Dear Faculty Colleagues,
Happy New Year! I hope the winter recess was as restful and restorative as possible. As the calendar turns, so does our attention to the spring semester and the many transformative teaching and learning opportunities it presents.
Our preparations for this semester have focused on two abiding goals: protecting the well-being of our campus and surrounding communities and promoting the academic missions of teaching, research, and practice for our students and faculty. Thank you for so ably supporting these goals. I write to you today about how we will continue to do so in the semester ahead.
First, as President Salovey and I wrote in our December 22 message, the high infectivity and accompanying surge of the Omicron strain of COVID-19 prompted us to modify the spring academic calendar. While this is not the situation we had hoped for at this point in the pandemic, we made the decision based on the guidance of the public health experts we are fortunate to have at Yale, and we continue to be guided by their advice.
Their modeling predicted that the Omicron wave would peak in mid-January and fall as precipitously as it arose. We adjusted our academic plans to reflect those models. So far, current local trends appear consistent with their predictions. The absolute numbers of new infections, the positivity rates, the COVID wastewater levels, and the number of people in the hospital—good indicators of the prevalence of the virus—have all peaked in our region and are on the decline. We expect infection levels in the New Haven area will continue to fall. The delayed start to the semester has allowed for a staged return of students to campus, something the models suggested was key to managing infection levels in the student population, as well as the use of our isolation space.
There are further reasons to be optimistic about our ability to safely implement our plans for the spring semester. Almost everyone in the Yale community is vaccinated. We have implemented a booster requirement for students, as well as faculty and managerial and professional staff and postdoctoral trainees unless they have an approved exemption. We are working with our union partners regarding booster shots for bargaining unit employees. We are recommending the use of higher quality three-ply or ASTM masks, which offer better protection against disease transmission, and recommending against the use of cloth masks (except as a second, additional layer of protection). These masks are provided by the university. We continue to maintain multiple campus COVID-19 testing sites that all faculty, staff, and students may use. We are further encouraged by evidence that suggests a minimal level of viral transmission in classroom settings. We are confident that these safety measures, combined with the admirable adherence that our community has displayed throughout the pandemic, position us for in-person instruction through the months ahead.
We are fully committed to a resumption of in-person instruction, which for most schools in the university will begin on February 7th, and our goal is that this mode of instruction will continue through the balance of the spring semester. Our expectations for faculty instruction match the policies announced for the fall semester, with some adjustments recommended by our public health experts. They are articulated below for your reference.
MODE OF COURSE INSTRUCTION
For most Yale students, including those in Yale College, the first two weeks of this semester, from January 25 through February 4, will be taught online. It is expected that course instruction for the balance of the semester, beginning February 7 and thereafter, will be taught in the format announced in the course listing to the degree possible. Some graduate and professional schools may resume in-person instruction on different dates, as announced elsewhere.
INSTRUCTORS WHO ARE AT HIGH RISK IN THE FACE OF COVID-19
Instructors who believe they are at exceptionally high risk for severe COVID-19 infection due to an underlying medical condition may feel that even with the health and safety measures the university has in place, they need additional accommodations for their on-campus activities. In such cases, the instructor should complete and submit an application for accommodation to the Office of Institutional Equity and Accessibility (OIEA). OIEA will review the request and associated medical documentation and information that is provided. If OIEA concludes that the medical condition qualifies as a disability, OIEA will consult with the relevant dean, chair, or supervisor to determine whether a workplace accommodation (such as remote work) is possible. Those approved for such accommodations last semester do not need to reapply.
