Message from President Lynch

I hope this mid-month email finds you well. I write with some important updates and reminders.

First, as we prepare for the Spring term and an increased presence on campus, it is imperative that students upload proof of vaccination to CUNYFirst. Those who have not done so by January 18 will be de-registered from courses with on-campus activities—we have communicated this consistently and clearly, but I ask that you remind (y)our students to take this important action if you have the opportunity to do so.

Secondly, I want to thank Provost Parrish and his team in the Office of Academic Affairs who have worked collaboratively with the academic departments to meet the University mandate that at least 70% of Spring instruction occurs in a face-to-face modality. I know this has not been easy and I appreciate the hard work that has gone into ensuring that our students have access to the high-quality, in-person instruction they have come to expect from our dedicated faculty. As the semester nears, we will continue to monitor enrollment and fill-rates, and take appropriate actions as they relate to scheduling and modality of instruction.

Next, I draw your attention to the recent communication from the Chancellery extending the current work arrangements (50% onsite, 50% remote) for non-instructional staff through February 27. I know that there are questions related to vaccine mandate/boosters and to testing/masking/physical distancing protocols, and we are awaiting further guidance and direction from the University on these matters. I will share any updates that I receive on these or other issues. As always, feel free to bring your questions and concerns to me and I will seek to have them answered or addressed.

I had a series of very productive and cordial meetings with various campus stakeholders, including leaders from various faculty governance groups, and members of the CSI Foundation. I also had a series of meetings with members of the Chancellery, including a full-day session of the Council of Presidents, and a one-on-one with the Senior Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration. Next week, I will engage with the Alumni Association and with members of the larger Staten Island community as part of the kickoff celebration for the “Year of Willowbrook.” 

Lastly, as we approach the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, I ask that we reflect on how our institutional mission to provide access to transformational educational opportunities is more important now than ever before….and I look forward to working with, and serving alongside, each of you as we make this noble aspiration a reality.

Enjoy the long weekend.

By Timothy G. Lynch, Ph.D.

Proclamation Day for The Year of Willowbrook to Take Place on January 18

College of Staten Island to unveil programming for year-long commemoration of Willowbrook State School anniversaries.

The College of Staten Island will officially introduce 2022 as The Year of Willowbrook on its campus on January 18, organizing a virtual event that will unveil programming for the year that aims to commemorate several anniversaries and offers a historical perspective tied to the Willowbrook State School.

New Interim President Dr. Timothy G. Lynch will be joined by CUNY officials and New York State Assemblyman Michael Cusick, to help issue an official proclamation declaring 2022 The Year of Willowbrook at the College, after which several presenters will speak to the historical impact of the Willowbrook State School, the advocacy that followed, and the collaboration among  the College and several community agencies that continues to exist today to reinforce the Willowbrook State School’s legacy and the continued efforts for persons with disabilities.

The virtual event is scheduled for 11:00am, is open to the public, and will be available on Zoom. The event will also be live-streamed through the Willowbrook YouTube page for live and archived viewing.

The event will serve as an official launch for The Year of Willowbrook, which will include a 50th anniversary reflection of Geraldo Rivera’s televised exposé that opened the eyes of  the nation to the horrors of Willowbrook, and the Annual Willowbrook Memorial Lecture, reflecting on the aftermath of Willowbrook’s closing, 35 years ago this year.  Events will lead to the installation of the Willowbrook Mile in mid-September, a ten-station interpretive walking trail on the former Willowbrook site on the CSI campus and the Institute for Basic Research campus that points to several landmarks that speak to the Willowbrook history and relevance. 

Registration for The Year of Willowbrook Proclamation Day and Launch is taking place now.

Media/interview requests can be sent to

Visit the Willowbrook Mile Website

Support the Willowbrook Project

About Willowbrook State School and The Willowbrook Mile

Willowbrook State School was the largest institution in the world in which people with disabilities were locked away from society. In 1938, the New York State Legislature had authorized the building of a school for what they then termed “mental defectives.” The Willowbrook site was selected and the buildings erected in the early 1940s. However, when the U.S. entered the Second World War, the site was turned over to the military for use as a hospital and prisoner‐of‐war camp, Halloran Hospital, and operated in that capacity until 1951. As Halloran Hospital was closing down, the property returned to its original intended purpose as the Willowbrook State School. It opened in 1947, intended to serve as a model of treatment for persons with intellectual and other disabilities.  

