BY ISAAC SULTAN | While bars, restaurants and retail shops begin to reopen in the metro area, New York City’s universities have turned their attention to the fall. Administrators are debating how to ensure a safe return to school for students and faculty amid an ongoing global pandemic.
Following two months of remote online classes to end the spring semester, New York University announced it would welcome students back to campus in August for in-person learning, albeit with a host of restrictions and modifications.
“I can’t pretend that 2020-21 will be a typical academic year,” N.Y.U. Provost Katherine Fleming wrote to undergraduates in a May 19 e-mail.
The university plans to enact thorough safety precautions and offer students flexibility to navigate the unprecedented situation. Face masks will be distributed to all students and faculty, efforts will be made to establish social distancing protocols in classrooms, and student housing will be de-densified to limit the potential spread of the virus.
Fleming also announced a creative new initiative dubbed Go Local, which will utilize N.Y.U.’s unique global network of campuses in locations like Shanghai, Abu Dhabi and Florence.
“Go Local is designed for undergraduates who may not be able to travel to their home campus this fall due to the uncertainties and restrictions on travel that COVID-19 has generated around the world,” a statement on the university’s Web site explains.
Under the plan, students would be able to take in-person classes at any one of the 16 N.Y.U. campuses around the world that is closest to them, provided they hold residency rights or citizenship there. For international students studying in the United States, travel restrictions due to COVID-19 have further complicated the experience of attending university in a foreign country.
“We’re committed to ensuring that all of our students receive the high-quality education that drew them to N.Y.U., even though some students will likely be unable to make it to New York,” Fleming said.
According to a June 24 e-mail, more than 4,000 students have already expressed interest in the Go Local option. The university hopes to finalize student campus assignments for the fall semester by July 1.
In addition to Go Local, Fleming said N.Y.U. is thinking of ways for students to spread their courses across two or three semesters in 2021 for more flexibility — with no added tuition costs. She added that some larger lecture classes would likely remain remote and that all in-person classes could potentially move back online if health developments warrant it. Finally, the university plans to offer classes in a “mixed mode,” so that students can participate either in person or remotely, if they prefer.
N.Y.U.’s plan to hold in-person classes is a bit of an outlier, at least in contrast to some of its peer institutions around the country. Harvard and Yale have already announced that all courses would likely remain remote and online during the entire fall semester. Similarly, in New York City, The Cooper Union will continue online classes into the fall, while The New School will make a detailed announcement by July 1.
Under Governor Cuomo’s Moving New York Forward plan, schools will be allowed to reopen in phase four.