fall 2020, Human Biology is no longer being offered for non-majors. Instead, students can take a three-credit Human Genetics lecture course taught by Dr. John Golin, a new addition to the science faculty. Since Essentials of General Chemistry fulfills a requirement for Speech Pathology and Audiology and Education students, the chemistry lecture/laboratory course for non-majors will remain unchanged. 

Dean Bacon shared her vision of the Human Genetics course with the YU Observer. “This new course will not be an overview of human biology, much of which may have been covered by students previously in some advanced high school courses.  Instead the new course will focus on current and emerging information in genetics, a field that has a profound impact on both health and policy.  We believe this new course will be more valuable for non-majors than Human Biology,” she said. Yeshiva College’s science requirement for non-majors does not require a laboratory component and Dean Bacon assured the YU Observer that these course changes are unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic. While most students have remained neutral on the changes, Rachel Land*, SCW ‘21, is unhappy with the new Human Genetics course. “I’m disappointed they’re doing this because I was looking forward to learning all about bio. I feel like it’s a very important topic and the last time I learned bio was in 9th grade,” she shared. “I also feel like it is a useful class to have for my future career and just in general to be well-versed in.” 

In addition to science changes for non-majors, General Chemistry for science majors and pre-med students on the Beren Campus, a course which once required two semesters of laboratory courses, will now only require one. This has been the policy at Yeshiva College for a few years. Many science students who have already taken the two laboratory semesters have voiced frustrations at these changes. In response to these changes, Dr. Chaya Rapp, Chair of the Chemistry Department, has not responded to YU Observer requests for comment. 

*Name has been changed to keep the anonymity of the student.

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Photo: Stanton Hall, Beren Campus

Photo Source: Yeshiva University