TO: NYU Students

FROM: Marc Wais, Senior Vice President for Student Affairs

DATE: September 3, 2020

Dear NYU Student,

From the University of Notre Dame to SUNY Oneonta (which sent students home today), schools are having to pivot away from in-person instruction or close due to COVID-19 outbreaks on campus. These outbreaks have been largely attributed to social gatherings off-campus or in crowded bars and clubs; typically, they’ve involved a combination of no masks, a lack of physical distancing, and alcohol. Sometimes called ”superspreader" events, they’ve resulted in dozens of people going on to infect many others and shutting down campuses.

These are the kinds of incidents that most concern us. And New York State’s strict new guidelines for colleges likely reflect the State’s recognition of these incidents’ negative effects: that a single, crowded, careless party could create conditions that put NYU and the larger community at risk, harming not only older community members — faculty and employees — but younger ones, triggering a pivot to remote learning, and changing the course of the fall semester for everyone.

I don’t believe anyone wants to be responsible for that — to ruin all the effort that thousands of students put into quarantining, to undo the work that’s been done to enhance safety, or to frustrate the wishes of the thousands who want in-person classes.

The University has no desire to subject its students to conduct proceedings. We have no wish to create a “Gotcha!” atmosphere or to pursue minor, passing deviations from our safety and health rules. However, as President Hamilton and others have expressed, we take the COVID-19 threat very seriously. Indeed, many among you have already heard of peers who have gone through disciplinary proceedings — and received sanctions — as a result of COVID-19 violations. Consequently, many of you have asked for additional clarity about what you can do, safely.

While this is uncharted territory for all of us, there are still ways to engage safely. Let us try to offer some additional guidance on what you should and shouldn’t do, and the potential actions that the University can take if there is a student violation.

What you can and should do to stay safe:

  • Wear face coverings at all times, even when taking photos.
  • Physically distance. Whether dining outside, working out, or attending a protest — please do your best to ensure 6 feet/2 meters of spacing, no matter how many people are around. Please try to avoid situations where this isn’t possible, particularly over a prolonged period.
  • Keep to small groups of people, and preferably out-of-doors. Even if you are out in public with just your roommate/suitemate(s), continue to physically distance and wear masks.
  • Take a walk in the park with a friend or a roommate. In fact, we hope you’ll take advantage of the beautiful NYC fall weather, and explore all the city has to offer.
  • Watch the University’s health and safety video and see the Resource list below for further information.
  • Expect to be held accountable for observing NYU’s safety and health rules and any public health guidelines even if you are off-campus. Regardless of setting, regardless of the reason for the gathering, the University’s policies on mask-wearing and physical distancing remain in effect.
  • Report instances of non-compliance to

On the other hand, the following are problematic:

  • Parties conducted for the purpose of flouting the health rules;
  • Parties or other gatherings, on- or off-campus, without masks and/or where physical distancing can’t occur;
  • Gatherings in confined spaces, inside or outside, that prevent physical distancing;
  • Using substances in a way that may potentially impair your judgement or make you more lax about risk-reduction measures;
  • Violating required quarantines.

In other words, stay away from gatherings where there are no masks or distancing, even at off-campus private residences.

The University will investigate every report it receives of an alleged violation of our student conduct policies and public health guidelines. Sanctions may include restriction from campus (remote learning only), immediate removal from the residence halls and cancellation of the housing license, or suspension from the University. In general, if a student is found to have participated in a gathering that impacts the community's health and safety, including by violating public health guidelines, they will likely be suspended for one academic semester. If a student is found to be the instigator of a party that impacts the community's health and safety, including by violating public health guidelines, they will likely be suspended for the full academic year.


These are uncertain times and the University is here to support you. As always, NYU's Wellness Exchange is available 24 hours a day/7 days a week. Learn more about our medical and mental health services.

As we approach this weekend — the first of the semester, and a long weekend, as well — I want you to know that we believe in you. We know from experience, particularly during the last several days and weeks, that NYU students are smart, hardworking, talented, bold, innovative, and caring. We trust that you will continue to be thoughtful and responsible in your decision making. At the end of the day, we will only succeed as a community with a shared commitment to keep each other safe.

We welcome student feedback and suggestions as to how we can get everyone to follow NYU’s and public health guidelines. Please write to me at

Thank you for your attention to this letter; it is greatly appreciated. Take care, be well, and stay safe.