Official Updates

A Look Ahead to Spring 2021

October 26, 2020

Dear members of the NYU Abu Dhabi community,

With the fall semester now halfway through, we write to let you know initial plans for our spring semester, to begin in January 2021. We know that you have questions about what the spring will look like. Our current thinking is based on all that we have learned and experienced over the past several months about keeping each other safe and how to facilitate the continuity of teaching, research, and student life within the parameters of UAE and international guidelines. 

We remain a connected and dynamic learning community. This is evident in the tireless efforts of our faculty, the diligence of our administrators and staff, and the resilience and understanding of our students. We do not take the resolve of our community for granted, and are profoundly grateful to all of you for your adaptability and patience in this constantly changing landscape.

When we first let you know what the fall would be like, we said that we hoped to be able to resume classes and research fully in-person by the spring. With cases of COVID-19 still on the rise around the globe, and with a widely available vaccine unlikely in the immediate future, the public health challenges are likely to affect our operations well into the spring semester.

Given this outlook in the UAE and around the world, and based on our experiences implementing remote instruction and having about half of our students back on campus safely, the most prudent approach is to stay the course, albeit with some encouraging developments.

While we are planning to continue our Remote Plus model in the spring semester — with more of an emphasis on the Plus wherever possible — we will offer all students who wish to return to live in NYUAD housing the opportunity to do so. We believe this plan will help maintain the sense of community spirit which we so value at NYUAD.

Key elements of our current thinking for spring, developed by the Return to Campus Initiative in consultation with a broad cross section of our community as well as local health authorities and officials, are as follows:

The default for spring will be remote instruction. In addition, we will offer a small number of classes with in-person elements where physical presence is required for timely progression and completion of degrees, such as lab and studio based courses. We are also looking at the possibility of “blended” class models (featuring both in-person as well as remote connectivity options for students) for faculty who would like to teach in this mode, and compliant with public health and Ministry of Education guidelines.

For information on enrollment in these in-person and blended courses, please see the Frequently Asked Questions on the intranet and student portal.

As you know, we are very disappointed not to be able to offer study away in the spring semester. This difficult decision for all NYU sites means that we are preparing to offer more courses in Abu Dhabi and work with students to make sure they can fulfill their academic requirements. The Go Local Program, established by the NYU Office of Global Programs for fall 2020 semester, will continue in the spring semester, and will relieve some of the pressure on the need for more courses in NYU’s main campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai.

We will prioritize inviting students to return to live on campus. If students are able to travel to Abu Dhabi, or to campus if they live in the UAE, we invite them to return to live in NYUAD housing throughout the spring. While we believe we should be able to accommodate returning students on campus, if demand exceeds local health and safety guidelines we will make equivalent housing available in an off-campus building that will be set up as our on campus residences are, with the staff support required. If you intend to return to campus in spring, please fill out this Declaration of Intent Form by November 2, so we can register your interest and prepare for a safe return.

Students who are living currently on campus are invited to stay on campus over the winter break if they want to avoid travel and quarantine requirements. Additional information can be found in the FAQs on the student portal.

For everybody’s safety, and to comply with current government guidance, we continue to encourage faculty and researchers to work remotely; however, we recognize access to certain spaces on campus, such as offices, labs, and studios, is critical for some members of our community and access will be granted accordingly.

Faculty will also have the option to opt-in to teaching the aforementioned “blended” class models. To facilitate planning and determine space availability, interested faculty are asked to register their interest with their divisional Deans by November 5.

Requests for workplace modifications or working remotely outside the UAE will follow similar procedures as last semester. For planning purposes, these requests should be submitted by November 15.

We have protocols in place for researchers to return to campus in accordance with public health and safety guidelines. In the spring, we expect our current access protocols to look very similar to the current model. Faculty and researchers may use research labs and studios if the research being conducted can only be done from a lab or studio on-campus. Research that can be done online or computationally should be performed remotely. For more information on access to research spaces and continuing research at NYUAD visit the Continuing Research intranet page and FAQS.

