Campus Contingency Planning Announcements

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

[Summary: Yale will begin fall semester 2020 on time. Decisions about class format (in-person, online, or a hybrid) will be announced by early July. In accordance with guidelines issued by public health experts and the state’s Reopen CT Initiative, Yale will begin a limited and phased expansion of on-campus research and library services in June.]

Dear Members of the Yale Community,

On Wednesday, May 6, President Salovey wrote to the Yale Community regarding Governor Lamont’s release of a report offering guidance for a phased reopening of Connecticut’s colleges and universities. The president noted that I would communicate with you this week about our own timeline and strategy for resuming operations. I am grateful to the members of the COVID-19 Contingency Planning Committees who have worked very hard to provide initial recommendations to President Salovey and me.

Current Public Health Considerations

The daily number of people hospitalized in Connecticut is now on the wane, thanks in part to social distancing. Yale New Haven Hospital reported its peak number of hospitalized COVID patients on April 21, and the number has declined progressively since then. 

I hope you will join me in expressing extreme gratitude to all the front-line personnel who continue to treat patients with great professionalism and compassion. We also should be grateful to our scientists and scholars who are working to understand, mitigate, and find a vaccine and a cure for this terrible disease. As one of many examples, research at Yale has shown that saliva-based tests for COVID-19 hold the promise of quickly expanding the rate, efficiency, and accuracy of testing.

Given the improving conditions in Connecticut generally, Governor Lamont authorized the resumption of certain business operations in the state beginning in the coming weeks. As part of that “phased reopening,” the Governor is permitting colleges and universities to begin implementing a limited reactivation of research functions on campus and to begin preparing for teaching in the fall semester.

Academic Continuity Planning for the Fall

The Academic Continuity Committee is developing educational contingency plans with input from the community. Even though we are all eager to know what to expect in the fall, many details cannot be resolved until we have more information about the path of the pandemic. We continue to make plans for both a residential education or for instruction online. As stated by President Salovey in his April 21 message, a detailed announcement about these plans and decisions for the fall will be released by early July. However, there is a key recommendation from the committee that we have accepted and can report now:

Yale University will begin fall semester 2020 on time. Classes in Yale College will begin the week of August 31. Most graduate and professional programs will start on schedule beginning after August 15, although some orientation activities will be rescheduled or conducted remotely.  To maximize the chances that we can hold classes in person, there may be adjustments to the academic calendar that will limit the number of times that students travel to and from campus, and the schedule of courses may be expanded to utilize all the hours of the work day and the work week to accommodate social distancing. The graduate and professional school deans will be providing more details to their communities soon, and detailed information about the Yale College academic calendar will be announced by the end of May.  

Reactivation of On-Campus Research

The Research Continuity Committees have made recommendations for research expansion that can also be announced now. For the duration of this pandemic, Yale will employ a phased approach for reactivation of research on the campus that will adhere to the advice of the Public Health Committee and be in line with the guidance of the State’s Reopen Connecticut initiative. Currently, our campus activity is limited to critical operations, including research bearing directly on COVID-19.

The three phases for expanded research operations will be as follows:

Phase 1:  Research limited to activities that can be performed only on campus, adhering to strict public health precautions.

Phase 2:  Research activities of all types, adhering to strict public health precautions.

Phase 3:  Research activities with continued health monitoring.

Although this phased approach is currently focused on research, we anticipate that it will be a useful framework for the reactivation of other functions on campus. More information about the phased approach can be found here.

In Phase 1, we will allow a limited return to campus by faculty, staff, and trainees to perform research that can be conducted only on campus, subject to explicit permission. Phase 1 will also include a limited reactivation of essential library services (described below). The transition to Phase 1 will begin in June. All aspects of research, data analysis, writing, reading, and communication that can be conducted outside of university facilities must continue to be performed off campus. 

Any principal investigator who intends to resume research on campus must submit a proposal containing a description of the contemplated research activities and an explanation of why that work can be performed only on campus. Further guidance on the research reactivation application can be found here. This submission must also include a detailed safety plan for the proposed on-campus work.  It must comply with social distancing guidelines, including the use of personal protective equipment, protocols for personal hygiene and symptom monitoring, and plans for cleaning surfaces and equipment. 

These requests to resume on-campus activities will be vetted by department chairs/center directors, cognizant deans, and a representative of the provost’s office, as appropriate. Field work will be reviewed by a specialized committee. In-person research involving human subjects will not be approved as part of Phase 1 except possibly within limited clinical settings. A specialized committee for clinical research will review these applications.

