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Into Remote Plus

After months of planning and preparation, NYU Abu Dhabi is gearing up to start the Remote Plus Semester with varying expectations, concerns, and challenges.

Aug 30, 2020

On May 20, in an email to the members of the NYU Abu Dhabi community, Mariët Westermann, Vice Chancellor of NYUAD, first communicated plans for the Remote Plus model of fall 2020. Most courses were anticipated to be online, with reduced campus density and limited access to campus spaces. In subsequent communication, a Fall Authorization form was set up for students to apply to come back to campus amidst robust testing and quarantine procedures. The Gazelle reached out to campus leadership, faculty and students across departments to report on the academic and logistical challenges of charting Remote Plus.
Bryan Waterman, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Development, discussed the challenges of navigating government health and travel protocols, preparing for multiple scenarios while ensuring that the quality of education is “secured, stabilized and reinstated as quickly as possible.”
Regarding concerns voiced by students about waitlisted and cancelled classes, Waterman shared that “some classes in limited areas had enrollment increases of 10 to 20 percent but … additional instructors or academic support were put in place as needed.” He assured that the final under enrollment report will be examined to identify what courses need to be offered in spring and summer to keep students on track with their academic progress.
On the subject of the reduced credit limit placed for first year students this fall and its implications on their ability to stay on track for completing major requirements, Waterman emphasized that this decision was made with the mental health and wellness of first years in mind.
“The decision to reduce the cap and to ask first year students to make up the credits in the summer… is really designed to protect the social nature of the first year experience.” Waterman argued.
While introductory classes have filled up due to the unexpected number of upperclassmen enrolled in NYUAD classes, Waterman encouraged freshmen to explore new disciplines through general electives. He is also working on compiling a list of open exploratory classes that have no prerequisites to increase their visibility.
Wayne Young, Director of Wellness at NYUAD, placed emphasis on the phenomenon of zoom fatigue while planning for the upcoming fall semester: “We were conscious of [zoom fatigue] in the spring, so part of our thinking is we don’t want to do even more programming in Wellness, we want to make wellness part of other people’s programming.”
Part of this would be monthly wellness seminars that complement the Residential Education curriculum. On the pressing issue of access to mental health resources for students outside the UAE, Young stressed on the active presence of REACH in virtual spaces with accessible Nook sessions. In addition to this, Wellness is working with the Student Government Health and Wellness committee on a proposal for student support groups.
An extensive online presence is also being established, with a forthcoming YouTube channel that would archive Zoom Fit classes, meditation sessions and seminars for anyone to access. For immediate support from the Wellness Department, Young strongly encouraged students to reach out at
While the adjustment to an online mode of learning is challenging for students and professors across the board, an additional impact is felt by those enrolled in classes that require access to lab resources, equipment and studios. Tamoghna Dey, a Film and New Media major from the Class of 2022, expressed her frustration in having to take remote classes in a major that requires hands on sessions: “I already know the difficulty of trying to make something with limited to no gear. Yes, it is possible but it really takes three times more work and effort to do something than it would on campus with equipment.” She also pointed out that “the biggest thing I'll miss out on is building relationships with my professors. It really helps to keep the motivation up and build an interest.”
Professor Awam Ampka, Head of Department for Film and New Media, mindful of student wellbeing, shared the steps taken to address these challenges: “We doubled up on advisors … [We] want to increase checking on both intellectual output and the welfare of students.”
Be it using spaces and studios in small numbers with professors and instructors providing instruction remotely, opening up new sections of classes or slightly increasing the cap in some sections, the Film and New Media Department has taken into consideration the challenges they had to face in the spring semester. Ampka added: “We’re not in a crisis mode this coming fall. We were in the spring because we had to respond. We were reactive in the spring but we are proactive now… We’re really excited, we can't wait to start. We’ve over rehearsed.”
This semester will also see the introduction of the Go Local program, an opportunity to enroll into classes in any of the NYU Global Network locations, provided the site is open and students can safely travel to the location.
Such an option would otherwise not be available for many: “I chose Remote Plus mainly because I feel the need to be in a student community to perform well academically, and second because this was the only way for me, as an Engineering student, to get a second semester away,” shared Sophia Chavele, Class of 2022, who will be Going Local in London this fall.
“As a student in Engineering, study away locations beyond New York City and Shanghai are completely out of the question,” she added. “This Remote Plus format has changed that, and many of us in the EU are able to access NYU London, Paris, Prague, etc.” While this option has opened up new possibilities for some students, it has highlighted the disparity based on relative passport strength within the student body.
While classes and Student Life activities will remain online for the entire semester, the university will be increasing on campus lab and studio based research to 50 percent capacity from Sept. 1. The library will operate with a contactless paging system for the fall 2020 semester. Other on campus services such as Dining, Fitness and Athletics, Health Center, IT and Student Finance will be open for essential and critical administrative and support activity on campus.
Aayusha Shrestha is News Editor. Email her at
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