University community reacts to return to campus

Students and faculty have mixed feelings for NYU’s planned resumption of in-person instruction in the fall.

Provost Katherine Fleming announced the planned in-person return for the next semester. While some students expressed excitement at the thought of resuming in-person classroom learning; some even argued that this return has been unnecessarily deferred. (Photo by Ryan Walker)

NYU students around the world have dealt with an online life of unreliable internet and mismatched timezones for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, many are anticipating the day they return to campus and the classroom. 

The new COVID-19 vaccines and their increasing availability have paved the way for a planned resumption of fully in-person, on-campus instruction in the Fall 2021 semester, as WSN previously reported. Safety measures, such as Binx saliva tests and masks, will remain in place pending the advice of public health officials. As Provost Katherine Fleming assured the university community when she announced the planned return to in-person instruction, NYU will adapt to the recommendations of public health officials and the COVID-19 Prevention & Response Team. 

Some students expressed excitement at the thought of resuming in-person classroom learning; some even argued that this return has been unnecessarily deferred.

“Given that no one is an idiot and doesn’t blatantly disregard safety protocols, I don’t see any reason why in-person learning, even right now, is delayed,” said CAS first-year Ashwath Subramanian.

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Subramanian, who is currently attending his first semester on campus, said his frustration with the university’s restrictions on in-person classes, clubs, activities and events stems from his on-campus semester being only slightly better than his remote one. 

“We could be fully in-person right now and I don’t think anyone would be the worse off for it,” Subramanian said.

Other students, however, expressed wariness at the thought of jumping back into the classroom.

“I’m really hopeful that there will be in-person classes,” said incoming first-year Talia Halverson. “But I’m also someone who’s worked in customer service for the entirety of COVID, and I see the severity of it, and I don’t want to rush into anything.”

Halverson currently resides in Alaska. She hopes NYU maintains its safety protocols so that she can pursue her drama degree at Tisch in person in the fall. Since her state was the first to permit vaccination for everyone 16 years and older, she received the COVID-19 vaccine. She does not believe every student should be required to get vaccinated before returning to campus. 

Sevinc Ercan, an associate professor of biology, expressed worry about NYU’s inability to share specific plans with faculty at this point. 

“One size does not fit all,” Ercan said. “It does not fit small classes the same as discussion classes versus large lectures versus lab courses … The university’s plan has to be very local and tailored to each class, and we haven’t heard what the plan is for each class … That’s a little bit concerning because then we could plan ahead if we knew what we were supposed to do.”

NYU encourages their faculty to plan for in-person learning, according to University Spokesperson Shonna Keogan, but does not yet have specific plans for certain types of classes.

“We understand the eagerness for fully elaborated plans for the fall 2021,” Keogan wrote. “We are working assiduously on completing those, but in the meantime faculty and departments should be proceeding with their own course planning on the assumption that next fall’s mode of instruction will be in-person classes. To the extent that adjustments need to be made … we expect to have plans finished in plenty of time.”

Returning to the classroom is not the only aspect of college life NYU students long for. In a recent letter to the Class of 2025 early decision admits, President Andrew Hamilton stated that the ability to fully return to in-person dining, athletics, performances, clubs and social activities remains uncertain.

“I was doing a lot of club sports before, so I would absolutely love for them to come back,” CAS junior Isha Ganguli said. “I’m also in a couple of organizations like Scholars of Finance and I’m on the Panhellenic Council as well … Those just aren’t as engaging online.”

Some students believe that allowing in-person club meetings and events to take place outweighs the benefits of solely in-person learning.

“It would be upsetting to hear that the transition to in-person classes would involve specifically like a one-hour class or whatever and then everything else still being extremely segregated,” Abraham Kavian, a first-year at the Grossman School of Medicine, said. “Having a transition be all-encompassing, obviously within reasonable and safe parameters — having that full move would be much more valuable.”

Email Kayla Hardersen at [email protected]

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