When it opened, Willowbrook attempted to provide better care in an institutional setting than could be provided at home. However, the mere scope and size of the more‐than‐380‐acre Willowbrook State School impaired its ability to provide normal, personalized comfort and care. As conditions worsened, a group of residents’ families and staff urged change. By the 1970s, they invited reporters to share the story more widely. Media coverage and this activism led to a lawsuit resulting in a 1975 Consent Judgement ordering that Willowbrook residents receive humane treatment and adequate clinical and educational services. This also set in motion the eventual closure of Willowbrook in 1987 and began the development of community‐based services. Along with the 1975 Education for All Handicapped Children Act, the Willowbrook Judgement helped lead to later key legal protections, including the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In the early 1990s, spurred by a conviction that nothing like the Willowbrook story should ever happen again, the Staten Island Developmental Disabilities Council, the primary advocacy group on Staten Island for persons with disabilities and their families, formed the Willowbrook Property Planning Committee. They began to work on collecting and preserving the history of the Willowbrook State School and to increase the visibility of the stories of those who had once lived and worked in the facility. 

In the 2010s, the Staten Island Developmental Disabilities Council partnered with the other stakeholders on the Willowbrook site: the College of Staten Island/CUNY, the Institute for Basic Research (IBR), and the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) to establish a memorial walking trail that has become the Willowbrook Mile. The Mile is designed to preserve the site’s history, and to create a visionary presence that commemorates the social justice and deinstitutionalization movement to ensure the rights of all persons to live with dignity and thrive in their communities.

Embracing the Willowbrook legacy and addressing the needs of persons with disabilities runs through the fabric of the College’s culture. One of the College’s signature programs celebrating the Willowbrook legacy is the Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program, which since 2008 has provided fully‐inclusive college experiences for non‐matriculated students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Our Creative Exchange program recognizes CSI’s responsibilities to persons with developmental disabilities on Staten Island, and provides continuing education classes on a variety of topics for this population.  The College also houses the Center for Student Accessibility (including Project REACH), Master’s degree programs in Special Education and in Social Work focused on disabilities, an Advanced Certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders, and a minor degree track in Disability Studies. Since 1993, the College has hosted an annual Willowbrook Memorial Lecture which, in addition to a number of other campus events and the Willowbrook Collection in the CSI Library, has worked to keep the Willowbrook legacy alive in our community. 

By David Pizzuto

Student Vaccination Requirement for Spring 2022

Below is a communication that was sent to CSI students who registered for classes for Spring 2022 but are not yet in compliance with CUNY’s Vaccination Policy.

Please help us remind all students that, if they have not done so already, they must upload proof of vaccination into CUNYfirst by Tuesday, Jan. 18, or they will be dropped from their classes.

Students who uploaded proof of vaccination for the Fall or Winter 2021 terms are fine and do not need to resubmit proof of vaccination for spring. In addition, the Chancellor’s email on Wednesday, Jan. 5, found online, states that all students enrolled in in-person or hybrid classes for Spring 2022 will be required to get the booster shot as soon as they are eligible for it. We are awaiting further guidance regarding uploading proof of booster shots, the campus community will be notified once details and the CUNYFirst functionality becomes available. 

We also wish to remind you that, in order to protect the privacy of our students, asking students about their vaccination status is prohibited, but general policy reminders are strongly encouraged.


Dear (insert first name last name):

The Spring semester begins on January 28, 2022.  We are excited to welcome you back to campus. 

You are taking in-person or hybrid courses which means either all or some of your course meetings will be on campus. Therefore, you must comply with the Student Vaccination Mandate.

Since we do not have an approved record in CUNYfirst of your COVID-19 vaccination, please be sure to follow the steps outlined in the Student Guide to Uploading COVID-19 Vaccination Verification Documents.  The upload deadline is January 18, 2022.  The process is quick and easy so do it now.

If you do not meet the deadline, you will be deregistered and withdrawn from your in-person and hybrid courses on or about January 19.  If you become fully vaccinated before or during the late registration period (January 28-February 3) and get your vaccine upload approved in CUNYfirst, you may re-register.Fully vaccinated is defined as 14 days after the final vaccine dose. No student may re-register after February 3. 

If you have not started the vaccination process and want to meet the January 18 upload deadline, your only option now is to take the Johnson & Johnson single dose by January 14.

If you have any questions about vaccines or the deadlines, do not hesitate to get in touch with They are here to answer your questions or concerns.  

The health and safety of the CSI community are of paramount importance, and I appreciate your willingness to help us maintain a safe environment.

I look forward to seeing you on campus in a few weeks.

Best regards,

Jennifer S. Borrero, JD

Vice President for Student Affairs and Alumni Engagement


By Hope Berte

Testing, Vax, and Return to Work Updates

I hope you were able to enjoy the holiday season with family and friends and, as we look to begin the new year, are cautiously optimistic as I am that 2022 will be a year of positive change.

One of the key areas of focus will be recapturing some of the elements that have made CUNY a beacon of student success and social mobility such as campus support services, higher levels of in-person instruction and student activities.

