NYU Welcome brings festive atmosphere back to campus

After a year of virtual learning, students and staff have organized online and in-person events, returning the Washington Square campus to its pre-pandemic spirit.

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Sirui Wu

After conducting a virtual welcome week in fall 2020, NYU Welcome returns both virtual and in-person with past pre-pandemic spirit and energy. Fall 2021 NYU Welcome is restricted to the classes of 2024 and 2025 and implements safety measures such as capacity limits, NYU identity verification, and Daily Screener compliance. (Staff Photo by Sirui Wu)

Kashish Bhatia, Staff Writer

After an entirely virtual NYU Welcome in Fall 2020, the Welcome team was determined to develop a series of events this year to serve as a panacea for the sense of isolation wrought by the pandemic.

When CAS sophomore Medha Gupta first came to NYU in September 2020, the pandemic and virtual classes restricted her from building connections with and within her new campus community.

“It’s really meaningful to be able to attend Welcome in-person, because now I can fully interact with so many people who have gone through the pandemic in the same way that I have,” Gupta said. “It also signifies the fact that NYU truly is a community that I couldn’t really see last year, even when I was on campus for spring semester.”

The Welcome team — led by 13 captains, two chairs and four professional staff members — spent the summer planning out how in-person events were going to adhere to the university’s COVID-19 events and gatherings guidelines, which for indoor events stipulate a maximum capacity of 250 individuals and limit event durations to two hours.

“This year’s Welcome program consists of events for new and returning students. This includes both new first-year and transfer students, as well as second-year and transfer students who began in fall of 2020 and spring of 2021,” said Eena Singh, an assistant director at the Center for Student Life who has organized NYU Welcome programs for five years.

Students who were Liberal Studies first-years in 2019 — and spent their first semesters abroad — are not included in the Fall 2021 NYU Welcome, which is restricted to the classes of 2024 and 2025.

Similar to years past — in which NYU Welcome was called Welcome Week — the Fall 2021 NYU Welcome consists of school-specific orientations, marquee events, excursions, themed workshops and hangouts, walking tours, and commuter- and transfer-specific events. Attendees can experience in person many of the well-known marquee events from previous Welcome Weeks, such as Drag Bingo, the Professional Comedy Show and Broadway Cabaret. Smaller events, including some themed hangouts and workshops, are accessible to students in-person and virtually.

Some events from past years, however, are not making a return due to the risk of community transmission of COVID-19. Capacity limitations and social distancing do not permit for certain events to safely occur, such as the FYRE Moonlight Cruise — essentially a party on a big boat.

“In-person events are going to be at maximum row capacity of the room that they are held in,” Ted Ravago, a senior captain who has participated in NYU Welcome since 2019, said. “The general rule so far has been that if there is not a seat, then there are no more students allowed.” 

The Welcome team has been advised by the COVID-19 Prevention & Response Team that as long as students are wearing masks and facing forward, there is a low risk of community transmission of COVID-19, Ravago said. 

To enter events and programs, attendees must complete the Daily Screener; they will then receive a unique QR code which must be scanned by a staff member. Capacity limits, NYU identity verification and Daily Screener compliance will be tracked by organizers using an app called EventPass.

“The entire community that is working at NYU Welcome recognizes how important of a welcome this is for everybody,” Singh said. “We know what a lot of students have missed out on for the last year and a half, and we’ve all been anxiously waiting for this moment where we can truly welcome every student.”

During Welcome Leader training, students and staff were provided with information about how to ensure that all event attendees are protected against COVID-19 exposure.

“I am personally comfortable with the COVID-19 guidelines set because I know that students are either vaccinated or have had a negative test,” CAS sophomore and Welcome Leader Avni Sanghvi said. “Training affirmed my belief that I’m comfortable with the guidelines, because it was the biggest crowd that I have been in since the beginning of the pandemic, but every person in the room had their Daily Screener and was wearing their mask properly for the entire day.”

Sanghvi enjoyed her first-year Welcome experience in 2019 so much that she decided to become a Welcome Leader herself.

“Welcome made a really big city feel like a very inviting community,” Sanghvi said.

Email Kashish Bhatia at [email protected]