NYU Denies Visiting Puerto Rican Students Additional Semester


Julia Moses

NYU President Hamilton speaking at the welcome reception for the students from Puerto Rico on January 25th, 2018. A number of these students are now asking Hamilton to extend the program.

Natalie Chinn and Yasmin Gulec

The Hurricane Maria Assistance Program visiting students will not return for an additional semester, despite the HMAP Students Initiative’s request to stay. The request was supported by 27 out of the 57 students who came to NYU with the program that covered tuition, meal plans, housing and healthcare.

President Andrew Hamilton announced this decision Wednesday afternoon in a response to the Initiative’s letter, imploring the university to extend the existing program by one additional semester, which was sent out on April 27. The response was sent to the spokesperson of the Students Initiative, who requested to remain anonymous. According to Hamilton, the program will terminate at the end of the spring 2018 semester as planned.

In its letter addressed to Hamilton, the HMAP Students Initiative expressed concerns about returning to Puerto Rico, as the territory has made limited progress in recovering from the damage of Hurricane Maria, which struck on the 20th of September. Three versions of the letter were sent out and signed by different NYU groups — student groups, faculty and individuals.

In his response, Hamilton explained how NYU’s deal with Puerto Rican universities to create HMAP had an expiration date.

“[The] agreements that we have in place with your home institutions are limited to the spring 2018 semester,” the letter read. “Based on recent conversations, we know that many of your schools would not support extending the agreements, which are necessary for your credits to be recognized back home.”

Hamilton’s email also said there is not support to extend the program from the universities the HMAP students are visiting from. There are still concerns from Puerto Rican institutions about losing top students to mainland universities.

Universities in Puerto Rico are fully functioning and ready to receive the students who left the island to continue their education without interruptions, according to Hamilton’s email to the Initiative. In the letter, Hamilton expresses how the students’ returns to Puerto Rico are essential to the recovery of these universities.

“Based on our conversations with representatives from schools in Puerto Rico, we believe that extending our program would in fact cause harm to their own recovery efforts, and we know they are relying on each of you to play an important role in that work,” the letter read.

On May 1st The New York Times reported that NYU and other universities were given funding from the Department of Education and “strongly urged” to use the money to assist students affected by the hurricane. These students were still asked to pay tuition to their home university without any costs to NYU.

“NYU did not seek, nor expect, any federal funding for this program; NYU wasn’t even aware of this funding until the Times inquired,” Associate Vice Chancellor, Global Programs & Mobility Service Josh Taylor said in an email to WSN.  “Furthermore, we are seeking to return these funds to the Department of Education so that they can be reallocated where they are most needed — to institutions in Puerto Rico.”

Taylor added that NYU contacted the Times to issue a correction. He also said NYU will offer five month-long fellowships to professors at Puerto Rican universities.

“The university is working with the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies on an initiative they have taken the lead on to create five one-month fellowships for professors — including faculty, artists and researchers — from Puerto Rico at NYU this July,” Taylor said. “Fellows will receive housing, and a stipend to cover travel and living expenses.”

Additionally he said that the Faculty Resource Network Summer program — a professional development initiative that sponsors programs like seminars and lectures for faculty members from over 50 colleges and universities. This will allow a larger participation of scholars from the University of Puerto Rico and University of the Sacred Heart.

Additional reporting by Pamela Jew

Email Yasmin Gulec and Natalie Chinn at [email protected].