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Illustration by Mahgul Farooqui

NYUAD to Release its Officially Unofficial Guide to Social Distancing

Or was it unofficially official?

Apr 4, 2020

This article is a contribution to The Gazelle’s weekly satire column.
Unless you’ve been in a coma for the last five weeks, I need not explain how the world has drastically changed since. If you have been in a coma... I’ve got some bad news. Under normal circumstances, I’d recommend you go back under and wait this one out, but considering the global demand for ICU beds, it’s probably best if you shelter in place with us.
In relative terms, we’ve got it pretty nice here. As perhaps the most generous institution in the world, NYU Abu Dhabi has guaranteed us lodging and food, offered travel support to those wishing to reunite with family and made us feel at home by ensuring all the birds have freshly charged batteries.
Furthermore, in an attempt to mitigate the toll, quarantine measures will continue to take on mind, body and spirit as NYUAD announced the release of an Unofficially Official Guide to Social Distancing. Having obtained (through mostly legal means) an advanced copy of this guide, it is the pleasure of The Gazelle’s Satire Column to provide the community with an exclusive first look at the document.
To be honest, the first several pages are pretty bland. When walking outside to pick up your meals, students should maintain a physical distance of at least two meters and travel in groups of no more than three people. Basically, just imagine that everyone you see is the professor who granted you an extension for an assignment you haven’t started yet. It’s very important to be friendly, but it’s better for everyone involved that the interaction remain distant and temporary.
Additionally, students should wash their hands regularly, making sure to wet, lather with soap for the amount of time it takes you to name all the simultaneous events that you would have otherwise committed to attending but now can’t disappoint your peers by canceling on since none of said events still exist, rinse and dry thoroughly. Alternatively, you can simply read the above sentence aloud to yourself and you’ll be good to go.
Beyond restating policy, however, the guide also offers several useful tips for students during self-isolation.
First, call friends back home to talk. They have just as much new free time as you do. If physical presence is a must, the guide recommends befriending the empty pizza box in your common room that nobody in your suite will take responsibility for. Alternatively, every meal is a chance to speed-date with a new reusable takeout container.
Second, don’t think about commencement. It will only make you sad. The guide promises that “different and creative” alternatives will be forthcoming. While students can only speculate whether this means virtually gathering on a one-to-one Minecraft recreation of campus or simply receiving a diploma emoji over Zoom chat, the guide assures the Class of 2020 that they will not be denied the chance to overpromise how well they’ll stay in touch with each other or to hear their full name mispronounced in front of their extended family.
Third, no matter how much you may want to, do not kill your roommate. Whatever they’ve done to get on your nerves, that too shall pass. Also, Serco just did a campus-wide deep clean, it’d be a shame to make such an unnecessary mess.
Fourth, prepare for continued escalation. In 2020, March was the month of cancellation. Globally, this meant flights, toilet paper and profits from capital gains. On campus, this meant spring break plans, tables and the ceiling of the Campus Center. Our enclave is special but not immune. You can enjoy the comforts you still have while not taking them for granted.
Fifth, do not eat an entire box of Unicorn Froot Loops in under two hours. It does not end well.
Sixth, for the sake of every immunocompromised person here, follow the freaking protocols. We have the privilege of being able to stay home while physically distancing ourselves. Do so. Seriously.
Seventh, find and express gratitude to those who sacrifice to make our existence here possible. Despite this situation’s unquestionable frustrations, NYUAD churns out opportunities for gratitude like it’s Stephen making omelets at the grill. Serco and Public Safety leaping into action when the desert literally flooded. ADNH complying with new policy so fast we never miss a meal. Professors adapting their entire curriculums whilst also homeschooling their own children. The Vice Chancellor and her administration doing their darndest to keep everyone on campus happy, productive and alive all at the same time. NYUAD has many flaws, but this crisis has shone a light on its best parts.
Eighth, in this time of taking care of each other, we must also remember to take care of ourselves. Provided you’re not actively endangering others, your response is valid. Unless you’re 102, this is your first time in a Global Pandemic. It’s okay to feel lost or content or to bury yourself with work to stay sane.
This final section of the guide includes advice directly from Vice Chancellor Marinate Pemmican.
"It's important that we all practice self care during these challenging times," the guide quoted. "Relaxation and escapism are natural, healthy coping procedures. For example, I set aside time in my schedule for lower stakes activities like russian roulette or bear wrestling."
The date of the guide’s publication, like basically everything else in the world right now, remains unknown. The only other relevant information it contained was a minor semantic clarification. While the guide’s title uses the term “Social Distancing,” all discourse therin refers to “Physical Distancing.” While it is impossible to fully recreate physical presence in a relationship, Physical Distancing does not imply an end to intimacy. It requires ever more of it.
Socially, this is a time for us to come together and support each other, even when (and especially because) we cannot do so physically. While our trauma is not unique, our community here very much is. As such, the guide urges all students, through every means available — be it Zoom, facetime, or sticky-note messages spelled out on our windows — to connect with each other despite being forced apart. No matter our physical distance, NYUAD must be socially closer than ever.
Ian Hoyt is a columnist. Email him at
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