Date: January 13, 2022
To:  NYU Faculty
From:  Katherine Fleming, Provost

Dear Colleagues,

I know how hard you’ve worked these past couple of years to ensure that NYU’s students continued to make academic progress even as many of you struggled with COVID-related hardships in your own lives. You’ve been outstanding.

It would have been ideal if the dividend of all your dedication and of our very high rates of vaccination had been a straightforward and easy start to spring classes. It looks like it won’t be.

Even amid hopeful signs that Omicron may be peaking in New York City, and is now on what we all hope will be a rapid descent, the first weeks of the semester are likely to be bumpy. Some students will have trouble traveling to campus in time for the start of classes. Some will test positive and need to isolate for a number of days during the semester; others will need to quarantine. Some faculty will test positive, too.

Omicron-related disruptions will require that an uncommon degree of flexibility be built into your teaching so that the students who for a few days cannot attend class in person can, nevertheless, keep up with coursework and not be disadvantaged academically. This is especially likely to be the case during the first couple of weeks of the semester, as pre-arrival testing causes students who test positive to stay home for a little while.

I hasten to clarify that it will be up to you to determine what specific provisions to make for students who can’t be present in person. You can work with your schools and departments and in keeping with your Dean’s guidance and with what you feel works best for your course. I know that turning on Zoom, while simultaneously attending to in-person students, can be challenging, especially for some classes. So some schools are instead asking faculty to record their lectures or to provide students with materials they can access asynchronously in order to keep up. Here are some resources for various approaches.

Please don’t switch your course to remote unless you yourself need to isolate or quarantine as the result of having tested positive or having been exposed – our plan is to restart in person, and so in person classes should begin in person. And, I trust your good judgment to do what is best for our students and to determine, if the level of student absences is extraordinarily high, whether a short-term pivot to remote might make sense. And please inform your department chair if at any time during the semester, due to your own isolation or quarantining, you need to temporarily pivot to remote instruction for a few days.

While extra measures will be essential this semester, and particularly at the beginning, we’ve communicated to students that these are short-term measures; the extra flexibility at the start of the semester is meant to be granted on a temporary basis.

Realistically, your planning should also include how your course will proceed if you test positive for COVID: if you have to isolate at home for five days, how will your course proceed? Here your plans are likely to be the same as they would be in any “normal” semester – if we can remember a world without COVID, we’ll remember that absences can be caused by all sorts of unforeseen circumstances!

I really can’t thank you enough for all your effort, your devotion to NYU’s students, and your steadfastness. It has been a slog for all of us, but especially for you. Thank you.


Katherine Fleming, Provost

Keep each other Safe