Alleviating student stress: measures available to instructors (March 26, 2021)

[Summary: This message describes accommodations that instructors may make in light of the compounding difficulties faced by students. It outlines concrete measures available to instructors of undergraduate and graduate students.]
To: All FAS faculty and instructors in Yale College and the Graduate School
Cc: FAS Steering; FAS Dean’s Office staff; GSAS Dean’s Office staff; Yale College Dean’s Office staff; FAS Lead Administrators, Operations Managers, Chair’s Assistants, and Registrars

To all FAS faculty and instructors in Yale College and the Graduate School,

By now you have probably experienced firsthand your students’ exhaustion and grief. The pressures and isolation brought on by the pandemic, compounded by recent tragedies and the lack of a spring break, are pushing many students beyond their limits. In response and in your roles as educators, many of you have asked what concrete measures you can take in your classes and student advisement to acknowledge this moment of compounding difficulties.  

There are a range of accommodations that lie within your authority as instructor. You may:

  • allow students to drop assignments or assessments without grade penalty,
  • relax deadlines for all assignments and assessments for the remainder of the term,
  • allow postponements during the term without any grade penalty,
  • allow students to miss class without penalty,
  • cancel a class session.
There are as many different teaching settings at Yale as there are instructors. You can adjust your syllabus for all students, or you can make accommodations for individual students. Do what is right for your specific class.

A few reminders. First, do not change the assignment structure categorically such that more weight falls for all students on already completed work; some students count on being able to demonstrate progress in a class. Second, do keep in mind that, for undergraduates, permission to extend deadlines, work, or assessments after the last day of the reading period (May 13 at 5:00 p.m.), or to postpone a final examination, does require a residential college dean’s approval. If you find yourself in conversation with an undergraduate seeking a Temporary Incomplete or permission to make up a final exam, please ask that student to speak with their residential college dean. And, of course, it you have contextual information that you believe might be helpful to the dean, please feel free to contact the dean directly.

For graduate students, changes to Ph.D. candidacy benchmarks require approval from the relevant Director of Graduate Studies and GSAS dean. Please consult with both before proceeding with any benchmark changes. You may, however, offer to grant a graduate student a Temporary Incomplete in a class you are teaching, subject to departmental and GSAS approval.

We remind you again of the Guiding Principles for our Teaching and Learning Community, which provide a strong articulation of our shared communal values.

With gratitude for your understanding, your compassion, and your flexibility,

Tamar, Marvin, and Lynn

Tamar Szabó Gendler
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Marvin M. Chun
Dean of Yale College
Lynn Cooley
Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences