By Fruma Landa and Shayna Herszage
*Erica Sultan and Shoshanah Marcus contributed to this story
Yeshiva University has announced that the Fall 2020 semester will begin online and transition to face-to-face classes, for students and professors who are physically able to attend, after the Holidays in mid-October. This decision was emailed to the student body via email on June 12.
After courses were moved online in March, students faced much uncertainty regarding the upcoming fall semester. On May 7, an email with an attached survey was sent out to the undergraduate student body containing the following information:
“We are hoping that we will be given the go-ahead by government and health agencies to be fully back on campus in the fall. But since that is not a certainty, by any means, we are doing scenario planning for different eventualities. By answering this questionnaire you will help us with this planning process.”
The survey questions, which were to be ranked from 1-3 in order of preference, included these three options: A fully online program, in-person classes with reduced class options, and a combination of in person and online classes.
A new survey, due on June 26, was included in the June 12 email. The survey asks the student to indicate their housing arrangement for the upcoming semester and to list all the courses they are registered for, along with whether they have an in-person or online preference.
This decision raises questions about many unknowns for the coming semester, including questions regarding the online course format. While some students prefer synchronous classes, others prefer asynchronous classes. “As a student from Los Angeles, it’s so difficult to concentrate during 6 a.m. classes and there are few alternative time slots being offered, especially in Syms. I hope the learning format will change from real-time Zoom meetings to something more accommodating for students in different time zones,” an anonymous SSSB student expressed.
Yosef Rosenfield, YC ‘21, expressed the difficulty of fulfilling requirements that fellow seniors would experience if the full semester took place remotely. “I think the decision is a responsible compromise. No one wants to jump back into things prematurely only to regret it. But at least on-campus events can still happen when we return after the holidays. I personally have four more concerts to perform as a music major, and it would be difficult to squeeze them all into my last semester in the spring.”
For incoming Yeshiva University students, this decision means their first semester of college will begin at home rather than on campus. “It’s really weird to think that my initial college experience won’t be what I envisioned it to be. Like the [atmosphere] of the the [B]eit [M]idrash won’t won’t be something I experience, having roommates and honestly just my entire social experience at college is just not something I will be doing this fall. YU is obviously not to blame, but the entire situation is just pretty unfortunate,” Gabe Gross, YC ‘22, who participated in the online Post-Pesach program this past spring, remarked.
Many students find this to be an appropriate response to the current situation. “I genuinely think it’s a great idea. Students would anyway be going home for the Chagim [High Holidays], so this way traveling back and forth is no longer necessary. […] Waiting to return after [C]hagim gives the school an opportunity to see what exactly is the status of the virus, allowing them to ensure the students the safest in person experience,” commented Sarina Hilowitz, SCW ‘22, to the YU Observer.
Similarly, Sarah Brill, SCW ‘21, echoed this sentiment. “I think this is a good call from a medical standpoint. There are still upwards of 145,000 cases in NY State alone and it is best for the health of students and faculty that [Y]eshiva is taking this precaution. That being said, it is really disappointing that we will not be able to see our friends or have in-person classes until after the [C]hagim, but it is for the best and we should hope that we will be back on campus shortly.”
Dean Nissel and Dean Bacon have not responded to the YU Observer’s request for comment at the time of publication.