FAS guidance on gatherings in light of COVID-19 (March 8, 2020)

Dear FAS Chairs,

In light of recent messages from Paul Genecin and Scott Strobel (restricting non-class gatherings of 100 or more through mid-April) and Lynn Cooley (cancelling visiting days and recruitment events for graduate students), several of you have written to ask about postponing smaller conferences or rescheduling job talk visits. What we offer below is our best sense of where things stand, at this particular moment, regarding each of these questions.

First, conferences. We, along with a number of our peer institutions, have implemented travel restrictions. The extent of such restrictions could increase in the coming weeks. So while current Yale policy permits gatherings smaller than 100, it seems probable that – regardless of our policies – many of the mid-scale conferences planned for this spring will end up canceled by attrition (colleagues from abroad can’t attend) and a general sense that gatherings of a certain size should, if expendable, be expended. We have been working with your business offices to develop plans and protocols for the associated financial consequences; we will update them regularly as these policies take shape.

As for job talks: these will need to be decided on a case-by-case basis, even as we seek consistency to the extent possible. Some candidates may be prohibited from flying; others may prefer not to fly. For now, we encourage you to focus on how such candidates could have virtual interviews. We suggest that you break down the visit days for candidates who are unable to attend in person into a series of on-line meetings: a meeting with grad students; a job talk and Q&A; a teaching session, if that is part of your tradition; a meeting with a segment of the faculty/search committee (the latter replacing the dinner conversation); etc.

We say this because, as of now, we’re not canceling all visitors to Yale or public events, and candidate visits are somewhere in between the categories of essential and non-essential travel. If it is possible to have search visits, we will. However, as Lynn’s note mentioned, “additional travel restrictions or limits on events could be imposed in the coming weeks complicating arrangements for you and your visitors.” If such restrictions occur, you will hear about them through official e-mail.

So, if you have job talks scheduled for after the break, take a moment now to think about how you might move to a virtual participation format if circumstances necessitate. Two scenarios there: first, the candidate is the only virtual participant; second, most everyone is a virtual participant because some sort of social distancing rules have been put into place at Yale.

On the FAS side, we have already begun thinking about how to manage departmental discussions, departmental votes, TACs, and the JBPO, should we find ourselves confronted with such restrictions. We are in contact with our counterparts at peer institutions, sharing ideas and concerns. We will update you as the situation warrants. These are uncharted waters for us all.

Consider your divisional dean your point of immediate contact about case-by-case decisions. Any policy changes will be announced to the whole community. In this moment of uncertainty, we offer ongoing gratitude for your commitment to our principled governance and mutual care.


Tamar, Jeff, Alan and Katie

Tamar Szabó Gendler, FAS Dean
Jeffrey Brock, FAS Dean of Science and Dean of SEAS
Alan Gerber, FAS Dean of Social Science
Kathryn Lofton, FAS Dean of Humanities