Respite for NYU student parents as COVID restrictions ease

A student parent who was previously told she could not bring her unvaccinated 3-month-old inside university buildings can now do so due to the recent COVID-19 policy change.


Kevin Wu

File photo: The entrance to Vanderbilt Hall, the main academic building of NYU’s School of Law. (Kevin Wu for WSN)

Adrianna Nehme, Deputy News Editor

Because Devorah Neiger’s 3-month-old son was ineligible to be vaccinated, the NYU Law student was forced to have a caregiver bring her son to campus so she could breastfeed him outside Furman Hall, where her class was taking place. During her second week of classes, when she stepped inside the building’s lobby to find shelter from the rain, the law school’s director of diversity and inclusion stopped her. She told her that due to COVID-19 concerns, she was not allowed to bring her infant son inside.

“He was soaking wet, the blanket was soaking wet, everything was wet, and so I fed my baby in a chair by the front entrance by a door — you didn’t even need to walk through security,” Neiger said. “I told my caregiver ‘Why don’t you just sit here? Why should you walk in the rain and make the baby wait in the rain? Just sit here by the front door.’ And it was that day that I got an email from the director saying that’s a school violation. I was just completely shocked.”

After NYU’s visitor policy changed on Sept. 13, Neiger was relieved to discover that her unvaccinated infant would be allowed inside university buildings. Under the new guidelines, outside guests are now allowed in residence halls and other campus spaces, and students, faculty and staff can bring visitors into NYU buildings and events if they are pre-approved and comply with the university’s vaccination requirements.

“Last week, NYU again began to allow students to invite visitors to campus,” NYU Law spokesperson Michael Orey wrote to WSN in response to questions about Neiger’s situation. “In accordance with that trend, the university no longer requires proof of compliance with NYU’s vaccination policy for visiting minors before their first birthday.”

NYU provides student parents and caregivers with a list of resources, such as weekly counseling groups and a Center for Student Life-funded subsidy program, which assists caregivers with childcare-related costs. However, some student parents have said that they feel unheard and unsupported by the university. Their suggestions — which have included longer class breaks, an altered grading system and faculty training on how best to support them — have not been adopted. 

During the pandemic, financial stress and virtual learning have only added to the burden facing student parents. Many have called for increased representation and resources to assist them in balancing both raising their children and attending college. 

Neiger’s inability to breastfeed her son between classes and her two-hour commute to campus initially led her to ask the university if she could join class virtually, but her request was denied. Although she was eventually able to attend classes in person, Neiger said she was surprised that NYU was not more accommodating of her request to feed her child indoors.

I didn’t try to convince them,” Neiger said. “I told them that I was really surprised that for an inclusive university, it felt like they were really ignoring a pretty important group of people that should be accounted for — which is mothers.”

In recent years, campus groups have made an effort to provide more resources for student parents and caregivers. In 2021, NYU’s student government passed a resolution which designated an officer of the Work Life office to coordinate services for caregivers. The union for graduate student workers at NYU also disburses an annual child care fund for student parents who are part of its membership. After a strike last spring, the union, GSOC-UAW Local 2110, improved child-care benefits for employees, which includes access to an early education and child care program and an annual child care subsidy.  

Contact Adrianna Nehme at [email protected]