Academic Year 2021-2022
DATE: September 9, 2021
TO: The University Community
FROM: Andrew Hamilton, President
A little over a week ago, Jennie and I were thrilled to return to our practice of greeting families as their students moved into the residence halls. As we made our way around campus, it was impossible not to be buoyed by the spirit we encountered among the students and their families: their happiness at being here with their classmates, their enthusiasm at the resumption of in-person learning, their eagerness to get started with the year. I have been glad, too, to watch the library fill with students again. Even the return of the food trucks to West 4th St. seems like a happy omen.
In a different year, that enthusiasm might have been the theme of the rest of my message to you. However, the joy of the students’ arrival and the excitement of starting a new year come amidst insistent reminders of the challenges that face us.
Our community has achieved very high rates of compliance with our vaccination policy (100% of students who checked into our residence halls, 99% of students overall, and 98% of full-time faculty and administrators, to name a few examples) and has many safety measures in place — required mask-wearing, surveillance testing, restrictions on visitors and events, among others. But the Delta variant reminds us of the pandemic’s persistence and unpredictability, and it has left some in our community understandably uneasy. A record-breaking rainfall in New York preceding what was for most of us the first day of classes presages the impact of climate change in the coming years — no small issue for a University with degree-granting campuses in three coastal cities. And the 20th anniversary of the events of 9/11 — visible from Washington Square as the destruction of the World Trade Center unfolded — brings to mind the ongoing threat of extremism and violence.
These problems, though dauntingly great, are not intractable. What we do at NYU can make a tangible difference. Our research enterprise can test theories, furnish answers, produce discoveries, offer facts, inform policy. We can educate our students to lead, to respect and work with others successfully, to possess the skills of healing and creating and advancing justice, to pose the right questions and have the determination to pursue the right solution. We can instill higher learning’s values: reason and inclusion and respectful, peaceful dialogue. And our global presence and commitment to engaging with different cultures can provide the outlook needed for dealing with those difficulties that will not confine themselves to a single nation or group of nations.
We all have our individual goals for this year, be they academic, professional or personal. But we also have our responsibilities to one another within this community — foremost among them this year is acting conscientiously to keep each other safe: wearing a mask as much as possible, getting tested when required, avoiding situations associated with the spread of the coronavirus, staying home when feeling sick and promptly reporting symptoms to NYU’s COVID-19 Prevention & Response Team, and observing all our other public health and safety rules.
I hope, even as we pursue our goals and meet our responsibilities, that we will also keep in mind this year what we together, individually and collectively as a University community, can contribute to understanding and addressing the large and profound problems of our day. I believe in universities, and in the collective power of their scholars and students, and there’s seldom been a time that needs us more, or needs more from us, than now.
It’s good to see so many of you here again. Welcome. And good luck with all your endeavors this year.