In considering what to write, I am struck by the inadequacy of words to describe the enormity of the situation we are now facing. Hurricane Sandy wielded a powerful blow to our campus, but more significantly to the greater Staten Island and Metropolitan New York areas. As you have heard from others, the campus was without electricity for Monday, Tuesday, and most of Wednesday. Phone service was almost non-existent during that period and we had no Web access or email. Fortunately, through the dedicated work of our emergency staff, we quickly began to address our deficiencies and as of yesterday, we were more or less back to normal, if that is a word that can be used to describe what most certainly is not life as usual. I can attest to the great commitment of many of our staff. Our IT teams, our electricians, our plumbers all worked long and hard to restore power, phone lines, and email to the campus. Our dedicated Vivarian staff made sure our animals were not harmed by a lack of heat or a lack of food. Our President and VP Persky attended to the campus around the clock to deal with and commandeer our campus response. We certainly owe all of these individuals an expression of gratitude. Fortunately, our campus only suffered minor damage and physically we will heal quickly.
I am saddened by the fact that the same is not true for our neighbors on Staten Island and indeed members of our own College family. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Associate Professor Angela Sammarco on the tragic loss of her husband. Although we do not yet have details, among the 19 Staten Islanders who passed away, we believe that some present or former students of the College were involved. Thousands of our neighbors lost homes and we can speculate that given the tight knit nature of our borough, it will be the rare person who does not know someone that was affected. As we move past this crisis period, the College will evaluate what is the appropriate response of our campus community to the greater problems experienced on Staten Island.
I am aware that you have been receiving bulletins concerning the return of our College to a normal class schedule. In this recovery period, we take guidance from CUNY Central and are doing everything that we can to update them on the local conditions affecting our borough. As of yesterday, our staff came to the campus and classes are being held today. However, we are advising our faculty to be cognizant of and sensitive to the special needs of our students. I am confident that as a College we will respond in a humane and compassionate manner. Our Academic Deans – Alex Chigogidze and Nan Sussman – will be providing class-related information, maintain contact with the Chairs, and be available for questions. I am certain that we will go forward and overcome this very significant challenge. Working together, supporting one another, and taking into account the human aspect of this tragedy will ultimately result in a stronger College and Staten Island community.