Taking Stock — Looking Ahead to Fall 2021
Date: May 12, 2021
TO: The NYU Community
FROM: Andrew Hamilton, President; Martin Dorph, Exec. Vice President; Carlo Ciotoli, Exec. Lead, COVID-19 Prevention and Response Team; Linda Mills, Vice Chancellor and Senior Vice Provost for Global Programs and University Life and Gigi Dopico, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs
With the end of spring semester fast approaching, courses for fall 2021 already posted*, registration opening on May 24, and case positivity trending downward at NYU and in NYC, we want to look ahead and share more details of our plans for academic year 2021-22.
COVID-19 has followed an unpredictable course, and public health guidance has shifted in response to it, necessitating shifts in NYU’s health and safety practices. Accordingly, the plans we outline are not final in a number of respects and are subject to change; are dependent on public health guidance, local health conditions, safety requirements/restrictions; and assume high vaccination rates among the NYU community. Nonetheless, given the generally positive direction of markers we are tracking, we are comfortable sharing these forecasts with the NYU community.
Teaching and Research
The vast majority of classes will be in-person, and classrooms will operate at or near their normal capacity, barring unexpected developments. We will continue to require mask-wearing, in accordance with public health guidelines.
We are also planning for laboratories and other research facilities to operate in-person and at or near their normal capacity with mandatory mask-wearing.
We expect that all students and faculty will be back on campus and in our classrooms and labs this fall. We recognize, however, that some students — in particular, international students — may not be able to make it to their home campus in September due to reasons beyond their control; please know we will work with you during this transition time to provide options that allow you to continue your studies. For the most part, though, students and faculty should plan to be on campus for in-person instruction, and all students should register for courses as you normally would.
Assuming high rates of vaccination among NYUers, persistent low rates of classroom transmission, and the City’s successful reopening, we believe this is an appropriate course, and one that we know the NYU community is, on the whole, looking forward to.
The Performing Arts
Performing arts will also resume in-person instruction for the majority of classes. Some forms of performing arts — particularly those involving dynamic activity or increased aerosol production (eg, wind instruments) will, however, continue to have physical distancing requirements. We will closely follow CDC and state guidance, as well as new industry standards for the arts.
We expect to resume in-person Study Away at all of our sites (except Sydney, where we anticipate current immigration restrictions will remain in place) for fall 2021. Mask-wearing in class will be required, and normal classroom occupancy will be in place where possible; however, in all cases, classroom density/physical distancing will be set in line with local public health guidance. We are currently assessing whether we will be able to resume normal occupancy in Study Away student housing, or if we will continue to operate in a reduced capacity.
Many courses at Study Away sites will be offered in a blended format, facilitating attendance by international students unable to travel to their home campus.
Though international travel is expanding and student visas are being permitted even while other visa types are not, there remain significant potential challenges for international students (visa backlogs, limited flights, etc.).
NYU is committed to the academic progress of all our students. We will continue to closely monitor the range of issues that may have an impact on international students and communicate our plans to accommodate and support them, including through the Study Away sites, as well as the extension of our “Go Local” program at NYU Shanghai.
International graduate students are encouraged to be in touch with their individual school’s Dean’s Office.
While we will reserve some rooms in housing for isolation and quarantine, our aim is to otherwise permit normal occupancy of student residence halls, including lounges and other common spaces. We will be reviewing, in line with public health guidance, our residence hall policies, including guest/visitation policies for the Fall 2021 semester.*
We will resume our customary program of meal service with a full range of dietary options — kosher, halal, vegetarian/vegan, etc — as well as sit-down or takeaway meals, grab-and-go locations, and catering. Distancing requirements and other food-service specific COVID-19 protocols in dining halls will be based on the latest public health guidelines.*
We expect to resume intercollegiate and club sports, and intramural athletic competition. We also expect to reopen our fitness facilities.
Campus Life, Meetings, Clubs, and Similar Activities
We are looking forward to offering a range of in-person and virtual events, programs and activities this fall.
Administrative Operations/Employee Work Life
Return to Campus
As much of our classroom, student support and research activities return to an in-person experience, we expect that our administrative operations that support these functions will also return to in-person status in the Fall. Over the past 15 months, in the face of many hurdles, moving to remote and hybrid work enabled the continuity of university operations. We are thankful to all in the university community for the incredible resilience and flexibility they demonstrated during this period. This includes all of our community members who worked or studied remotely, as well as our many essential employees, who continued to report on campus daily. We recognize that the transition to in-person operating status will be an adjustment, particularly for those who have been remote for much of this time. We will need to continue to be vigilant in following public health guidelines; to recognize that the transition back to campus — like the transition to remote — will have its own challenges; and to be cognizant that we will not know all of the challenges in advance. We trust that patience and flexibility will be common virtues.
