NYU students return to campus, but clubs remain online

Despite new university guidelines for in-person gatherings, clubs report that their events and meetings will again be primarily remote this academic year.


Tony Wu

Most activities on campus have resumed to in-person meetings. Due to capacity limits, some NYU clubs and events continue to meet online. (Photo by Tony Wu)

Rachel Fadem, Deputy News Editor

In the weeks leading up to the beginning of the 2021-22 academic year, NYU’s university-wide communications indicated plans for an on-campus experience resembling that of semesters prior to the pandemic. Academic activities have largely resumed in person — very few classes are offered in hybrid or online formats, classrooms hold maximum capacity, and most libraries, tutoring services and study areas have fully reopened. 

Despite the university’s promises of renewed in-person events and gatherings (with capacity limits of 250 people indoors and 500 people outdoors), many NYU clubs report that little has changed since the last academic year and plan to hold their events and meetings virtually.

NYU Program Board’s New Music Committee, which books emerging artists to perform concerts and festivals at NYU, has to hold all concerts remotely again this year. Pre-pandemic concerts organized by the group were often held at the Kimmel Center for University Life and saw turnouts of over 150 students.

“Sometimes, we would have a line out the door of people waiting to try and talk about new music, to talk about concerts and to talk about artists they wanted to book,” Gallatin junior and New Music Committee co-chair Declan Dwyer said. “We’re just not able to have a safe number of people in the rooms in Kimmel — it’s not possible, even if we’re fully masked — so we completely understand the position that we’re being put in.”

CAS junior Sydney Green — who is on the boards of CampGrrl, Playground Production Co-Op, Artists in Action and the Classics Club — said that none of her clubs have been able to secure space for meetings or events, except for Playground Production Co-Op, which operates in the Tisch building. The Classics Club has requested a room in the Silver Center, but has yet to hear back regarding room access.

“For CampGrrl, we tend to function inside the LGBTQ+ Center, but at the moment, clubs are not running through there,” Green said. “NYU has not directly given us spaces — they’ve given us the opportunity for spaces.” Janessa Navarro, a Steinhardt senior and president of KNESIS — a performing arts club and K-pop dance cover team — has been frustrated with the group’s inability to secure a space to meet. The club planned to hold a meeting on Sept. 10 at the Kimmel Center, but was recently informed that the room was unavailable until Sept. 17 since it is reserved for Tisch and Steinhardt classes. 

“I mean, I get it, but they never made that clear to us when I tried to reach out to Club Life beforehand or when I made the event forms in the beginning of August,” Navarro said. “No one told us that the practice rooms were reserved for a while, so now we’re struggling to find a place for our dance instructors to teach. NYU’s inability to talk to clubs and keep them updated unless we reach out ourselves is probably the most infuriating thing about club life.”

Although some club meetings and events can function online — including CampGrrl, Classics Club and the New Music Committee — club leaders and other students are disappointed that they will be unable to regain the same sense of community. Dwyer said that the New Music Committee can continue to provide students with exciting online concerts, but believes members will likely miss out on opportunities to talk to each other — something that he wishes could return.

“It’s not really building community in the way that it used to,” he said. “There’s no sitting in a room together talking and having fun, which is a big part of what Program Board is. It’s not necessarily because we don’t have the resources, but it is because it is not super possible to do in a virtual world.”

Even though many club activities will remain remote, some board members have noticed an increase in interest. They assume, however, that this uptick is because students expect events to be in person.

“I am hoping that we can keep up the interest long enough that people can bear with us as we transition from Zoom to, hopefully, Kimmel 606,” Navarro said. “We are thinking of doing in-person events outside of the dance practices though, so hopefully that will also keep people interested.”

Club board members recognize that students are desperate for in-person connection and are trying to take advantage of the warmer weather, which allows for pandemic-safe outdoor events.

“There is an emphasis being put on outdoor events and smaller indoor events, just because people are tired of Zoom,” Green said. “Funny enough, the restrictions of no eating or drinking might actually be the hardest one because for a lot of these clubs, we do tend to order food [at meetings]. It’s a part of the communal aspect that a lot of these communities are fostering and that’s been a bit of a strange shift.”

Regardless of whether clubs meet indoors, outdoors or remotely, club members urge students, especially those new to campus, to join at least one club as a way to make friends.

“I hope that freshmen and sophomores, because they didn’t have it last year, join clubs and try to do stuff on campus,” Dwyer said. “It’s important for people to remember that we have ways to communicate with each other and make friends online during such a hard time.”

Contact Rachel Fadem at [email protected].