Yeshiva University’s Plan to Open In-Person Fall 2021 with a Vaccine Mandate Evokes Mixed Responses

By: Shayna Herszage  |  May 11, 2021

By Shayna Herszage, Managing Editor

For the upcoming Fall 2021 semester, Yeshiva University will be resuming completely in-person schooling. On April 28, an email from President Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman announced that, given the national increased vaccination rates in recent months, all courses will return to in-person instruction with the appropriate precautions in place.

For many students, the opportunity to be on campus after over a year of remote learning is a welcomed surprise. For example, Gillian Herszage (SSSB ‘24), an incoming student whose first semester as at YU will be this Fall, has stated that, while she is “a little surprised because most schools are still planning to be blended or still online,” she is excited to start her undergraduate experience in-person and on-campus. “I’m ready to be learning on campus at a post-vaccine YU,” added Gillian Herszage.

For other students, however, in-person courses can provide difficulty. “I am really disappointed and think that it’s truly unfair that YU has decided to completely remove an option for remote learning … After all the effort the school has put into setting up a remote learning system that works relatively well, I don’t see why it couldn’t be adjusted to accommodate students who literally are unable to attend in person,” Explained Devorah Gurevich (SCW ‘22), who has spent the past several months attending classes remotely from England, her husband’s country of origin. Due to the influx of people seeking United States visas, it would be impossible for her husband to be able to get a visa by the beginning of the fall semester. “The fact that no effort has been made to help these students and we have to choose to take a leave of absence or withdraw feels like intentional exclusion, and I’m honestly hurt by the lack of understanding,” she concluded.

In addition to shifting the university to a fully in-person format, COVID-19 vaccinations will be mandatory for all Yeshiva University undergraduate and graduate students for the upcoming semester. Yeshiva University’s Weissberg Commons became a COVID-19 vaccination site in April, with walk-ins available since April 25. Due to the accessible nature of COVID-19 vaccines in New York, particularly with a vaccination site on campus, all students will be required to be fully vaccinated by the beginning of the semester.

Yeshiva University’s mandatory vaccination plan for the fall semester has evoked mixed responses from students. Many students have expressed excitement for what this means for the near future of YU as a step toward returning to a typical college experience. For example, Batia Segal (SCW ‘23) stated, “I think it’s wonderful that they are mandating vaccines, making it possible for lighter social distancing restrictions and in person classes bringing campus life closer to normalcy.”

Meanwhile, other students are uncomfortable with the mandate, feeling that it encroaches upon medical autonomy. “[I] [c]an’t say I approve of YU’s vaccination mandate, on political/ideological grounds – but YU is, after all, a private institution acting well within its rights,” explained Yosef Rosenfield (YC ‘21).

More information will be posted here as developments for the Fall 2021 semester unfold.