IMPORTANT/TIMELY: Taking Stock: Update on the Spring 2022 Semester
DATE: January 12, 2022
TO: The NYU Community
FROM: Andrew Hamilton, President
Katherine Fleming, Provost
Martin Dorph, Exec. Vice President
Dr. Carlo Ciotoli, Vice President, Campus Health
We are writing to update you on our plans for the coming spring semester.
As we start a third year of responding to COVID-19, we know more about the virus; nevertheless, the pandemic continues to pose new challenges — such as the Omicron variant — that demand continual adaptability and steadfastness. And while Omicron appears to cause mostly mild to moderate symptoms in those who are vaccinated, it is more contagious than its predecessors, and is driving significantly higher numbers of new cases in New York. Consequently, our decision-making continues to be shaped by the safety and welfare of the NYU community as we aim to fulfill our academic mission and meet our responsibilities to students.
Resuming In-Person Classes on January 24, 2022: Recognizing the Need for Flexibility
Resuming in-person classes
When the spring semester begins on January 24 (the start date varies among NYU’s schools), we will resume in-person classes.
We believe that with our community’s very high rate of vaccination, our booster requirement (and the limitations on people who are not compliant by the deadline), our mask policies and other mitigation measures, and our testing, we can proceed with in-person classes, our preferred mode of teaching-and-learning.
The need for flexibility
Nevertheless, the Omicron variant presents new challenges that will require a good deal of flexibility on all our parts. This will be particularly true in the first couple of weeks of the semester, when students, faculty, administrators, and staff may be facing difficulties returning to campus or (in the case of students) resuming in-person classes on time, and our NYU community will likely experience high case counts that are consistent with trends in NYC.
Schools, departments, and faculty should anticipate that many students may need to keep up with their classes remotely or through other alternative methods as a result of Omicron, particularly in the first couple of weeks of the semester, when there is often an increased number of cases. Faculty should plan accordingly and ensure that students who are unable to attend class in person are able to fully keep up with coursework and will not be disadvantaged academically. It will be up to faculty to determine what specific provisions to make for students to keep up with their classes, in keeping with the pedagogical needs and academic requirements and outcomes of the course. And students should not expect that they can attend in-person classes remotely for the duration of the semester, as flexibility is meant to be granted on a temporary basis only. Faculty and departments should also plan ahead for the possibility of faculty absences and/or short-term pivots to remote (if they need to quarantine).
Preparing for a Return to Campus and Classes
Booster shot and upload
All eligible members of the NYU community are required to receive a COVID-19 booster (either through NYU or another provider) by January 18, 2022 and to upload proof. It is essential that we achieve high rates of booster vaccinations, and a failure to comply with the booster requirement will result in consequences.
Note to students: failure to get a booster and upload proof will prevent you from going to class or entering classroom buildings or other NYU facilities. Non-compliance with NYU’s vaccine/booster mandate can ultimately lead to de-enrollment and loss of housing.
Please remember — for all those who are eligible (the majority of the NYU community), there is less than a week until the deadline.
Get tested before coming to campus
The University expects that all members of the community will be tested in the 72 hours before their return to campus, preferably with a PCR test. You should not return to campus if:
- You have symptoms of COVID-19, even mild symptoms, until you receive a negative PCR test, you are fever free for at least 24 hours, and your symptoms are improving.
- You test positive for COVID-19 until you meet criteria for ending isolation.
Obtain, have, and use an appropriate, properly-fitting mask
Many of us have been relying on cloth masks; it’s now time to change. Acceptable masks for the spring semester include:
- Disposable masks (surgical or medical procedure masks).
- KN95 masks.
- KF94 masks.
- N95 masks.
At this time, everyone should consider double-masking or a higher-grade mask, such as a KN95 or KF94. Using a cloth mask over a disposable mask improves the fit and adds layers. Masks that are not acceptable:
- Masks with one-way valves or vents.
- Bandanas, scarves, and face covering made with other repurposed clothing items.
- Cloth masks, unless being used as a second layer over a disposable mask.
NYU’s guidance on masks can be found here. At this point, we expect all members of the community to supply their own masks, but the University will have a supply of medical-procedure or surgical type masks available at various locations around campus.
