Museum Gateway Program Is Suspended for the Semester

As New York City slowly reopens, students and faculty wonder when the university will provide students free access to museums again.

The+Metropolitan+Museum+of+Art+used+to+be+one+of+the+many+New+York+City+museums+where+NYU+students+could+patronise+for+free+or+a+reduced+price.+The+Museum+Gateway+program+is+now+closed%2C+during+the+same+semester+when+tuition+has+gone+up.+%28Staff+Photo+by+Jake+Capriotti%29

Jake Capriotti

The Metropolitan Museum of Art used to be one of the many New York City museums where NYU students could patronise for free or a reduced price. The Museum Gateway program is now closed, during the same semester when tuition has gone up. (Staff Photo by Jake Capriotti)

By Rachel Fadem, Staff Writer

NYU’s Museum Gateway program will remain suspended for the rest of the academic year, even though many museums in New York City have reopened to the public. Now, students are wondering if and when the university has plans to reinstate the program, which gave them access to multiple museums in the city for free.

The Museum Gateway program was “on pause” for the Fall 2020 semester, as NYU Local reported last Oct. The Museum Gateway’s Facebook page no longer exists. According to university spokesperson John Beckman, it was taken down because the program was suspended. 

Marc Wais, the Senior Vice President for Student Affairs, confirmed that the program is halted for the rest of the academic year and added that it will most likely resume after the pandemic. 

“Our expectation is that when public health guidance changes and COVID-19 is no longer a threat, we will resume the Museum Gateway Program in the fall of 2021,” Wais wrote in a statement to WSN.

According to Beckman, the program remains suspended because the university has reservations about indoor activities having crowds. 

“While it is the case that restrictions are easing in many places and many sectors, that is happening amidst a good deal of skepticism and concern,” Beckman wrote in a statement to WSN. “We are not prepared to embrace every restriction that lifts right away. And that’s the overriding issue with the Gateway program.”

Guidelines on New York City’s website designate museums employing proper screening, cleaning, mask-wearing and social-distancing measures as “low-risk indoor activities.” 

New York State guidelines also designate museums as “low-risk.” Museums such as the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, have implemented safety measures in order to comply with city and state public health guidelines and recommendations. 

Tisch alum Josh Khrister Magpantay shared his frustration with the suspension of the Museum Gateway program on Twitter in February. His thread gained traction within the NYU community and started a discussion about museum access during the Spring 2021 semester. 

[F]reshman me really just used to traipse around this fucking island going from museum to museum for free and then [the program] just stopped like it wasn’t gonna be expensive to go to them later,” Magpantay wrote.

The Museum Gateway was formative to Magpantay’s experience at NYU and gave him access to museums he might otherwise have been unable to attend.

“I was at NYU on scholarship, and work-study, and four jobs to be able to feed myself,” Magpantay told WSN. “I wouldn’t have been able to sacrifice the time to pay $15 to get to a museum if it wasn’t free.”

Julia Robinson, an associate professor of Art History at the College of Arts & Science, understands why NYU originally put the program on pause. But as vaccine distribution begins, she struggles to understand why the university has not reinstated it. As an academic in a field that requires visits to museums multiple times a year, Robinson recognizes that current admission prices of museums are unfair and prohibitive.

“[High costs are] against the interests of the kind of access that allows one to learn by the reinforcement of feeling free to visit as often as one can,” Robinson wrote in an email to WSN. “For students, who may be more hesitant about building museum visits into their schedules and staying informed on new exhibitions, this obstacle to easy access is unfortunate.”

According to Beckman, NYU provided more aid to students this year and avoided wide-scale layoffs or furloughs of employees while suffering around $300 million in lost revenues and costs related to COVID-19.

Yet, students argue that NYU should lower tuition since programs such as the Museum Gateway are on pause. Tuition was raised last summer during the pandemic. 

CAS sophomore Sarah Ahmad noted that NYU promises a New York City experience, including access to art and museums, in order to justify its high tuition.

“I think this should be reflected by some type of tuition reduction,” Ahmad said. “I was under the impression — I’m sure as many students were — that my tuition helps pay for the many amenities in the city that we’re granted free access to.”

The Museum Gateway Program was an equitable program that gave all students equal access to art regardless of socioeconomic status, Ahmad and Magpantay agreed. Prior to the pandemic, some classes required trips to museums or galleries. If the program stays on pause as students return to the city, they argued, projects requiring museum visits could become an access problem.  

“I’ve had to go to the MoMA for a lot of projects for classes, and regular admission prices can really quickly become a financial burden,” Ahmad, a public policy major, said.

Dr. Rosanna Flouty, a clinical assistant professor of museum studies at the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, suggests that while the program is on pause, students living in New York City should try to secure an IDNYC card, which would give them free access to one museum of their choice for a year.

“Authentic, screen-free museum experiences are what we New Yorkers need right now,” Flouty wrote in an email to WSN. “I have no idea when this particular program will be reinstated, but I hope that it is soon.”

Email Rachel Fadem at [email protected]