State and city leaders have recognized the importance of restoring in-person activities and instruction as we move ahead in 2022. Last Friday, Governor Kathy Hochul announced a series of measures impacting CUNY and SUNY for the Spring semester, including:

  • Students enrolled in in-person or hybrid classes for Spring 2022 will be required to get the booster shot as soon as they are eligible for it. We will soon share details of the process for students to provide proof of booster vaccination, along with the deadlines for doing so. In the meantime, I encourage not only students but all members of our community to get the booster shot, which has been shown to provide further protection against COVID-19 and its variants.
  • All faculty will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, ensuring that everyone in a classroom is vaccinated, except the few with approved exemptions or exceptions. We are grateful that most of our faculty are already vaccinated and ask that faculty upload proof of vaccination in CUNYfirst. If you are among the few who are not vaccinated, please take immediate steps to do so. In the weeks ahead, we will outline details of the faculty mandate policy, which requires approval by the CUNY Board of Trustees.
  • Pre-testing before the Spring semester begins for some student groups taking in-person or hybrid classes. We will provide more guidance about this as we get closer to the start of the semester but, as in the past, students returning to dorms will be required to be tested before moving in.

Vaccines will continue to be required for all students taking in-person and hybrid courses. Any enrolled student who has not uploaded proof of vaccination documents to CUNYfirst by Jan. 18 will be de-registered from in-person and hybrid classes for non-compliance with the vaccination mandate. If they subsequently upload proof, they may register for courses up to the end of the add/drop period on Feb. 3.

New CDC Guidelines

CUNY will begin following CDC’s recently issued guidance that adjusted the recommended quarantine and isolation times for people in close contact with someone who is positive or those who test positive:

  • CUNY employees and students who come into close contact with someone with COVID-19 should base their approach to quarantine – if it is needed, when to end it, and when to test – depending on whether they are boosted, fully vaccinated and when, or unvaccinated. Please follow CDC’s guidance on quarantine spelled here.
  • Employees and students who test positive for COVID-19 should isolate for at least 5 days. When to end isolation, test and return to in-person work or class varies depending on whether or not a person develops symptoms or is severely ill. Please follow CDC’s guidance on isolation spelled here.
  • For a detailed description on CDC’s guidelines on quarantine and isolation visit here.
  • Employees who are able to work remotely during quarantine and isolation should do so.

In-Person Work

In accordance with existing CUNY campus plans, CUNY offices will continue to operate at the 50% in-person capacity guidelines that have been in place since August now through February 25. Starting on Monday, February 28, staff members will work 70% of the time in person. Please start to make any needed preparations to be ready for this transition.

During the current Omicron surge, supervisors are encouraged to work with Human Resources to address individual situations where short-term fully remote work arrangements may be particularly aligned with our commitment to mitigate the potential spread of infection. We urge employees who are not feeling well to stay home.

A reminder that any staff member returning to work this spring for the first time in-person will need to be fully vaccinated, and their proof-of-vaccination documents uploaded and approved in CUNYfirst, or they will need to participate in CUNY’s Cleared4 testing program. Please don’t wait to upload your proof of vaccination or get set up for testing.


CUNY will continue to monitor campus and university-wide positivity rates through our testing programs. Since August 25, CUNY has administered 97,640 tests to unvaccinated individuals. You can check the latest numbers in our COVID-19 Safety Tracker available here.

The random testing of vaccinated students, faculty and staff that began in late November will be expanded for the Spring to include more people and increase the frequency of testing. Please be on the lookout in case you are randomly selected to be tested as you are required to comply.

A reminder that we are offering free PCR testing at CUNY testing sites. Any CUNY student or employee who needs to be tested for any reason may walk into a site, show their CUNY ID, register in the system and get tested. Results will be available as usual within 24 to 48 hours. For a list of CUNY sites and hours of operation, visit here. For our general FAQ on the testing program, visit here.

The policies outlined above are intended to safeguard the health of every member of our University community while safely enabling us to maximize in-person instruction, an objective that we understand to be vital to our students’ academic success. We realize that public health conditions can evolve rapidly and, as we have seen repeatedly over the past two years, federal, state and city officials could modify these policies and procedures as appropriate.

We will provide more information soon; in the meantime, please get vaccinated and boosted, remain diligent about masking and distancing, and stay safe.

By Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, PhD

Technology Training Sessions for the Week of Jan. 10

The Technology Training Sessions will resume with our Virtual Office Hours and a Zoom series. Training sessions for the Enhanced Smart Classroom Technology are available by appointment.

Please use our Registration page to sign up for any of the sessions. Please note that this schedule is fluid, and we may add or cancel training sessions as needed to serve the College community better.

If there is a topic that you would like to have covered in the future, please contact us, and we will do our best to assist you. We can also customize and provide group training to meet your departmental needs. We look forward to working with you.

Be well.

By Doriann Pieve-Hyland