A Letter to Parents from NYU President Andrew Hamilton
Date: July 9, 2020
TO: Parents and Guardians
FROM: NYU President Andrew Hamilton
Dear Parents, Guardians, and Loved Ones of Our NYU Students,
I hope that you and all those in your life are healthy and coping well with the challenges and changes that this summer has brought.
Since NYU moved to remote classes and closed the student residences in the spring, we have been working on plans for reconvening in person on campus. Over the last few days, we have written to our students about three of the questions we know have been most pressing for them and their families: housing, our safety and health plans, and the shape of academic and student life in 2020-2021. I wanted to be sure that these plans—which we will continue to develop over the summer as we receive updated guidance about the course of COVID-19—had been shared with you, too.
Last spring was not the semester that any of us anticipated. Yet the students responded with a resiliency, the faculty with a commitment, and the administrators and staff with a dedication of which I feel immensely proud.
Academic year 2020-2021, too, will be quite different from its predecessors; our safety protocols and the differing academic delivery will mean changes in the daily rhythms of campus life.
Yet, I cannot think of a time when higher education has been more important. Not just because young people across the country want to come back to campus and continue to make progress towards their degrees. And not just because of the research that NYU's scholars are pursuing to combat the coronavirus. Higher education is especially important now because of the core purpose of our teaching and learning mission, the development of critical thinking, and the opportunities for artistic expression—all the elements of preparing students for life as engaged, informed citizens.
Our society is at a singular moment—its handling of the pandemic in question, its criminal justice system mistrusted, the fairness of its institutions in doubt. The videotape of George Floyd and the events that followed, as well as the disparate impacts of COVID-19, have sharply illustrated how much work needs to be done. Seldom has the need for well-prepared citizens felt more acute.
And this week came directives from immigration authorities that could significantly harm our international students. The rules—unexpected, arbitrary, and lacking any educational merit—unnecessarily pit two principles against one another: our university's obligation to follow public health directives about moving to remote instruction, and our commitment to even-handed treatment of all our students. We are reaching out to policymakers to reverse these new rules, and are planning to support litigation challenging them. In the next few days, we will also be communicating with our international students to reassure them that sufficient in-person instruction will be available to ensure their compliance with the new rules.
It will be some time before we feel the easy—and undeserved—assurance and certainties we felt a year ago. We have been taught a sharp lesson. Worse, if we are being honest with ourselves, we have left it for our students—your children—to solve problems even thornier than the ones we are taking on now: climate change, inequality, extremism, income disparity. I have little doubt that in the coming year my faculty colleagues will feel the same weighty obligation that I shall feel when I look at the students in my lab—that we need to prepare this generation to do better than we have done.
Big ideas are needed. And it is here that institutions of higher learning excel—at teaching ideas, at refining them, and at surpassing old ideas with new ones. Universities shine at preparing students to lead. Our proudest outcomes are when our students go on to improve the world by taking what we have taught them and exceeding it.
We appreciate the trust you place in us when you send your child to be educated at NYU, and we feel that responsibility keenly. We are committed to the excellence of their education, and to having in place for 2020-2021 practices and protocols to enhance the safety of all members of our community.
I hope the rest of your summer proceeds well. We look forward to having your NYU student back on campus.