By Fruma Landa, Shayna Herszage, Mili Chizhik and Shoshanah Marcus
Following several months of speculation, YU President Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman sent an email to the student body on June 30, 2020 announcing that after convening with the “Scenario Planning Task Force,” Yeshiva University has decided to “reflect a hybrid model” in the reopening of the campus for the upcoming fall semester.
Attached to Berman’s email was a PDF booklet describing the reopening plans. The fall semester is scheduled to take place in an online format until after the High Holidays. Afterwards, the students will be given the option to continue at a distance, via online classes, or to return to in-person classes with safety precautions in place. With these adjustments, the university plans on taking into account those who are not able to physically be on campus or in the same time zone following the High Holidays. Further information, relevant to international students, will be provided regarding travel policies and visas.
In addition, Berman linked the page on the YU website that is intended to provide updates regarding the Fall 2020 semester; it includes a frequently asked questions (FAQs) section to answer logistical questions such as when the staff will return, how the dorm will be situated, and how these regulations will impact commuting and out-of-state students.
The concern of on-campus housing was addressed. While the future regulations are, as of now, unknown, the university plans to open on-campus housing buildings in mid-October. However, the buildings will likely be opened at limited capacity in order to prevent crowding and breaches of social distancing rules. The housing facilities will have designated quarantine areas to be used by residents who test positive or have been exposed to individuals who tested positive for COVID-19. Arrangements by Housing and Residence Life will be made to care for ill students.
A designated COVID-19 coordinator will be appointed “who will be informed of all COVID-19 positive students and track their well-being and compliance with the required quarantine.” Additionally, Dr. Robert van Amerongen, MD, FAAF, FACEP, FAAEM, has been hired as the Medical Director for Yeshiva University. Sick employees “should contact their supervisor and the Benefits Office at 646.592.4339 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.”
The Student Health Centers and Counseling Centers “will be available for walk-ins, scheduled appointments and telehealth appointments for students.” Similarly, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) will offer free confidential counseling. Academic advising and academic support will be available both online and in-person.
Due to the delay of campus reopening until mid-October, the pamphlet stated that the housing and meal plan fees will be reduced, “based on a prorated October in-person start.” However, tuition and other such fees will remain unchanged.
With the intention to return to campus in a safe and effective manner, the university has set up certain precautions to ensure a successful transition. In the PDF booklet, the university clearly laid out some “Personal Health and Hygiene” requirements for students choosing to return to campus. Students, faculty, and staff will all be required to wear masks unless they are “working alone in a confined office space.” The university announced that they will be providing washable, reusable masks to all who return to campus. Moreover, handwashing regulations will be enforced with hand hygiene stations positioned throughout campus, various personnel will be required to wear gloves, and small areas like the restrooms will have limited occupancy. Elevators will be running with indicators on the floor marking where individuals may stand. Libraries will not only continue to provide online instruction and help the students remotely, but they will also be open for students to study at a limited capacity: students will be able to use every other study corral, two students at every large table, and the study rooms will remain closed. Visitors will not be allowed to enter any indoor locations on-campus within the YU buildings and there will only be one cafeteria open for each campus with meal take-out services only. The batei midrash (religious study spaces) will be open only to current students and staff, though the study table arrangements will be changed to “to allow for paired Torah study, with appropriate social distancing measures in place.”
Plans for reopening of the Makor College Experience are still being discussed and will be announced in the coming weeks. The YU graduate schools’ reopening plans vary depending on the school, for example, “the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration’s programs will be online” in the upcoming fall semester with a few exceptions. The Benjamin Cardozo School of Law will announce their plans soon, while the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, Wurzweiler School of Social Work, and Sy Syms School of Business will teach their classes remotely. Students in Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology will have online classes and will be able to convene in smaller groups to present research and clinical duties while abiding by the social distancing guidelines. The Katz Graduate School of Science and Health have “both on-campus and online students starting” in mid-September to enable students to work with their peers on the same course requirements and use an online interface. Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) will have a few classes on campus only “for registered rabbinic ordination students” starting at the end of August, while the daily shiurim (lectures) will remain online until after the High Holiday break. The option of dorming for RIETS students will only be available after the holidays when the residence halls will reopen on October 12th.
In addition to these regulations, the university announced that “entry into any YU building will require self-monitored response to symptom monitoring through the YU-approved app or other technology obtained for such purpose and will require having your temperature taken at the building entrance.” More details will be announced as the fall semester approaches.
“Key dates” listed in the PDF include July 31 as the deadline for payments/payment arrangements for students living in University Housing while August 14 is the deadline for students who are not living in University Housing. August 26 is the first day of online classes for undergraduate students. October 12th is the date of the move-in week for those living in the residence halls, and October 19th will be the first day of the option of in-person instructions for undergraduate classes.
Berman concluded his email on a hopeful note with the promise that the upcoming year “will be a formative year in the lives of our students, and together we will rise to the moment so that our students will emerge stronger and better prepared to be leaders of the world of tomorrow.”