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 2:30pm, 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, the faculty has 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 her/his 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 should notify the department chair and the department secretaries. If the department office is not open, for example in the evenings or on the weekends, then faculty should notify the Office of Evening and Weekend Services and explain the circumstances. In the event that the department office is not staffed due to the weather, the faculty member should notify the Dean (Humanities/Social Sciences 718.982.2315, Science/Technology 718.982.2430; Business 718.982.2922; Education 718.982.3737) or Provost (718.982.2440). University and State Education Department rules state that the canceled class time must be made up. Faculty should send to the department chairperson, in writing, their plans for making up a canceled class.
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 or Blackboard communication system with the students in the class. The communication system should utilize the College email server if possible. In addition, the faculty member might consider using Facebook, Twitter, and/or texting. IT is working on software to provide email lists for all classes. Texting lists might also be gathered.
3) At the beginning of the semester, the instructor should notify the students about 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. Students should check their CSI email for cancellation notices sent by the instructor unless otherwise arranged with the instructor.
4) Although faculty are, of course, free to communicate in their own words, I suggest the following generic statement be considered:
Unfortunately today’s class meeting of [course name] must be canceled. I will inform you concerning how the class time will be made up.
5) When a decision to close the College is made, this information is relayed in a variety of formats:
-Notification will be placed on CUNY’s homepage, as well as the College of Staten Island’s homepage, CSI Today site, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.
-Additionally, the University Office of Communications will inform NYC.gov and 311, as well as regional broadcast media including: WCBS radio, 880am; 1010 WINS radio; NY1 News (TWC Ch. 1); and WNBC-TV (Channel 4).
-Open and close notifications for CSI will be available on 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.