Arriving on Campus
Undergraduates in NYU student housing
You should return to your room only if you have tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours prior to your arrival. In the event that you test positive, or if there are any other considerations that hinder your ability to return to campus, schools, departments, and faculty are expected to show particular flexibility in the first two weeks of the semester to ensure that students who cannot be on campus by January 24 will not be disadvantaged.
The University has set aside rooms in student housing as well as several hundred other additional rooms for temporary use as we support our students throughout the semester. We need to be mindful that these resources are finite, and we may come to a point in the semester where students who test positive may need to isolate in their current room assignment together with their roommate(s) who may not need to isolate or quarantine.
We will be communicating again directly with students in NYU Housing with additional information and guidance shortly.
As the semester starts, we are modifying our previous guidance which encouraged all remote work except in the case of operational necessity. Now, with the start of the semester, school and unit leaders, managers, and supervisors should ensure that there is adequate in-person, on-campus staffing necessary to properly support all academic, research, and administrative activities at all times. As faculty and students return for spring classes, decisions about on-campus staffing should be guided by their needs and the needs of programs, schools, and the University to support them.
Beyond those requirements, the leadership of schools and administrative units should use their discretion about permitting remote work. We expect that at some point in the near future during the spring semester, based on the progress of our COVID response, we will expect to see staffing levels return to the levels that were in place in the fall.
Wearing a mask
Proper mask-wearing will be strictly enforced for all members of the community. You need to have a proper mask (see guidance above), and you need to wear it properly (ie, over the nose and mouth) at all times indoors (except for meal breaks, which should be brief).
The University’s testing program will remain in force for the spring semester, and NYU strongly recommends everyone get tested after arriving notwithstanding the test they should have had just prior to their return.
We will be offering extended hours for picking up and dropping off Binx (saliva) tests.
Please remember that if you are selected for randomized testing, you are required to participate. Your participation is very important in helping the University guage COVID-19 transmission within the NYU community.
Please note: turnaround times for test results are not guaranteed and may be longer than usual given the increased demand for testing across NYC and the country. You should plan accordingly.
You should complete the COVID-19 Reporting Form if you test positive, develop symptoms of COVID-19 (even mild symptoms), or were notified that you were in close contact with someone who tested positive. After completing the Reporting Form, the NYU COVID-19 Prevention & Response Team will provide you with guidance.
Additional Health and Safety Protocols
With projections of increased COVID-19 case counts into February, it will be important to reduce the circumstances that tend to spread the virus. At the start of the semester, additional mitigation steps will include:
- Meal service at NYU dining facilities will be “grab and go” for the start of the semester. No eating will be permitted in the libraries or in spaces in which other activities are occurring concurrently, such as in study spaces, meetings, or lounges. We strongly urge you to eat at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart from other people and for less than 15 minutes. After eating, you should promptly remask.
- Gatherings in common spaces in residence halls will continue to be prohibited for the time being.
- Only essential visitors will be permitted on-campus at the start of the semester.
- Athletics facilities will continue to be closed for the time being.
- Group study rooms in the library will continue to be closed until further notice.
- There should be no non-essential in-person events, meetings, and gatherings held.
- The Skirball Center for the Performing Arts will not be open.
If you are scheduled to study away this spring, please follow the specific guidance you have received from the Office of Global Programs or your host campus regarding your arrival. The University also expects that all study away students will be tested within 72 hours of their arrival to their study away destination.
Conclusion — Setting Our Expectations Properly
To be clear, in all likelihood, we will see increased cases at the start of the semester. In all likelihood, we will see greater numbers of positive cases per week than we have previously experienced.
However, we should remember: we successfully managed the partial but substantial return to campus in fall 2020 when no one was vaccinated, and we successfully managed the full return to campus and resumption of in-person teaching-and-learning this past semester. We will be starting this semester with a population that is essentially universally boosted, we will proceed cautiously and carefully abide by the mitigation measures that we will have in place, and we will open the semester with a renewed commitment to flexibility.
Through this method and acting together as a community, we will be able to keep the safety and health of the University at forefront of our policy-setting while also meeting the obligations of our research and teaching-and-learning mission.