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May Update from YPEI

You can read the full update at this link, and subscribe to our YPEI newsletter for more updates here.


Dear Friends, When I last wrote to you, it was to update you on suspended programming in prisons given the increasing threat of COVID-19, the state of our program, the state of our field, and the state of our students inside. Today, I write from what would have been the end of Finals Period on campus. Instead, Yale students and faculty are dispersed across the globe, and moving towards the conclusion of this academic semester — and the beginning of summer — remotely. At YPEI, we are feeling a deep sense of loss. For the past two years, we have admitted new cohorts of incarcerated students in the month of May. It is always a profound and humbling moment for our program: each time we post flyers in prison to invite new applicants, we receive something in the realm of 600 requests for consideration for each new 12-15 person cohort. The best day of our year is orientation, when the new cohort gathers together for the first time in a classroom inside the prison, receives fresh supplies and a tall stack of new books and coursepacks, and prepares to launch into intensive in-person summer courses. Each year, this gathering feels like a call to battle: together, we have chosen to fight for something precious. The prisons may now be closed to us, but our program is not going anywhere. We are now sending and receiving assignments by mail, fostering independent studies and workshops led via correspondence by Yale faculty and students, offering remote writing workshops, and developing upcoming projects that will enable YPEI students to participate in and lead their own seminars and discussion groups during the quarantine on a variety of topics. And last week, in the midst of this crisis, YPEI marked a big milestone on campus. On Thursday evening, at the faculty meeting of Yale College (which met by Zoom), Dean Marvin Chun heard a passionate chorus of faculty support for our program, and accepted recommendations made by Yale’s Ad Hoc Committee on Prison Education to formally sanction YPEI's ability to establish a new partnership to begin offering degrees in prison. I will keep you posted as we work together towards that goal in the year ahead. For now, we are focused on continuing to engage students in prison through the pandemic, and preparing to be able to fully serve them when we can reestablish face-to-face programming. You may have heard about the campaign for #GivingTuesdayNow. In Connecticut, the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven is leading “The Great Give", a 36-hour online-giving event to support local nonprofits that began this morning, and will run through tomorrow evening at 8PM. If you can, please consider making a contribution to our campaign today by