Date: December 16, 2021
TO: NYU Parents
FROM: NYU President Andrew Hamilton

Dear Parents, Guardians, and Loved Ones,

I want to update you on the latest COVID-19-related developments on campus.

Our fall semester got off to an excellent start: the resumption of in-person teaching and learning (with masks), the sidewalks once again filled with students, the soft hub-bub of a brimming library, the joy of students giving everything on an athletic pitch or a stage — it has been wonderful to see NYU mostly restored to its best self: vibrant, active, energetic, creative, funny.

The foundation for achieving all this has been our community members’ commitment to our safety and health measures — very high rates of compliance with our vaccination requirement, conscientiously wearing masks, and disciplined observance of our safety rules. And earlier this week, we instituted a requirement that everyone receive a booster shot before the start of the spring semester.

Notwithstanding all that, after some weeks of steady declines from the start of the semester, we began to see modest increases in case counts around the end of October/beginning of November that tracked with data from New York City. However, since the beginning of this week, we have detected through our testing program a substantial and conspicuous acceleration in new cases.

Throughout this year and last, our decision-making has been guided by the health and well-being of the NYU community; so, out of an abundance of caution, we are proceeding with a set of actions we deem a prudent and appropriate response. Yesterday morning the University sent a communication to all students, faculty, administrators, and staff outlining the recommendations and the steps we are taking.

Classes ended Tuesday; today marks the start of the final examination period, which carries on until December 22. That timing is not unhelpful — in general, it is easier to change exam-taking from in-person to remote than to do so with ongoing classes, and there are generally fewer routine in-person get-togethers once we are in “final exam mode.” Still, the increase in new cases is grounds for concern, and I don’t want to minimize that this news is coming suddenly for your students and may provoke some unease.

Of course, we will be continuing to monitor the data from our testing program and keeping an eye on other COVID-related developments. By the start of the spring semester, everyone should have received a booster vaccination, and we anticipate beginning the semester with in-person teaching and learning and other activities, as we did in the fall. In the meantime, we will be keeping the NYU community — and you — up to date on any new information.

I would ask two favors of you in this last week of the semester. First, I would be grateful for any reinforcement you can provide in urging your students not to gather or socialize with others without masks. Getting together without masks seems to be at the heart of the increase in case counts. Small, informal post-final-exam celebrations are not uncommon in a typical year; we don’t want them to occur this year. Second, I would appreciate your reminding your students about the requirement to have a booster vaccination by January 18, 2022.

I have been proud of the way our university has handled the many impediments that the pandemic has put in our way. I understand that the sudden decision to conduct most final exams remotely was stressful to both students and faculty; I appreciate the forbearance and perseverance with which they have responded, which makes me confident that we will also overcome this latest hurdle successfully.

We are mindful of the trust you place in NYU to keep your students safe and see that they continue to make progress in their studies. We take that trust seriously; we won’t let you down. We appreciate your support.

Lastly, in spite of this news, let me wish all of you an enjoyable — and safe — winter break with your student and the rest of your family, loved ones, and friends.

Andrew Hamilton
New York University