Date: March 15, 2021
TO: NYU Parents
FROM: NYU President Andrew Hamilton

Dear NYU Parents, Guardians, and Loved Ones,

“What will fall 2021 be like at NYU?” That is the question my colleagues and I have been hearing most often from parents and other members of the NYU community recently.

I would like nothing more than to be able to write to you with certainty and definitiveness. However, in the year of the pandemic, those are in short supply. Nevertheless, let me share with you our sense of where things are now and our expectations for the shape of academic year 2021-2022.

The Current Semester

Spring classes are proceeding well, and the way our students have managed the many challenges and committed themselves to the health and safety of our community continues to be a source of pride. The atmosphere on campus is good. That said, we know that the daily demands of the COVID pandemic have imposed unprecedented trials over this past year, and so we have stepped up our efforts to be sensitive to and supportive of students, as well as employees.

Dr. Carlo Ciotoli, the head of our COVID prevention and response efforts, wrote to the community in February to give an overview of where things stand now in terms of safety and health, vaccinations and variants. I think you will find his summary helpful. I am glad to report that case positivity at NYU has been trending downward since late January. We have seen some spikes apparently connected to small groups of students spending time together without wearing masks; we are communicating to all students about the importance of continuing to rigorously follow all our safety rules (as they mostly have since the school year began) even as COVID numbers improve and restrictions begin to ease.

The easing of restrictions in New York and elsewhere in the US presents a somewhat complicated message for our community. Naturally, we are all eager to return to pre-COVID activities. However, given both the success of strict adherence to our health rules in preventing an outbreak since the start of the school year and the skepticism expressed by many public health experts about the widespread lifting of restrictions at this time, we are going to proceed more cautiously on our campus, taking incremental steps and evaluating the impact as we go, and advising students to be prudent about the choices they make as they move about the City.

Fall 2021

As we look ahead to the fall in New York, we want you to know, first and foremost, that NYU will be resuming in-person, in-class teaching and learning as our everyday mode of instruction. Given the expected availability of vaccination and the low incidence of classroom transmission at NYU and elsewhere, we have let our faculty and other employees know that we expect them to be on campus for in-person classes come next fall.

We are also planning for the resumption of in-person instruction at NYU’s global sites (other than at NYU Sydney, where we anticipate current immigration restrictions will remain in place). Applications are now open for Study Away. However, the course of fall 2021’s Study Away program, and the potential extension of the Go Local program we launched this academic year, will be dependent upon numerous additional variables, such as health and travel conditions and the ability to obtain student visas.

While we can say that we expect in-person classroom instruction to be the norm, that we will welcome students back on campus, and that we are looking forward to resuming pre-COVID activities, there are still numerous details to be worked out. We cannot, for instance, say precisely how classrooms may be configured, or what the required physical distancing between students may be. And beyond classes, there are many other particulars yet to be finalized around student housing, dining, athletics, performances, social activities — all the many aspects of student life that have been altered since spring of 2020.

Those decisions will require some more time and planning, as their resumption rests on the guidance of public health authorities. And we will need to continue to be flexible in addressing the educational needs of students who may face difficult circumstances, such as ongoing travel restrictions.

Rest assured, we are keenly aware of your wish for answers, and we are actively working on these issues in order to share information with you — and especially with our students — as details sharpen. We look forward to communicating with you as we know more; one resource we hope you will find valuable is the parents’ page on our COVID information hub, NYU Returns.

You — our students’ parents, guardians, and loved-ones — are valued members of our university community. The past year’s events have demanded perseverance and resolve from us all — from parents as much as all the rest of us. We appreciate your faith and loyalty, and will continue to fight the spread of COVID-19 as we support your student’s educational goals.


Andrew Hamilton
New York University