By: Elisheva Kohn  | 

YU Administrators Share Insights Into Fall 2020 Campus Life Via Community Webinar

The information provided in this article is supplementary to the official YU Fall 2020 Plan, available here, and the official YU FAQ, available here.

University administrators, along with Dr. Robert van Amerongen, YU’s newly-appointed medical director, held two webinars via Zoom on July 21 and 22 to provide students and the broader YU community with updates on the upcoming fall semester. 

Both webinars –– scheduled at different times to accommodate students in various time zones  –– were hosted by President Ari Berman, outgoing Senior Vice President Josh Joseph, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Selma Botman, five undergraduate university deans, Chief Enrollment Management Officer Chad Austein, Chief Facilities and Administrative Officer Randy Apfelbaum, Director of YU International Students and Scholars (OISS) Jennifer Golden and Dr. Van Amerongen. 

Health and Safety

According to Dr. Van Amerongen, the university is aiming to have all students, faculty members and staff tested for COVID-19 prior to returning to campus. Students on campus will be required to fill out a daily health survey which will be available on a mobile app. All campus buildings will be equipped with hand sanitizer and students will have their temperature measured regularly. Addressing the concern of long lines consisting of students “waiting endlessly just to get their temperature checks,” Dr. Van Amerongen assured students that staff are being trained efficiently to conduct these checks “seamlessly and rapidly.”

Masks will be required in all buildings, except when eating or in private spaces, such as dormitory rooms. Students from coronavirus “hot spots” may be required to quarantine upon arrival on campus. University officials are currently identifying locations on campus that can serve as quarantine spaces. 

Housing and Campus Life

As of July 22, dormitory sign-ups are at 60% capacity, according to Dean of Students Dr. Chaim Nissel; students who apply prior to the July 24 deadline are likely to be accepted. University officials are working to provide transportation to campus for students residing in nearby communities. Students not residing on campus in the fall will “hopefully” be able to apply for housing in the spring, said Nissel. 

Both campus cafeterias –– operating at reduced capacity –– will offer take-home meals on days when classes are in session. Glass partitions will be placed between cashiers and students, and foods that are openly exposed to students, such as salad and pizza, will be eliminated to maximize safety. Whether meals will be offered on Friday mornings and Sundays is yet “to be determined,” said Nissel. 

According to Randy Apfelbaum, campus elevators have been fixed while students were away, and some are completely new. All campus elevators will operate at reduced capacity. Since all bathrooms in the Wilf dormitories are shared, male students will have to sign up for shower slots in advance. 

According to Nissel, students will be able to form “micro communities” with whom they can share campus Shabbat meals with. Guests will not be allowed on campus, including on Shabbat. 


Given the “remarkably low percentage” of students who opted for the recently modified and more flexible P/N policy –– 70% of the student body did not opt for the new P/N option –– the policy will be ineffective for the fall, according to Dr. Noam Wasserman, dean of Sy Syms School of Business. Furthermore, in light of student outrage over the Fall 2020 date to drop a class without a “W”–– which was set for nearly three months earlier than in prior years –– the university is “currently reevaluating” the date and has “not made a final decision,” said Austein. 

All classes will be available online and students will have the opportunity to learn in a more versatile manner; according to Wasserman, the university is planning on offering asynchronous options, online assessments, videos and discussion forums in order to maximize flexibility while maintaining a high “academic standard.” Smaller classes may be offered in-person, and students will be notified of the online/in-person options for their classes by the end of July, according to Botman. All labs and art studios will be open as well, said Dean of Undergraduate Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dr. Karen Bacon.

Regular minyanim on the Wilf Campus will be limited to students, faculty and staff, and batei midrash will be open on both campuses. Associate Dean of Torah Studies at Stern College for Women Shoshana Schechter and Dean for Men’s Undergraduate Torah Studies Rabbi Yosef Kalinsky assured students that Torah opportunities will be offered in-person, as well as online. “Right now I’m speaking with each rebbi and talking with them in terms of their preferences, in terms of their talmidims’ preferences and matching those up,” Kalinsky said. Various shiurim and chaburot, led by Torah educators from both campuses, have been operating virtually over the summer. 

According to President Ari Berman, enrollment for this upcoming semester is “robust.”

International Students

Given the reversal of the recent policy by the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding international students enrolling in online classes, international students taking a full schedule online will be able to maintain their F1 status, said Golden. Nevertheless, Golden said, international students may face other obstacles, such as travel restrictions, and are therefore encouraged to consult authorities in their home countries, as well as the OISS  COVID-19 web page. According to Botman, faculty members will accommodate students whose class schedules are affected by time difference. 


In the event that all dormitories will have to be vacated for health reasons, the university will offer a refund policy that is “expected” from YU students and the broader community, and will “act accordingly,” said Austein. 

According to a university spokesman, additional webinars are scheduled to take place in the near future. 

Photo Caption: A screenshot of the community webinar
Photo Credit: The Commentator