It is said that crises can, in the long run, prove to be windows to new opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a great example of such a crisis.
Overall, NYU has done a commendable job of keeping the worst impacts of COVID-19 at bay: Despite a couple of concerning outbreaks in fall 2020, namely the temporary quarantine imposed on Rubin Hall, NYU has kept a consistently low positivity rate. The NYU community now boasts a very high vaccination rate of about 97% of students and faculty, outpacing that of the rate of the greater New York City area of 67%.
However, these results weren’t the consequences of dumb luck. Measures such as weekly testing, contact tracing, added ventilation in classrooms and mandatory mask-wearing all contributed to keeping COVID-19 rates down throughout the NYU community.
As we enter what are hopefully the last stages of the pandemic, NYU has the opportunity to carry forward measures instituted during the pandemic to continue creating a safer and more accessible environment. For example, NYU should maintain virtual learning and ventilation policies so that we can reclaim some of the normalcy that we have been craving since March 2020.
I hated Zoom University: It was far too impersonal, people kept forgetting to mute themselves, and breakout rooms were quite literally the most awkward experiences I have ever had. However, with NYU’s return to in-person classes, I reiterate the arguments of a past WSN editorial calling for universal virtual options. Attending virtually not only saves you the trip to class, but also prevents germs from being transmitted to your classmates. While the common cold is not COVID-19, I would prefer to avoid contracting either.
Some classes and recitations already have Zoom options, but it is far from standard university-wide. Virtual classroom options would also be welcomed by commuter students at the mercy of New York City’s notoriously unreliable public transit system, and would be beneficial for all students during extreme weather. Additionally, despite all the inadequacies of Zoom classes, virtual office hours were a welcome improvement over the long in-person waits to see your professor.
NYU has made it a priority to showcase improvements made to ventilation systems, which were useful tools in the battle against COVID-19. Building ventilation must continue to be a priority after this pandemic has concluded. We have a flu season every year that kills, on average, 36,000 people a year in the United States. These are preventable casualties, as are those caused by other respiratory pathogens that are more prevalent in the colder months. It is possible that COVID-19 will one day be another of these seasonal illnesses. All new NYU buildings, even after the pandemic, should be built with upgraded ventilation systems in order to further protect all students, faculty and staff.
As we continue to pick up the rubble from the devastating effects of COVID-19, it would be tragic to merely revert to the way things were. We cannot settle for the way things were before, leaving us vulnerable to another catastrophe. NYU has an opportunity — a moral imperative, even — to emerge from this crisis stronger and better prepared for future threats.
Contact Jp Iregbulem at [email protected]