Staff and Remote Working
Administrators and staff have done an extraordinary job supporting a safe, informed, and engaged Return to Campus. This spring, the majority of staff will continue to work remotely, except those whose on-campus presence is deemed essential to academic continuity and student life and select critical staff such as Public Safety. We know this will be difficult for many staff colleagues and depending on the public health situation we may look at options to potentially rotate in more staff to work on campus through the spring. Regardless, we will work closely with HR to ensure the appropriate support is provided to supervisors and teams during this extended remote work period. Requests for workplace modifications or working remotely outside the UAE will follow similar procedures as last semester. For planning purposes, these requests should be submitted by November 15.

Health and Safety
We will continue to implement robust health measures on campus. Testing, isolating, tracing, and monitoring will contribute significantly to how we manage community health. Students, faculty, and staff will be required to show proof of a valid negative COVID-19 PCR test while on campus. Our ongoing community health strategy includes:

  • Face masks and physical distancing
  • Mandatory COVID-19 EHS training
  • Screening through the NYU Symptom Checker
  • Interval testing every two weeks, and potentially more frequently in spring
  • Appropriate medical intervention and isolation for confirmed cases and internal contact tracing for the campus community
  • Mental health and wellbeing support

All people arriving back to campus will be required to isolate for two weeks and are expected to work/attend courses during that time. Some of those arriving internationally should expect to be in government facilities during the isolation period per the current UAE government guidelines. The University will be available to support students, faculty, and staff during this time.

Campus Facilities 
Campus spaces such as the Library, fitness facilities, and dining outlets will be generally available with an emphasis on physical distancing and mask wearing. We will explore the possibility of limited, internal on-campus events in alignment with public health requirements, official guidelines, and space availability. No external events will be permitted on campus through the spring.

Our Community 
Our plans for spring focus on a baseline of remote instruction, but we do hope that the Plus in Remote Plus will be expanded wherever possible. Opportunities for learning, discovery, creation, and innovation will continue. Our sense of campus community will become even more important as we hope to welcome all students back to live on campus while studying remotely, and with limited opportunities for in-person engagement.

We know that managing our academic and personal lives during the pandemic is not easy for anyone, but the care and compassion that our community continues to demonstrate for one another is truly commendable. It’s an honor to be part of such a supportive and inclusive community, and we have no doubt that our shared understanding and goodwill will continue to carry us through the months ahead.

While this message provides answers to many important questions for the spring, other decisions will require more time, including how we will approach Commencement 2021. We plan to make any decisions regarding Commencement in a collaborative and judicious manner, in consultation with the Class of 2021 and other community members, as well as local health authorities and the Ministry of Education.

We know how much you cherish Commencement. We do too, and we are committed to successfully and safely hosting a beautiful ceremony with all of the pomp and grandeur that our seniors deserve, whether in-person, virtual, or a combination of the two.

Support and Resources 
We continue to offer a range of support for our community members as we recognize the additional strain caused by the pandemic. More information is available on the intranet and student portal

Continuing the Conversation
We want to continue this conversation in the coming weeks. To that end, we will soon be sharing surveys with our students, faculty, and staff to help us to determine what worked well this fall and what improvements may be needed in order to make the spring semester as meaningful, productive, and safe as possible. We will also be hosting an all community town hall on November 15, where you will have the opportunity to submit questions in advance and to ask live questions.

At the end of this long message, we also want to acknowledge that, as always during this pandemic, these plans may need to be adjusted as the current situation evolves and guidance from the Ministry of Education and other local regulatory authorities may change. While much is beyond our control, we can continue to act flexibly, prioritize the health and safety of our community, ensure academic continuity, provide an inclusive and engaged intellectual environment, and foster a collective spirit of connection, cooperation, and mutual respect.

Mariët, Arlie, and Peter