INSTRUCTORS WITH HOUSEHOLD MEMBERS WHO ARE AT HIGH RISK IN THE FACE OF COVID-19
Faculty with severely immunocompromised household members face additional challenges due to the risks and uncertainties of the pandemic. These individuals may receive medical advice not to travel outside of their homes. In such cases, the faculty member may make a request for work condition modifications to the dean or dean’s designee. The faculty member will be informed how to provide documentation from their household member’s medical provider to the Yale Health Medical Review Committee, chaired by Dr. Jennifer McCarthy. If the Medical Review Committee concludes that the faculty member must remain in the home and not come to campus, the dean or chair will decide whether a work condition modification (such as remote work) is possible. If your school or unit has announced a separate procedure for household member-based requests, please follow the process outlined by your dean.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR SHORT-TERM REMOTE TEACHING
In cases when it is temporarily impossible for a faculty member to teach in person (for instance, due to a COVID-related isolation or quarantine, short-term caregiving duties, or a delay in receiving a visa), short-term remote teaching may be necessary. While changes that affect less than a single week of class do not require special approvals, those teaching classes remotely for longer than a week should seek approval in accordance with their school’s or unit’s policy.
If you experience COVID-19-related symptoms this semester, please do not come to campus. You should reach out to a health care provider or the Campus COVID Resource Line (203-432-6604) for guidance and seek a symptomatic COVID-19 test. Please employ alternative short-term solutions for your course, such as rescheduling your class or temporarily transitioning to hybrid teaching.
TEACHING STUDENTS WHO ARE SICK, IN ISOLATION, OR IN QUARANTINE
Instructors are encouraged to be as accommodating as possible—to the extent pedagogically and practically feasible—with students who are required to miss class because they are experiencing COVID symptoms or are in isolation or quarantine. While instructors may make short-term individual arrangements for remote instruction, such as for students who are in temporary quarantine or isolation, they may not approve such arrangements for a period of more than two weeks. Longer-term absences must be approved by the student’s dean or the dean’s designee. Deans or their designees have the agency to determine reasonable school- or unit-specific arrangements.
INSTRUCTORS WHO HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO COVID-19
Yale continues to follow current CDC guidance for COVID-19 exposures. Vaccinated individuals who have also received a booster shot and are exposed to someone with COVID-19 do not need to quarantine if they are asymptomatic. Unvaccinated individuals and those who are vaccinated, but have not received a booster shot, must quarantine for five days if they are informed that they are a close contact of a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. All close contacts of a person who tested positive for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, are required to schedule asymptomatic tests, monitor their symptoms, and wear a mask when in the presence of others. It is not necessary to alter instructional plans unless otherwise directed by your health care provider.
MASK-WEARING DURING COURSE INSTRUCTION
All individuals are required to wear masks indoors whenever possible, regardless of vaccination status. However, fully vaccinated and boosted instructors (including graduate student instructors of record) may choose to remove their masks when they are teaching in the classroom under certain circumstances. Instructors may remove their masks only if they maintain a 12-foot distance from all others in the classroom while unmasked. Note that the 12-foot distancing rule will preclude instructors from choosing to unmask in some classrooms or when engaged in some modes of instruction. Yale’s mask guidance page contains additional guidance for course instructors.
Prior to February 7, 2022, we recommend that most faculty meetings and departmental gatherings for academic purposes be conducted virtually. Beginning on February 7, 2022, they may be conducted in person or in a hybrid setting without seeking formal permission from the Health and Safety Leader. The setting should be determined by the business to be conducted in the meeting. Meetings held in person should follow the guidelines for in-person course instruction: they should be held in classroom or conference room settings on campus, all participants should be wearing a mask, food and drink are not permitted, and vaccine-exempted participants may attend in person only if they maintain social distance from others and are compliant with required testing. All other gatherings (including on- or off-campus social gatherings) must comply with the university’s events, gatherings, and meetings policy.
During our return, we must continue our vigilance—adhering to safety measures, testing and isolating as appropriate, and adjusting our protocols as recommended by our public health experts. Yale’s COVID-19 website remains the hub of news and information. The instructor-specific university policies above will be published in a set of FAQs on the Workplace Guidance website, which we will continue to update as additional questions arise throughout the semester.
Please accept my appreciation for all you have done and continue to do in service of our academic missions. Through a most difficult period, you have provided exceptional learning experiences for our students. With your help and commitment, we will have a safe and productive spring semester.