This winter has been quite challenging due to the cold weather and the repeated winter storms. On Monday Feb. 3, prior to the official closing of the College of Staten Island at 2:30 pm, there were hundreds of sections canceled by faculty, presumably due to difficulties concerning traveling to Staten Island. The Provost’s Office and the departmental offices were besieged with phone calls from students inquiring as to the status of their classes. In many cases, the departmental offices themselves were not staffed. As I sit here today, it appears that we will be confronted with another storm tomorrow.
The decision to close the College is a complex one, and involves many considerations. Even when a decision is made by the College to remain open, ultimately, faculty members have the final responsibility for deciding whether they can meet their classes. This responsibility is not limited to the effect of the weather. Illness, a loss in the family, an accident, etc., could all result in the decision to cancel one’s class. However, if a faculty member must cancel a class it is her/his responsibility to notify his/her students of the cancellation. If the cancellation is not related to an emergency or the weather, I suggest that you try to find a replacement, if at all possible. In the event that you cannot meet with your class and cannot find a substitute, I would like to suggest the following procedures:
(1) If a class must be canceled, the faculty member must notify the department chair and explain the circumstances. University and State education department rules state that the canceled class time must be made up.
(2) As soon as possible after the decision to cancel a class meeting is made, the instructor must notify the students in the canceled class. To facilitate this notification, the instructor should establish an email, Facebook, or Twitter communication system with the students in the class.
(3) The email lists of all classes should be compiled at the start of each semester and maintained by both the instructor and the departmental secretary.
(4) At the beginning of the semester, the instructor should notify the students what to expect in cases when classes must be canceled, and where to look for such information from the faculty member or department. This notification should be both verbal and in writing in the course syllabus.
(5) I would also suggest the following generic statement be sent by the faculty member and department:
Unfortunately, today’s class meeting of section XXX must be canceled. I will inform you how the class time will be made up.
(6) When a decision to close the College is made, this information is sent out in a variety of formats:
-Notification will be placed on CUNY’s homepage, as well as the College of Staten Island’s homepage, the CSI Today site, the Facebook page, and the Twitter feed.
-Additionally, the University Office of Communications will inform NYC.gov and 311, as well as regional broadcast media including: WCBS-AM (880); WINS-AM (1010) ; NY1 News (TWC Ch. 1); and WNBC-TV (Ch. 4).
-Open and close notifications for CSI will be available at 718.982.3333 and 718.982.4444.
-Everyone is also encouraged to register for CUNY A!ert to receive text or voice alerts of emergencies or weather-related closings on campus via mobile or home phone and email.
I ask you to inform your students about the College notification process and emphasize to them the importance of checking whether CSI is open through the various media that are available.
I believe that these procedures will allow us to attain efficient communication with our students and minimize the disruption caused by class cancellations. Thank you for helping to implement this approach.