By: Commentator Staff  | 

Yeshiva University Releases Plan For Fall 2020, In-Person Classes to Resume After Sukkot

Yeshiva University will resume in-person classes under a “hybrid model” — a combination of virtual and in-person learning — on Oct. 19, following the holiday break, President Ari Berman announced via email to the student body on Tuesday evening, June 30. The email included a 20-page reopening handbook that outlined further details of the Fall 2020 plan.

The fall semester will begin on Aug. 26 and courses will be held online until Sukkot. Following the holiday, students can choose to return to partial in-person learning on campus or continue online classes for the remainder of the semester. Students who choose the in-person option can commute to campus or dorm in the residence halls, which will open on Oct. 12, after the Sukkot break, and “operate at reduced capacity.” The university assured that an effort will be made to arrange “housing for all full-time undergraduate students who desire it, either on or near campus.”

According to the plan, housing and meal plan fees will be prorated to the opening of on-campus living, while tuition and fees “will remain the same.” As The Commentator previously reported, the university will raise tuition by more than $1,500 for the upcoming academic year, up to a total cost of $43,575 in tuition and $2,900 in fees.

Upon students’ return to campus, the university will provide reusable face masks to all students, faculty and staff, who will be required to wear them in public spaces, such as classrooms, workspaces and hallways. Gloves will only be mandated for certain university staff, including medical and food service personnel. Additionally, restrooms will be regulated with capacity and accessibility limits to ensure social distancing of six feet; housekeeping teams will clean and disinfect bathrooms and classrooms “on a regular basis each day,” according to the plan.

There will be regular checks for students who plan to stay on campus for COVID-19 symptoms. Daily self-monitored responses “through the YU-approved app or other technology obtained for such purpose” will be required for students to enter buildings, under the plan. Students will also be required to undergo temperature checks at the entrance of YU buildings. Quarantine areas will be designated in the residence halls “for residential students who are ill, test positive for COVID-19 or are exposed to individuals who are positive.”

The batei midrash on the Beren and Wilf campuses will incorporate dividers for chavrutot (Torah study partners) and only be available to students and staff; other building spaces are being “reconfigured” to allow for additional “batei midrash space.” 

Once students return to campus, the university will “encourage all students to remain on campus for Shabbat and the entire weekend,” to “minimize student travel” with small group meals being available. More specific plans are “in the works.” 

Minyanim will also be regularly held in accordance with city and state regulations. Minyanim recently returned to the Washington Heights community on June 5 in the Shenk Shul. 

Various university facilities — including both campuses’ cafeterias and libraries — will open in October with “limited capacity.” The cafeterias will exclusively have a take-out service “until social distancing rules are relaxed.” To adhere to social distancing regulations, alternate study carrels will be available in the library and only two students will be limited to large tables, while study rooms will be closed, according to the plan. Alumni and visitors will not be granted access to YU library facilities. 

Elevators will be regularly cleaned and have occupancy limits and floor markings for students to properly distance. Following a year of numerous elevator malfunctions and code violations, YU has done “significant work on the elevators over the past few months,” according to the handbook.

The Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy (MTA) and Yeshiva University High School for Girls (Central), YU’s high schools, will be making separate announcements regarding their plans for the fall semester. The Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) will offer limited in-person courses for students enrolled in the Smicha program beginning August 26, the start of the fall semester. The plans of other graduate schools — Azrieli, Revel, Ferkauf, Katz, Syms and Wurzweiler — vary with some schools planning on holding classes fully online while others plan on having limited in-person options. The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law has yet to make an announcement regarding their plans. The Makor College Experience will announce the possibility of returning to campus in “the coming weeks.”

Information specifically relevant to undergraduate international students was not specified. According to the booklet, they will receive “a separate communication” with further details. 

“As an international student, I'm not entirely assured, especially without the necessary safeguards regarding time zone differences,” said Scott Stimler (YC ‘21), a psychology student from London, UK. “After reading the booklet, it seems that YU have definitely learned a thing or two from the previous semester. Hopefully, everything will start to upscale and fall into place.”

The plan, as mandated for submission by New York State, was crafted by YU’s Scenario Planning Task Force, a team of three dozen university officials, including Medical Director Dr. Robert van Amerongen. According to President Berman’s email, the plan is subject to change “depending upon the progression of the virus and/or applicable state and local government guidance.” President Berman also announced that community calls –– a medium of communication that was introduced early March –– will be held over the next few months together with students, faculty, staff and parents. 

“While many of us knew more or less what the plan for the upcoming semester would be, I am glad that the administration is being more transparent with us by releasing an official statement even though much of the information is still unknown,” remarked Sara Knoll (SCW ‘21). “I am hoping the administration will send more detailed information very soon as housing payments are due on July 31,” she added. 

As of the time of publication, representatives for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Education Department did not respond to The Commentator’s inquiries for comment.

YU had previously teased the Fall 2020 plan to students, when Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Selma Botman sent an email on June 12 saying that the university’s plan is “to begin the fall semester online,” with in-person instruction resuming after Sukkot, “for all those faculty and students who are able to be physically present.” Two days later, she clarified to The Commentator that YU was “still developing plans in consultation with medical professionals and with city and state officials,” and that “specific and concrete plans [would] be announced in the coming weeks.”

In-person classes were first canceled on March 4 on the Wilf Campus and March 5 on the Beren Campus after a Wilf student tested positive for COVID-19. Classes were held online for the remainder of the spring semester and all summer classes are operating virtually as well.

“Character is formed and developed in times of deep adversity. This is the kind of teachable moment that Yeshiva University was made for,” wrote President Berman in his email. “Our students will be able to work through the difficulties, issues and opportunities posed by our COVID-19 era with our stellar rabbis and faculty as well as their close friends and peers at Yeshiva.”

Elazar Abrahams, Yitzchak Carroll, Sruli Fruchter, Elisheva Kohn and Yosef Lemel contributed to this story. 


Photo Caption: The cover of the handbook released by Yeshiva University for its Fall 2020 plans
Photo Credit: Yeshiva University