We will use the summer to review units’ plans for bringing employees back to campus and further examine the role of teleworking. We know it will require some adjustments, so, just as importantly, we want to use summer to support our employees’ gradual transition back to campus.
Between now and July 1, there is likely to be minimal need to bring back administrators and staff who have been working remotely these past few months; we know some specific areas of operation may be bringing staff back during this period. The months of July and August would be used as a ramp up period, allowing our employees to readjust gradually to in-person, on-campus, and allowing managers and supervisors to address issues as they arise as we approach the start of the fall semester.
There will, of course, be a process for necessary, appropriate accommodations. We will provide additional details over the coming weeks.
We will still have the same essential community health goals in 2021-22 as we did this year: to safeguard the well-being of students, faculty, and employees and fight the spread of COVID-19 within our community and in the surrounding NYC community, while carrying out our academic mission. We are optimistic that high rates of vaccination will allow us to achieve these goals, while easing certain requirements.
Achieving high rates of vaccination is important both for reducing COVID-19 spread as well as for making decisions about campus activities, restrictions, and requirements.
Vaccines are now widely available in most parts of the United States. In New York City and the tristate area, many vaccination sites, including most pharmacies, now offer same-day appointments or even the ability to walk-in and immediately get vaccinated. NYU’s on-campus vaccination site is also available by appointment to current students, faculty, and employees. Go to the Vaccines on Campus webpage on the NYU Vaccine Hub for instructions on making an appointment on-campus. Get vaccinated promptly — the available vaccines are safe, effective, and free. It’s the most important step you can take to keep yourself and those around you safe.
NYU is requiring all those studying at its US sites to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before the fall semester begins (while also providing medical and religious exemptions). We anticipate that this requirement will extend to NYU’s Study Away locations by fall. Vaccinated US based faculty and employees are required to upload their proof of vaccination. Visit the NYU Returns Vaccine Hub for more information about these requirements, qualifying vaccines, how to upload your proof of vaccination, considerations for international students and those who do not have access to FDA or WHO authorized vaccines, on-campus vaccination, and other questions and support.
Required Uploading of Proof of Vaccination
Having a clear picture of what percentage of the campus community has been vaccinated is extremely important, so NYU is requiring all vaccinated students, faculty, and employees in the US to upload proof of their vaccination. We have recently launched a process for uploading that information to the Student Health Center Portal.
- Those vaccinated through the Student Health Center will have their vaccination information automatically uploaded; they do not need to take any other actions.
- Those vaccinated off-campus or through NYU Langone will need to manually upload their proof of vaccination.
You can find instructions for uploading proof of vaccination here.
Changes to Testing and Quarantine Protocols for Fully Vaccinated Students and Employees
Effective June 7, students, faculty, and employees who are fully vaccinated and have uploaded their proof of vaccination and had it validated will be exempt from NYU’s ongoing Community Testing program and — effective immediately — from quarantining following close contact exposure to someone with COVID-19 (assuming no symptoms). Regardless of vaccination status, anyone with close contact exposure, a positive test, and/or symptoms of COVID-19 are still required to complete the self-report form. Visit the NYU Vaccine Hub for the full criteria you must satisfy in order to be exempt from NYU’s testing program and quarantine.
Mask-wearing will likely continue to be required while in NYU buildings (with limited exceptions) and on outside property, such as plazas, courtyards, outside seating, and loading docks.
Health Protocols for the Fall
Academic Year 2020-21 was marked by routines such as daily temperature checks, completing the Daily Screener, travel quarantine, physical distancing, and weekly or bi-weekly testing. Determining what will be required of NYU community members in fall 2021 will depend to a large extent on public health guidance that is still forthcoming. We will communicate again as details become firmer.
Conclusion: The Path to Start of 2021-22
As the semester has progressed, more NYUers and New Yorkers have been vaccinated, and positivity rates and new cases per day have fallen. This should give us all greater confidence about our plans to reconvene in fall 2021 on campus and permit many more in-person activities and operations than was the case in 2020-21.
There will still be safety protocols in place for the fall. We will continue to closely watch for signs of COVID-19 spread in our community. And we will closely follow public health guidance as well as data about infection levels in the City.
Though we will not quite resume all our pre-COVID-19 activities, we very much look forward to a less restrictive, more relaxed, more engaged year.
We will continue to communicate as planning advances and circumstances develop.
*Certain dates or policies may vary by school, such as at the School of Law. When in doubt, please check with your school and follow the local guidance.