Date: July 8, 2020
TO: Undergraduate Students
FROM: NYU President Andrew Hamilton and NYU Provost Katherine Fleming

What will the coming year at NYU be like? That's been a pressing question for all our undergraduates – first years and returning students – since we announced our intent to reconvene in person in the fall.

In recent days, the University has written to students about housing and about safety protocols, and we are writing today to give you a clearer – though still developing – picture of academic and student life in the year ahead as we reconvene on campus with an unprecedented set of safety protocols in place.

Our First Priority - Keeping Each Other Safe

Over the last few months, each of us experienced living through the pandemic in some form of self-isolation. As we pivot to reassembling in the fall, we must do so with great care.

We have written to you separately with some preliminary details about our safety and health plans; more details will follow over the summer. NYU's multi-layered plan – with requirements for wearing masks, physical distancing, testing, reducing density in classrooms and residence, contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation – cannot eliminate all the risks, but together its elements can significantly contribute to checking the spread of COVID-19.

Just as vital as our plans and protocols is our personal and mutual sense of responsibility to one another.

When you wear a face covering, when you maintain physical distancing, when you sanitize your hands, and when you forego a hug of greeting, you are not just doing it to keep yourself COVID free; you are also doing it to keep your friends, your faculty members, your roommates, and everyone else healthy, too.

This fall, we all have a responsibility – to keep each other safe.

In the coming weeks, we will be rolling out a set of online learning modules you will be required to watch before arriving on campus, including one on health protocols. And you will receive additional communications reinforcing our safety rules.


The circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to change rapidly. That is why our planning has emphasized flexibility: flexibility in terms of how we will teach and learn, flexibility in terms of making sure you can take courses regardless of whether you can be physically present in a classroom, flexibility in terms of the academic year, and flexibility in case health indicators take a turn for the worse at any of our campuses.

Your Classes

We are committed to providing you the excellent education you expect from NYU. Our aim in reconvening on campus is to make in-person academic engagement part of students' experience. Though that will not be possible in every case, faculty are spending the summer preparing for fall classes, thinking about the best ways to engage students, and devising vibrant educational experiences and ways to immerse you in great ideas and critical thinking regardless of the learning format.

In that vein, we want to remind you of NYU Reads' summer reading selection (required for first-year students, strongly urged for all others): Just Mercy, a timely and fitting memoir of struggle that Bryan Stevenson – lawyer, social justice activist, and NYU Law faculty member – undertook to fight the wrongs and injustices of the criminal justice system. It will be the topic of many discussions in the fall.

Types of Classes

To align with our safety plans, classes will take three forms (or “modalities”) in 2020-2021 (and they will be designated as follows in NYU’s course registration system, Albert):

  • In-person classes: The instruction is in-person, though students unable to get to campus or the classroom may attend remotely
  • Online classes: All of the instruction is remote, whether the course meets at a designated time (synchronous), is self-paced (asynchronous), or a combination of both. Though wholly online, these courses will retain their usual enrollment size and students will have opportunities for regular engagement with the professor
  • Blended classes: A varying mix of in-person and online instruction (please consult Albert for additional, specific course details)

Regardless of modality, every class will make remote attendance possible for the entire semester for students who are studying remotely this fall (such as those confronting travel restrictions or quarantines).

Our safety plans call for six feet (two meters) between students in classrooms and keeping gatherings small. In practice, that will mean considerably fewer students in a given classroom space than normal. It will also mean that large classes – for the most part, those with enrollments of 40 and above – will be taught remotely, though many will break into tutorials, recitation sessions, or other formats for small group, in-person interactions.

Over the summer, we are upgrading audio-visual capabilities in many of our classrooms and are providing resources to faculty to support remote teaching and learning.

Class registration

We are working now to revise course listings in Albert to reflect how courses will be taught in the fall. For courses at the New York campus, this process should be completed by Monday, July 13. Since it may be necessary to reschedule a few in-person or blended classes to ensure that they can be accommodated in appropriately sized classrooms, on July 13 the Registrar will begin notifying returning/continuing students that you will need to resolve scheduling conflicts. In addition, all returning/continuing students will be invited to make any desired changes to their class registrations to ensure that they have a schedule and mix of classes – in-person, blended, and remote – that works for them. Your academic advisor can help you choose the best set of courses for you.

Registration for first-year students will open the week of July 20.

Three-Semester Flexibility

Academic year 2020-2021 will not be a regular year, so NYU is giving you more flexibility in arranging your course load over the fall, spring, and summer without incurring additional costs. We encourage you to work with your academic advisor to choose the mix of classes each semester that suits you.

Remote Attendance and "Go Local" - Locational Flexibility

Travel restrictions, mandated self-quarantines, slowdowns in visa processing – COVID-19 has created many challenges for a university as global and mobile as ours. We recognize that some students will have difficulty getting to their intended NYU location this fall.

In response, every class – including in-person classes – will be available to attend remotely, and many in-person classes will have special online sections reserved for students who plan to attend remotely. Even if you cannot travel as planned, or if you find yourself quarantined for a period, you can carry on your studies without interruption.

