NYU students have been left confused, surprised and scrambling following NYU President Andrew Hamilton’s announcement on Monday, March 16 that New York residence halls will close effective Sunday, March 22.
“We realize and appreciate how calmly and resiliently you have responded to the confoundingly fast changes brought about by COVID-19’s spread; it has been a source of pride and has helped brace us,” Hamilton’s email announcing the closures began.
Students must move out of the dorms by Sunday, March 22, but preferably within 48 hours of the email being sent. Students will be offered prorated refunds on the housing costs. Law students, medical students and students in the Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at NYU Langone Health are not required to leave their housing, according to the email.
For students unable to return after leaving for spring break and those who cannot take their belongings with them, boxes and address forms will be provided so that the university can pack and ship items to students.
Steinhardt junior Gizem Kurtbolat commented that when her Greenwich Hall dorm-mates left for home, they thought they would be returning to the dorms.
“They left a lot of food in the fridge thinking they could come back and a lot of their stuff was still on their bed — for example, bedsheets and some of their stuff that was still on the table, their books or stuff that they brought to make themselves feel at home,” Kurtbolat said. “They packed the essentials and left the things that they would normally pack at the end of the semester.”
CAS sophomore Tina Vong lives in Coral Towers Residence Hall and is from Macau, a city outside of Hong Kong. Vong was planning on staying in her dorm after Hamilton communicated that classes may resume in-person on April 19th and was surprised by the announcement that residence halls would close. In the rush to find a plane ticket to meet the March 22 deadline, she was only able to find a 29-hour connecting flight home to her family.
“It’s such a short notice,” Vong said. “They could have told us way in the beginning when everyone started going home and we chose to stay because they told us it’s until April 19th, but then giving us a week to book flights and pack everything — it’s crazy especially for international students.”
CAS Senior Ines Yildiz and Vong, who live in Alumni Hall and Coral Towers respectively, both noted decreased support in the dorms themselves. Resource Centers in both halls are open for only one hour a day and resident assistants have been unavailable.
“No physical person has tried to check in on me,” Yildiz said. “It gets really lonely and also when a dorm functions normally, there’s always programs to ensure that students have somewhat of a social life. But then all of a sudden not only are you isolated, but also we don’t really care anymore. We just want to know the population of the building.”
Vong also felt that the main concern was keeping track of who was still in the building, and not those people’s wellbeing.
“There’s basically no one,” Vong said “They didn’t check on us, but they know which rooms are occupied because they stuck a note on the door and called it a day.”
Kurtbolat is currently staying with her boyfriend, but plans to return to her home in Turkey. She and Vong are both concerned about how the time difference between their homes and New York are going to impact their classes.
“If I continue the rest of my semester abroad, I have to wake up at 3:30 a.m.,” Vong said. “When my grades get bad it’s going to be their fault.”
Kurtbolat is also concerned about the time difference.
“Some of [my classes] require them for me to engage; they’re going to be at night, my family is going to be asleep,” she said. “My brother also has classes. I don’t want to keep everybody else up.”
CAS sophomore Ivan Benitez thought the university could have been more forward-thinking in its communications.
“I think they could have been a little more proactive with it, saying, ‘Okay, we’re going to be canceling classes after seeing all these other campuses canceling classes around the area and around the country,’” he said. “I think that maybe they could have not led students on in the way that they did.”
Vice President of Student Affairs Marc Wais sent a follow-up email on Tuesday, March 17 addressing some of these concerns.
“I can promise you that it is not the case that NYU knew all along that it was going to end up here,” Wais wrote. “We communicated as quickly as we could after making the decision so you would have as much of spring break week as possible to make arrangements to pack up your room. Moreover, over the past six weeks we have done our best to provide the NYU community with timely information.”
But advance notice wouldn’t have solved the problem for every NYU hall resident. Yildiz is a French citizen whose family lives in Canada. Yildiz is in the process of applying for optional practical training — a visa option which allows them to remain and work in the United States for up to three years after graduation. While under review for this visa, Yildiz cannot leave the country without risking their OPT request be rejected. Yildiz is planning on staying with friends for the time being.
“I shouldn’t leave or it’s invalidated and it’ll be taken away from me,” Yildiz said. “I know where I’m moving to, but I could very easily have nowhere to go.”
Yildiz, like Vong, was irritated by the timing of the email.
“The timing makes no sense because you’re asking students to come back from spring break and to leave immediately after,” Yildiz said. “It makes no sense financially, it makes no sense in terms of containing the virus, it makes no sense period.”
Email Emily Mason at [email protected]