New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

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Opinion: COVID-19 still exists, despite what NYU seems to think

NYU’s relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions does not justify neglecting the needs of positive students.
A+purple+poster+with+icons+of+a+mask+and+the+daily+screener+placed+on+the+glass+door+entrance+of+N.Y.U.%E2%80%99s+StudentLink+Center.
Manasa Gudavalli
File Photo: NYU’s COVID-19 safety posters in front of the StudentLink Center in March 2021. (Manasa Gudavalli for WSN)

As you navigate the corridors of NYU’s residence halls or rush to your classes, you’ll probably see the bright purple “Masks Always Welcome” signs plastered on the walls — a testament to the hypocritical stance the university has taken regarding COVID-19. While these signs are up in virtually every NYU building, the university has actually lifted most of its restrictions due to both widespread vaccination and medication availability. 

But this leniency with regulations doesn’t take into account that students and the New Yorkers they come into contact with are still contracting the virus, and the consequences can be severe.

Just five months ago, NYU controversially dropped its COVID-19 vaccine requirement for both students and visitors, prematurely signaling the end of the battle against the virus. Since then, the name COVID-19 has mostly faded from media and daily conversation, but everyday reality tells a different story.

When all three of first-year Audrey Guo’s suitemates tested positive for the virus in September, she couldn’t get a free test since the NYU Student Health Center is no longer offering them. When it came to housing, NYU had nothing to offer in terms of extra space or resources. They suggested that she wear a mask in her room and spend as much time outside the space as possible while her roommates were quarantined. As a result, Guo had to rely on the kindness of friends to find a place to stay, and her classmates had to help deliver food to her quarantined suitemates.

“I called like 20 people, maybe more, maybe less,” Guo said. “I’m in the rec room talking to strangers asking, ‘Does anyone have a spare bed, I can use?’” 

This is not the kind of support system a prestigious institution should be offering.

In addition to the lack of support for students affected by COVID-19, NYU hustle culture places academics above personal health. The university’s attendance policies mandate class presence and allow only a limited number of excused absences before penalties. This compels students to attend their classes even when unwell, needlessly sacrificing their health.

Coming to classes when sick isn’t just worsening your own situation, it’s also putting others at risk. However, coughs and runny noses can still be heard in classrooms and lecture halls this midterm season. This strict academic culture has established a worrisome lack of concern for the basic health and well-being of students. It becomes much more serious when students contract COVID-19 and still feel compelled to come to class, perpetuating the spread of an illness that NYU seems to consider to be over. 

In NYU’s most recent COVID-19 information guide it says, “With a lowered risk of serious illness — thanks to the effectiveness of vaccines and more widely available medication for COVID-19 — widespread restrictions have mostly been lifted around the world and on NYU’s campuses.” If you navigate to this website to look for COVID-19 tests, you will be redirected to resources outside the university. 

Even if it’s not possible for NYU to provide free COVID-19 tests, it’s not unreasonable for students to expect more support. The university could at least offer alternative accommodations for students with infected roommates, or change its policies to allow students to miss class without penalty if they’re sick or at a heightened risk of being positive.

NYU ignoring the ongoing challenges of COVID-19 reflects an institution that puts a mask of normalcy on issues it can’t control. The health and safety of its students should be the university’s utmost priority, rather than an afterthought in the pursuit of academic rigor.

WSN’s Opinion section strives to publish ideas worth discussing. The views presented in the Opinion section are solely the views of the writer.

Contact Ganga Subramanian at [email protected].

About the Contributor
Manasa Gudavalli, Editor-in-Chief
Manasa Gudavalli is a super senior studying a super strange combination of psychology, mathematics, journalism, and chemistry. When they are not editing the Washington Square News, they are probably reading Freud, watching college football, or developing film photos. You can find them on Instagram @manasa.gudavalli and @gudavalli.photography.
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