Widespread international travel restrictions have made Study Away unrealistic for most students for fall 2020. But within that problem lay a solution for thousands of other students who are unable to travel to their intended fall destination: more than 2,500 students will be making use of the Go Local option we created for the coming fall. This will allow them to go to an NYU location to which they can travel and legally study without the need for additional immigration documentation, and there take a mix of in-person and remote classes.

For those using the “Go Local” option, in addition to being able to access your home campus’ support for internships and jobs, advancing your leadership skills, and developing your artistic or entrepreneurial goals, student life at the global sites will offer opportunities for one-on-one engagement with faculty and other students while respecting local physical distancing and other public health requirements.

Big Ideas

For the fall, we will launch NYU Big Ideas courses, a set of two-credit, online courses with leading thinkers and public figures examining salient issues of the day – inequality, Black Lives Matter, leadership, the role of AI. The Big Ideas courses will be open to all NYU students. More information about these courses will be posted soon; you can find these courses by looking on Albert, selecting the “Academic Threads” filter on the right-hand side, and selecting “Big Ideas course” in the drop-down menu.

US Government Actions Affecting International Students' Visas

On Monday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released guidance requiring any international student studying in the US to be enrolled in at least one in-person or blended class for the duration of the semester. International students who have not yet read yesterday’s email from NYU’s Office of Global Services should do so as soon as possible, as it contains important details to consider regarding fall enrollment. NYU, both directly and working alongside other colleges and universities, is urging the government to reconsider these guidelines.

Student Life

Equity, Diversity, and Justice focused projects. Yoga classes. Student Government sessions. Affinity groups. Meditation and mindfulness programs. Movie parties. Service projects. Social justice efforts. Innovation competitions. Club elections. Advising and mentorship. Concerts. Working out. Job searching. Floor meetings.

While the “how” of these activities may look different this fall, student life at NYU will be vibrant. We know that student learning is not confined to the classroom. Students learn from participating in student organizations; from debates with roommates and friends about issues great and small; and from embracing, modeling and standing up for the values of a diverse and inclusive community.

So, in 2020-2021, you can expect online concerts, speakers, readings, and workshops. You can expect to connect through clubs, governance groups, and affinity groups. You can expect opportunities to participate in social justice programs. If you live in student housing, you can expect to interact with resident assistants and faculty who live in student residence halls. You can expect the full support of the Wasserman Center in advancing your career goals. You can expect to engage with alumni through programs like “My NYU Story,” a set of candid NYU alum interviews conducted by current students and streamed live. You can expect a robust set of activities at the Production Lab, the ELab, the Makerspace, and the Berkley Innovation Labs.

As with academics, we are approaching student life with flexibility in mind. Our traditions, activities, and services for students will be on offer no matter where you might be. And to help foster those moments of serendipity, we are currently setting aside spaces – both inside and out – for safe engagement: together, but with appropriate physical distancing.

Before You Get Here

More information will be forthcoming later in the summer about preparing to come to campus. Be sure to monitor your NYU email for communications from the University and your school or college.

As You Arrive on Campus in New York

For those moving into NYU student housing, we are expanding the usual Move-In Day to several days and will be giving very specific time slots in order to reduce the usual lines and crowding. The University will send you more information on moving in and the necessary preparations in the coming weeks.

The tradition for first-year students of opening with the Presidential Welcome and Reality Show will carry on, albeit virtually. Five brief modules that build on the life skills that the Reality Show celebrates – coping, resiliency, and identity – will now follow. Both counseling and health will be available through tele-health appointments, an approach that students have found to be very satisfying, until we have the green light from public health authorities to resume in-person care widely.


We are reopening our student residence halls, but, in deference to COVID-19, with fewer students on each floor. To meet the need for additional rooms, we are also securing other suitable, off-campus housing. Although we are still finalizing some aspects, we expect this will enable us to house first-years and returning students who applied for housing, and to begin providing them with housing assignments in mid-July. Notwithstanding the changes, resident assistants (RAs) will continue to play a vital role in student life.

The University is also setting aside a group of rooms in case they are needed for quarantine and isolation.

As with your classes, life will be different in the residence halls in 2020-2021. Large group activities will be held remotely instead of in-person. We are working with residence hall staff over the summer to launch more virtual and online activities, and to devise more small group interactions that can be held while physical distancing.

As in other NYU settings, students will be expected to follow the new safety and health rules in the residence halls.


NYU dining services will resume in the fall, but with meal service and seating plans substantially changed, including much more emphasis on food “to go.” We have developed various models for each dining facility, depending on the prevailing health guidance in late August. Students with meal plans will receive more information as we get closer to the start of classes.


The regular habits and practices of recent years won’t work this year. We will need to strive a little harder, do a little more.

And as we do so, we will need to be mindful that the burdens of COVID-19 have not been equal. Its impacts have been disparate, falling harder on already vulnerable communities, socio-economically challenged communities, people with disabilities, and particular communities of color. We must seek to mitigate those inequitable outcomes.

You are students in a leading university in one of the world’s truly great cities at a profound, unprecedented, and historic time. This is a moment for big ideas, and big ideas – their creation, their debate, their dissemination – are what universities are all about.

It may not be a regular year, or an easy year, or the year we might have wished for, but we believe that working together, we will make this a great and memorable year.

Best wishes for the remainder of your summer. You will be hearing more from us before the start of fall classes. And remember to check on NYU’s coronavirus web hub often for the latest news and updates.