Date: April 2, 2020
To: Full-Time Faculty
From: NYU Provost Katherine Fleming

Dear Colleagues,

I hope you are all well, but I know that some of you aren’t. I extend my sincere solidarity and concern to everyone.

The global and personal impacts of COVID-19 are immense and still mounting. In this dramatic context, the entire NYU community is being asked to do what is needed to keep the university moving. More than 99% of our spring classes are still running. That’s entirely thanks to you and your dedication to our students. I’m extremely grateful. I want to be sure you’re all aware of changes to grading policy and course evaluation procedures for this semester:

Pass/Fail grades

To relieve some of the pressure that students may be facing as a result of COVID-19-related disruptions, we extended the deadline by which students may elect to take courses Pass/Fail (P/F) rather than for a letter grade. The new deadline is Reading Day, Tuesday, May 12, the day before Final Exam Period begins. We’ve also urged schools to be as flexible as possible in lifting restrictions on both the number and type of courses students may take P/F this semester. Each school will make its own decisions as to how P/F options apply; faculty members should follow protocols within their schools. Finally, the Registrar will add a note on official NYU transcripts so that P/F grades taken this semester are not counted against students.

Student course evaluations

In light of COVID-19, teaching has had to adapt rapidly; faculty teaching performance for the spring semester of 2020 will be evaluated in this context. An ad hoc University-wide committee of faculty and administrators has been meeting since Fall 2019 to consider revisions to course evaluations in response to concerns raised by the Faculty Councils during AY 2018-19. That committee is making recommendations about best practices for student course evaluations; some of them may be piloted this spring. Consistent with an Undergraduate Academic Affairs Committee (PDF) advisory of 2014 recommending that student course evaluations not be used as a primary means of evaluating teaching, Spring 2020 course evaluations will not be used in the formal assessment of faculty for reappointment or tenure or promotion.

Here are some updates on other matters I’ve been asked about:

Requesting delays to approved sabbaticals

Some of you with approved sabbaticals for the 2020-21 academic year have asked whether they can be postponed. My office is talking with deans and directors about how approved sabbaticals can be delayed in cases where doing so won’t negatively affect schools or departments. Deans and directors will be sharing that information soon if they haven’t already.

Tenure review

At my request, the Executive Committee of the NYU Board of Trustees has approved a one-year extension of the tenure clock for tenure-track faculty not currently under tenure review. A 12-month extension will apply for tenure review cycles that begin in fall semester as well as for those that begin in spring semester. Tenure reviews that are already underway and tenure reviews for lateral hires and newly hired tenure-track faculty joining for the academic year 2020-21 are not affected. [Please see my March 25th email to Deans and Directors and Tenured/Tenure-Track Faculty for detail.]

Faculty promotions on schedule

There are no delays to regular faculty promotions. Promotions will proceed on the normal schedule.

Now comes the harder part. We are starting to try to face the longer haul. I need the faculty to know that the impact of COVID-19 on the university budget will be extraordinary. We’re going to have to make trade-offs so as to sustain the university’s core functions. It’s also a priority for me and my colleagues in the administration that we keep our community intact. I am overjoyed to be able to assure you that all of our employees – faculty, administrators, staff, student workers – continue to be paid.

We need to make adjustments across the board to absorb some of the blow dealt by this unprecedented crisis and to keep the university intact and running. Here are a few specifics that affect the faculty realm.

Faculty Hiring

Faculty and administrative hiring are going to be curtailed. While formal offers already made will of course be honored, searches that haven’t been concluded – with very few exceptions – must be paused.

Faculty research funds

Non-essential travel and onsite research have been suspended for this spring, and likely through the summer. In-person, onsite research and also conference travel will probably be severely constrained in academic year 2020-21. Schools won’t be able to allocate additional faculty research or travel funds during the 2020-21 academic year, although current balances will be rolled over for future use. The university will endeavor to honor research and travel fund agreements that were negotiated as a part of faculty start-up packages. As much as possible, please minimize spending from start-up and other university research funds for the next 90 days, which is an especially critical period for us. This policy will be reviewed in 90 days, after which I’ll update you on any changes.

University travel

Some faculty have asked when they can make plans for summer research or conference travel. We can’t predict what the public health situation will look like for summer. Faculty who are considering university-funded travel for summer or fall will need to hold off on planning it until federal health guidelines and university policy become less restrictive and the situation becomes clearer.


NYU has restricted ongoing onsite research to that which is deemed critical. Critical research is defined on the research website, which also lists restrictions on externally and internally funded research budgets.

These financial realities are unavoidable, and I need you to be aware of them. I am very sorry that this message arrives at a moment when you’re already making extraordinary efforts to meet your faculty responsibilities.

I know that your personal lives also face great pressure. I’ve been speaking directly with as many faculty as time allows and am inspired by your professionalism and also kindness. I’ve also been deeply distressed to learn of the huge challenges and tragedies this crisis has brought to many of you. They put my own situation in perspective. We will need all of our continued strength and commitment to do the work that will keep the university going and that will keep us going.   

Thank you for your support of our students and of one another in the midst of this unspeakable challenge.