Date: October 21, 2020
TO: NYU Parents
FROM: NYU President Andrew Hamilton

Dear Parents, Guardians, and Loved Ones of NYU Students,

I am writing to give you a brief update on the fall semester and to share some of our preliminary thinking about important changes to the spring semester calendar.

As I indicated in previous letters, the fall got off to a good start overall. And even though we have seen the emergence of some COVID-19 hotspots in New York, they are not near our campus locations, and things are carrying on pretty well here. Our observation is that even as students focus on their studies, they are doing a commendable job of observing the health and safety rules — wearing masks, keeping physical distance, and avoiding the kind of crowded gatherings that are linked to coronavirus spread. A recent summary of our efforts from Dr. Carlo Ciotoli, the head of our COVID-19 Prevention & Response Team, indicates much the same — overall, our case positive rates remain stable and low. And our faculty are working hard to ensure that the teaching and learning process is vibrant, robust, and engaging, regardless of whether your student is attending in-person classes here or studying remotely.

Though we are only midway through the fall semester, we are already thinking about spring — how to build on the fall's good start and make use of the lessons we have learned to improve the student experience.

Provost Katherine Fleming and I recently wrote to students about the spring semester, which we anticipate will be much like the fall. However, pending approval by a vote of the University Senate, there will be some important changes in the schedule:

  • As in the fall, we will open the residence halls early — the week of January 10 — to allow those students who spent winter break in hotspot states to complete their mandatory 14-day quarantine before the start of spring classes (and we are going to be a lot more focused on good food this go-around)
  • We will start classes a few days later than originally planned, permitting us both to avoid a week of flu season and because…
  • ...We will suspend spring break, but will designate two long weekends during the semester as a way to give everyone a bit of a breather

Notwithstanding the fact that many universities are making precisely the same decision, we know this last item will provoke strong reactions from some, perhaps even including parents. In spreading the five days of spring break across the semester — by starting the semester three days later and using two days to create new long weekends — we are following the principle that has guided us this entire year: putting the safety and health of NYU community members first. Spring break travel would substantially increase the risk of bringing the coronavirus back to our campus community and the communities around us. It would also mean yet another 14-day period of quarantine in the middle of the semester for all those returning from hotspot states.

We know that the redistribution of spring break days across the semester may be hard on parents and loved ones, too. I understand how you feel — once our children head off to college, family time with them seems so fleeting. Still, I am asking for your help and support on this — even if it comes as disappointing news and represents a sacrifice, this step is so important to keeping everyone safe and avoiding illness and disruption in the spring semester. Your counsel will matter; it will make acceptance of this decision easier for your student.

I want you to know that we take very seriously the trust you have placed in us, and we are committed to working hard to keep your student safe and to support their academic progress and success. That spirit unites us all.

Like you, I look forward to a time when these kinds of steps will be unnecessary. In the meantime, we shall continue to look out for the well-being of all our students.

I will be in touch with you again soon with more updates and news.


Andrew Hamilton
New York University

PS — There are dedicated faculty, and then there is this story of dedication. I thought you might enjoy this story of one of our faculty, who, upon finding himself stuck in an elevator with his children, nevertheless carried on teaching his scheduled class. Bravo, Professor Van Bavel!