Faculty whose on-campus research is approved during Phase 1 will be notified of a date no earlier than June 1 when they, and the approved staff and trainees included in their application, may return to campus. State guidelines provide that individuals in high-risk groups and those 65 years and older should continue to stay at home. Individuals in these groups should work with their supervisors to adjust their work so that it can be performed remotely.

Faculty, staff, and trainees will be required to complete additional on-line safety training before returning and will be expected to conform to strict safety measures. More information about safety requirements during Phase 1 are described here.

We ask that faculty take seriously the criterion of seeking permission only for research operations that must be performed on campus. We recognize that this may create ongoing inconvenience and that not all aspects of scholarship will be fully supported. However, continuing to work from home, whenever possible, is essential to protect our community’s health and safety. We enter Phase 1 as the state reopens only a limited number of businesses; schools remain closed; and public health provisions are improved, but still limited. The viral spread in our area has slowed, but the virus has not disappeared. This plan seeks to balance those considerations with the benefits of a limited return to campus. Patience now will help speed the activation of less-restrictive phases as health conditions improve further.

Expansion of Library Services

During Phase 1, we will also expand essential library services. The university library is preparing to resume scanning and digitization of collection materials, starting with the general collections located in Sterling Memorial Library, Bass Library, and the offsite Library Shelving Facility (LSF), three locations that collectively house about 10 million volumes. At the same time, a pick-up service for books from the Sterling and Bass collections will be available. Over time, these services, including the scanning of special collection materials to support teaching and research, will be gradually extended to other library locations and collections. Additional services, such as limited in-person use of special collection reading rooms, will be added later as public health regulations and building logistics allow. The library will communicate the timing and details of resuming library services as they are ready to be reactivated.

Future Reactivation of Campus Functions

Yale will enter the second phase of campus reactivation if the risk of COVID-19 transmission continues to decline in the coming months, and there is an expansion of testing capability within our area. Phase 2 would include a more general return to research, teaching, and other operations on campus, but it will still not be business as usual. Phase 2 will continue to require social distancing, use of personal protective equipment, regular handwashing, health monitoring, and other measures in accordance with prevailing public health guidance.

There are special considerations for Yale’s arts schools, because certain types of performance and practice may not be possible under conditions of social distancing. Creative and artistic practice is being thoughtfully considered in preparation for subsequent phases of reactivation by the Creative and Artistic Practice Continuity Committee. Use of studios, rehearsal spaces, fabrication spaces, and other arts-related venues will be reviewed in consultation with professionals in these fields and public health experts.

Additional Considerations

We recognize this is a time of uncertainty, and that faculty, staff and students are likely to have many questions about their return. Prior to the reactivation of research, we will be publishing guidance on a safe return to work. This will include information on availability of accommodations for employees and trainees who may have difficulty returning to campus for health or other reasons. Of particular note, we know that the availability of childcare will be a major issue. We are working hard to find childcare options that meet the current Connecticut public health requirements, and our guidance will address the questions of employees with childcare issues. In the meantime, questions may be directed to the resources listed at the end of this message.

I am grateful to the work of the Contingency Planning Committees, which will continue to offer detailed recommendations for reactivating the various operations of the university. I am grateful to the faculty, who with short notice redesigned and executed their courses in an online format last semester. I am grateful to our students, who adapted to this style of instruction and found paths to learning in spite of innumerable challenges. And I am grateful to the dedicated staff who have performed all manner of creative work to support the university.

None of us imagined these circumstances as we began the spring 2020 semester back in January. We have each experienced the loss of place, the loss of community, and for some of us, the loss of loved ones. But we will persevere. There is reason to hope for a brighter future with an eventual return to all aspects of what makes Yale our remarkable intellectual home.

We are all eager to return to campus. Planning for an on-time fall semester and moving to this next phase of research operations is a positive step. But there is still a significant journey ahead that might not be completely linear in its progress. We are counting on your patience, your cooperation, and your ingenuity to help us navigate this next phase, while protecting the health and safety of our community and our neighbors. 

Scott Strobel
Whom to contact with questions:

Questions about academic calendars or other concerns about a specific school or program: The school’s dean’s office or dean of students.

Questions about human resources issues: See or contact the Employee Service Center at or 203-432-5552.

Questions about on-campus research or other research-related issues: Provost’s Office Research Team at

Questions about library services: