Petition for remote learning option garners 2,200-plus signatures

The university’s decision to resume in-person instruction has left many students concerned for their safety and demanding online accommodations.

In+a+Jan.+12+email%2C+NYU+announced+the+spring+2022+semester+will+be+held+in+person.+More+than+2%2C200+students+concerned+for+their+safety+have+since+signed+a+petition+demanding+a+permanent+remote+learning+option+at+NYU.+%28Staff+Photo+by+Manasa+Gudavalli%29

Manasa Gudavalli

In a Jan. 12 email, NYU announced the spring 2022 semester will be held in person. More than 2,200 students concerned for their safety have since signed a petition demanding a permanent remote learning option at NYU. (Staff Photo by Manasa Gudavalli)

Maria Freyre, Staff Writer

A petition demanding a permanent remote learning option at NYU has garnered more than 2,200 signatures as of Sunday, Jan. 23. The university announced that spring 2022 classes will be primarily in person despite high COVID-19 caseloads in New York City, which have been steadily declining over the last couple of weeks since the university announcement. 

“Rather than ignoring the health and concerns of the people who comprise this school, there should be empathy and adjustment,” the petition reads. 

The petition was created by an NYU student named Ellie, who was inspired by students on social media calling for more flexible online accommodations. (Ellie requested their last name be excluded because they have faced backlash for creating the statement.) In NYU’s announcement about in-person instruction, senior leadership acknowledged that the option to take online classes is dependent on faculty.

“We are being forced to make a decision between our health and our education,” Ellie told WSN. “We should have the right to prioritize our health and not be penalized for doing so. My only goal is to urge NYU to listen to students who are uncomfortable and scared, and to provide a way for these students to keep up with school without being forced to attend classes in person.” 

Following NYU’s decision, students took to Twitter and Reddit to express their concerns about the return to in-person learning. One student compared a statement in NYU’s announcement to a viral video of actress Vanessa Hudgens downplaying the severity of the pandemic. GPH senior Ashani Pandita tweeted and wrote a blog post about the university’s ability to ensure a safe semester on campus. 

Pandita expected an in-person return, but was surprised that the email did not discuss mandatory weekly testing. She believes that the university’s policies overlook vulnerable and immunocompromised students, who are at higher risk of experiencing breakthrough infections and severe symptoms of COVID-19.

“If all students have the option to study remotely as they choose, and are provided with high-quality masks and mandated testing, I personally believe that removes a lot of the risk from in-person schooling and would make me feel comfortable studying on campus,” she said.

Tisch first-year Eden Astra was also surprised by NYU’s announcement after other institutions in New York City opted for virtual instruction at the beginning of the semester, including Columbia University, Pace University, The New School and the Pratt Institute. Astra, who had been following New York’s COVID-19 case numbers, believed that NYU would offer remote or hybrid instruction for all students, regardless of whether they tested positive for COVID-19. 

“I’m going to have to email all my teachers and be like, ‘Hey, I genuinely don’t feel safe coming back to school yet,’” Astra said. “‘Can you please not mark my grade and will you please still teach me?’”

Data from campus-administered COVID-19 testing showed a 10% positivity rate between Jan. 10 and Jan. 16, while New York City reported an 18% weekly average. City public school students and staff protested the reopening of schools without the option for remote instruction. Mayor Eric Adams has since announced that a remote learning option would be instituted. 

As students arrive on campus, the Student Government Assembly detailed plans to distribute approved N95 and KN95 masks at various locations. Presidents Council Vice-Chair Anthony Cruz and Student Senators Council Vice-Chair Mira Silveria wrote a statement to WSN on behalf of the student government, which described NYU’s guidelines as unclear.

“The SGA supports the university’s decision to continue with in-person instruction, however, both as students and as representatives, we feel and have overwhelmingly heard from the student body that NYU’s subsequent decisions for the semester continue to be classist and illogical,” the statement reads.

Contact Maria Freyre at [email protected]