Date: January 19, 2022
To: NYU Students
From: Rafael Rodriguez, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students

Dear NYU Student,

Right now, you are probably focused on the start of the spring semester, and particularly the resumption of in-person classes amidst a booster requirement and tightened restrictions on campus activities such as dining, events, and even just working out in one of the sports facilities. The restrictions probably come as unwelcome news coming atop what has already been a pretty long period of hardships both large and small in your life caused by COVID-19.

But I’d like to give you some context for why we’re doing what we’re doing, and to encourage you to think beyond the very start of the semester. The fact is, we hope for less restrictive conditions later in the semester, just as you do, but the pathway to getting there lies through being extra careful in the beginning of the semester.

A Strong Safety Foundation, and the Emergence of the Omicron Variant

We will start the semester with a strong foundation for health and safety. We have very high rates of vaccination in our community, a booster requirement, a testing program, a universal mask-wearing policy, and the Daily Screener in place. And, thankfully, the sharp spike NYU and New York saw in new cases has begun to steeply decline. In just a short time, new cases in New York have declined steeply since their peak, in keeping with some of the predictive models.

However, for the time being, we still need to make adjustments that respond sensibly to the presence of the Omicron variant. By and large, the classroom is not the issue — both at NYU and at other universities, classrooms have shown themselves to be among the lowest-risk spaces that any member of our community can be in. Instead, it’s the many other parts of campus life where we need to take extra precautions in order to prevent a rise in cases here at NYU. And so, we are starting the semester with restrictions we would have preferred not to have.

We know some of these restrictions are less than ideal; however, interventions like “Grab and go” meal service will help prevent the spread of COVID that results from hundreds of people congregating with masks off to eat.

I want you to know that University Leadership is acutely aware of the difficulties that policies like this impose on you, and we aim to make changes as soon as safety allows.

Precautions Now to Achieve Fewer Restrictions Later

Just as we have previously, we start the semester with greater restrictions in hopes of loosening restrictions as the semester progresses and conditions improve. Remember, that’s what happened in the fall — over the course of the semester, as conditions improved on campus, we were able to lift restrictions and permit more activities, at least until Omicron showed up.

While COVID-19 has proven to constantly evolve, we can say three things: first, the current state of affairs won’t go on forever. We do want to lift restrictions as public health safety and prudence permit. Second, the way to get there involves both a more restrictive environment to start with and a real commitment by everyone to exercise additional caution that will, in turn, help prevent the spread of the virus and set the groundwork for restoring activities that are currently restricted. And third, we know that the start of spring 2022 will involve hurdles of various sorts, and that is why we have built in more flexibility in terms of your arrival on campus and your in-person attendance in class to make things a bit easier for you.

Final Thoughts

Together, we can get through this. I believe better times are not far off. In the meantime, if you’re struggling, there are lots of people and resources to help you — residence hall staff; dean’s offices; the Wellness Exchange and the Student Health Center; Student Affairs staff; your faculty and your friends. And if you see someone having a hard time, then reach out, lend a hand, put them in touch with folks who can help, and remind them that things will get better and, hopefully, not too long from now.

Take care, stay strong, and let us know how you’re doing.

Sincerely,

Rafael Rodriguez
Associate Vice President and Dean of Students