Dear members of the City College Community,
I wanted to write to bring you some news about the various things that are happening on campus. Now that we’re back from the instructional recalibration period, classes are back on-line, and teaching has resumed. I know that the move to on-line education was abrupt and jarring, but I’m also hearing some good news from faculty and students who are discovering creative ways to teach and learn in this new format. I urge you all to continue to evaluate what is and is not working, and to continue taping your creative reserves to make this new mode of instruction work for everyone.
On campus, we have not been idle. We have progressively closed buildings and reduced support staff to a bare minimum, trying in the process to limit the extent to which members of our community are exposed to danger. Today, we have less than 50 people on campus per day, with a skeleton staff in Public Safety and Facilities responsible for the bulk of these people. At the moment, no more than 6 of our buildings remain open—but it is impossible to completely shut down every building. In part, this is because services like Financial Aid and the Bursar’s office need periodically to have someone in to make sure checks are processed and student needs are responded to. Other buildings, especially those with labs, need to have the Physical Plant operate so that gasses can be vented, refrigeration can be maintained, and overall safety is preserved. Some custodians are necessary because maintaining sanitation is one of the main responses to a public health crisis. So, while we have dramatically reduced the number of people on campus, that number is radically reduced from even the early days of work at home efforts.
I want to thank each and every one of the people coming to campus to execute these functions. Many come despite significant fears. They come because they are part of our public response to this crisis, and they are brave beyond anything I have a right to expect from them. We have done, and will continue to do everything we can to make their work conditions as safe as possible. But we live in unsafe times, and each of them takes a risk every time they come in. They have my gratitude and respect, and I urge you to make your own feelings know to them at the nearest opportunity you have.
Others on campus have also pitched in to help in the larger effort. In consultation with Congressman Espaillat’s office, we had been working to establish a drive through/walk up testing center in the NAC parking lot—but in the last few days, the state’s priorities have apparently turned away from establishing more testing facilities and are not concentrating more on medical care.
Members of our community are doing remarkable things. Our first class of medical students will be graduating early this year, and members of that class will have the opportunity to fulfill their remaining clinical credit requirement at area hospitals, remediating the COVID-19 outbreak. Graduating students in the Civil Engineering program have already volunteered to help set up the mobile medical facilities springing up across the city. A team of three faculty members have established a 3-D printing farm to manufacture face-shields for healthcare workers, and are looking to expand that facility. Another member of our engineering faculty is working to perfect a device that will retrofit outdated and manual bag ventilators so they can be brought into service to meet the looming shortfall in the city.
Professor Sasha Rudenstein has developed a survey of students as part of a study that examines stressors, experiences, and mental health in the context of COVID-19. We expect that this survey will be launched this week, and I encourage you to call your students’ attention to it and urge them to fill it out.
Also in the Psychology department, trained students in the mental health counselling program is offering peer counselling group sessions on-line. This is a chance to work with trained graduate students on stress management and self-care. It’s free, confidential, and a great opportunity to get help. You can sign up to participate in peer mentoring here, or you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
We are making the best use that we can of our on-campus radio station, WHCR (90.3 FM). The staff of the station has been producing English and Spanish language PSAs that are aired throughout the day. Beginning next week, we will be producing more programming to help people in the listening area stay informed about health, self-care, public policy, advocacy and other responses to this public health crisis. We would like members of the CCNY community who have relevant expertise to share that expertise on the radio to the general public. Later today, I’ll be sending around a set of instructions for how you can produce short 14-minute segments, but I think this is a good time for the university to think about what we know, and how that knowledge can help the communities around us navigate this crisis with safety.
Finally, I want to reiterate some policy moves that have taken place over the last few days. Commencements across the system are postponed, with no definitive plans set for any in person ceremony at a later, safer date. At CCNY, we are working on plans for a virtual commencement to take place at the end of May, marking the official conferral of degrees. We will make plans for some in person event to take place at a later date, when conditions permit safe assemblies once more.
We are also planning to suspend study abroad and business-related travel through the fall 2020 semester. Clear guidance on this policy will be forthcoming from CUNY on the next day or so, but nobody should expect to travel on university or college business through the remainder of the calendar year.
Please let me, finally, extend my hope that each of you remains safe over the course of this outbreak. We will all, I am afraid, experience great loss over the next few weeks—on this campus, we already have. We will face difficult choices and lead lives newly burdened with anxiety and stress. I hope we can lean on one another, that we each find time to help out in small ways and large. I hope that you can share the pain of these days with people you love, and find ways to lighten someone else’s burden. I hope that you delve into your reserves of creativity, both to fill these isolated moments with joy, and to more effectively shore up the impaired connections that make up our society. We will get through this, I know. I know, too, that as we navigate these next weeks, you will confirm yourselves to be the leaders and the nurturers that the moment demands. Be well, everyone.