YDS Dean: School planning return to mostly in-person operations in fall

March 29, 2021
Dean Greg Sterling sent the following announcement to the YDS community today.
Dear Colleagues,
A moment that will remain etched in my memory for as long as I live is a late Friday afternoon in March of 2020. We had announced that we would restrict access to the Quad to essential staff for the foreseeable future as a result of the pandemic. The doors had been locked. I was the last one in the Quad early that evening. As I walked through the Quad, I wondered when the vivacity and activity that characterize it would return. It was an eerie feeling, not because I was alone, but because I knew that the Quad would remain silent for a period, although I knew we would continue to function remotely.
Thankfully, this year we’ve been able to reintroduce some life back to the Quad. And now, the announcement by President Salovey and Provost Strobel sets an end to this quieter period in our physical home. We plan to return to a much more normal schedule and mode of operation next fall, health conditions permitting. Please note the qualification. We are not entirely “out of the woods,” but there are reasons to be optimistic.
At YDS, we plan to operate primarily on an in-person basis in the fall. Our academic calendar has been approved and will be posted online. Classes will return to the Quad. Although there may be some exceptions, they will be just that: exceptions. Most faculty and students should plan to be on campus.
There are still a large number of questions that need to be addressed. We need to work backward through the decisions we made last spring. Just as we had to work gradually through decisions a year ago as health conditions evolved, so we will need to work through decisions gradually again as health circumstances change. Let me mention some of the issues that will affect most of us.
Orientation will be online this summer rather than in person at the beginning of the semester. While we propose to operate in person in the fall, there may be a transition period at first. For example, some incoming or returning students may not have been fully vaccinated and may need to work through a transition period before they are able to participate in person. 
Many of us are eager for Marquand Chapel to return in person. We do not yet know about restrictions on indoor gatherings or whether we will be able to sing. We will try to make plans to worship outdoors when possible, but we still do not have firm answers to a number of crucial issues about our collective worship.
Staff who have been sustaining our operations on a hybrid basis will begin returning on a staggered schedule August 1; the phasing will continue over several months with the goal of most staff back by October 1st. We will work through plans with supervisors so that we are ready for students’ return. Supervisors are requested to be flexible in developing transitional work arrangements and be mindful of staff who will be providing care for children or other dependents.
We will let you know about the Refectory as soon as we have firm plans in place. I have come to jokingly call the Common Room the Dean’s Dining Room. This is where I often meet with one to three students for lunch. I will be delighted when the Refectory and Common Room are filled to capacity again.
Faculty are undoubtedly wondering about University-sponsored travel. The University has not yet made an official announcement about when current travel restrictions will change. Please be patient as the University works through a series of issues. This also affects our ability to bring visitors to campus. As President Salovey and Provost Strobel indicated, the University hopes to provide guidance later this semester.
As you have gathered, there are still many issues to address. We will keep you informed as decisions are made. Please understand that some decisions are made nationally (CDC guidelines), some by the State of Connecticut, some by Yale, and some by us. We are subject to all three of the larger units.
You have been very conscientious about curbing the spread of the virus. Thank you for all of your efforts. This has been a community-wide effort involving students, staff, and faculty. I hope that you have a sense of accomplishment in getting through the year in spite of the pandemic. The virus is still present in New Haven at levels that put all of us at risk. Please continue to do all that you can: wear a mask, maintain social distance, and get your vaccines as soon as you are invited and able. 
The end of the spring semester is always challenging from the standpoint of exhaustion—for everyone. This year, it is particularly challenging as a result of the circumstances created by the pandemic. Please remember that this is a high-stress time. If you find yourself overwhelmed, get help. We can all watch out for one another and make sure that those around us are coping with the pressure and exhaustion. For support, please reach out to our Office of Students Affairs; Yale Mental Health and Counseling; or the Yale Chaplain’s office. If I can help any of you, do not hesitate to let me know. 
Best wishes,
Greg Sterling
March 29, 2021