Hamilton Advises ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ at Town Hall

NYU’s Student Government Assembly hosted a Town Hall with President Andrew Hamilton discussing NYU’s emergency response protocol, particularly in regard to the growing threat of coronavirus.

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Alex Tran

Panelists at SGA’s Emergency Preparedness Town Hall prepare to speak to the audience. Student Government Chairperson Jakiyah Bradley and NYU President Andrew Hamilton responded to questions submitted online. (Staff Photo by Alex Tran)

By Matthew Fischetti, Deputy News Editor

President Andrew Hamilton and various officials discussed how the university prepares and deals with emergency situations, such as the Coronavirus, during a Town Hall on Monday.

The Town Hall was moderated by Hamilton as well as Student Government Assembly Chairperson and Gallatin senior Jakiyah Bradley. It was held in the form of a panel to address students’ concerns regarding the university’s response to the growing coronavirus epidemic. 

In the last month, NYU has resorted to closing both NYU Shanghai and NYU Florence campuses due to the spread of the virus. Classes at both sites are currently operated virtually through Zoom, an online conference platform.

There is currently one confirmed case of the coronavirus in New York City, but officials at the event reiterated that it is not a member of the NYU community. 

Current Vice President of Global Resiliency and Security Jack Briggs outlined the university’s four-prong approach to emergency preparedness, which includes mitigating the problem, planning for probable issues, response and recovery. 

“We’re in the monitoring phase but we’re also in the mitigation and planning phase — we haven’t had to respond yet but we’re trying to be ahead of that,” Briggs said. “I can tell you that there are meetings going all day long for the last month to be able to adapt to this.”

Despite student complaints about the university’s short notice announcement to close the NYU Florence campus, Briggs referred to the administrative response as a success because students were able to leave before the imposition of any travel restrictions that could force students to be stranded in the region. 

Associate Vice President for Student Health Carlo Ciotoli and an associate director for the Counseling and Wellness center, Luis Ramirez, also spoke at the Town Hall to discuss how the university can provide health resources during emergencies. 

Around 200 students from NYU Shanghai who were deemed medium risk by the CDC’s Travel guidelines have been “actively monitored” by the university, Ciotoli said. 

Students being monitored received daily messages, asking them for their temperatures and whether they showed signs of the virus — including coughing and shortness of breath. Ciotoli also said that administration received around a 90% response rate to the messages and that those who didn’t respond received a follow up message to confirm their health status. 

Currently, only the CDC has the ability to perform testing for the coronavirus, but Ciotoli said he expected NY State and City officials to provide testing resources soon.

One student asked how the Student Wellness Center would be able to serve students in an emergency when wait times are already notoriously long during non-emergency periods. 

“With the staff that we do have on board we are able to manage the flow, it would be a different way of working and connecting students, but I feel confident we would be able to handle the flow,” Ramirez said in response.

Administrators also heavily emphasized personal preparedness, saying students should have resources in case they are displaced. Photocopies of prescriptions, contact lists and first aid kits were among the items listed in a pamphlet distributed at the event.

SGA Senator-At-Large for first-generation and low-income students and Steinhardt senior Karen Lemus raised a question about how the university would handle the monetary cost often accompanying emergency response.

“I think at this point, I’ll wait to see how they interact with the student population to figure out an emergency fund,” Lemus told WSN. “So I’m just waiting to see what actual actions they’ll implement instead of just hearing what they have to say.”

In response to a question about a potential surge of the virus in Manhattan, Hamilton said he would leave the question to medical officials and instead referred to a phrase often cited in his home country of Great Britain.

“You’ve all seen those mugs and you’ve all seen those t-shirts that were made in many respects for even worse times — which was during the Second World War — and that was the mug that says ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’,” Hamilton said during the panel. “It was right then and it’s right today — that we need to keep calm, be ready to respond to changing circumstances, but most of all, to carry on with our normal lives.”

Correction, March 3: This article previously misstated the name of NYU’s Student Government Assembly. The article has since been updated to reflect this correction and WSN regrets the error.

Email Matthew Fischetti at [email protected]