Welcome to the fall 2020 semester and the new academic year. The turbulence and uncertainty of these times add a special significance to the resumption of classes this year: Our students recognize the importance of pushing forward in pursuit of their academic goals, and our faculty, staff, and administration stand united in their commitment to allowing that to happen without interruption. CUNY is ready to return.

I have said before that New York City’s recovery from the pandemic goes through CUNY, and that’s as true as ever. This institution remains vital to the lifeblood of the region. We have spent months laying the groundwork to proceed in a manner that safeguards the health and well-being of the University community and does not in any way jeopardize or endanger the city’s ongoing recovery efforts.

This letter summarizes the steps we have taken. I ask you to please read it closely, as it outlines several mandatory steps that will be required of all members of the CUNY community who need to come to a campus or office for any reason. To get the most up-to-date information about our COVID-19 response, please continue to visit our coronavirus updates page. Information specifically for students is updated here.


Safety has been at the center of every decision that we have taken. Our governing consideration is to remain fully operational with the smallest possible number of people on campuses and in offices. Across all colleges, fewer than 2% of the nearly 50,000 course sections for the fall semester will be fully in person, minimizing the need for students and staff to have to travel to our campuses. Services such as food pantries, computer labs, libraries, and childcare centers, will be open to some degree, as needed.

We believe this is the safest and most effective way to maintain the academic momentum of our students while safeguarding the health and safety of the entire University community. To ensure the health and safety of those who need to attend an in-person class, no one will be allowed to enter a CUNY campus without first undergoing a health screening (more about this below). Occupancy limits will be applied and enforced in all campus spaces, including classrooms, where there will be a minimum of six feet of distance between seats, and instructors and students will be required to wear masks and prohibited from sharing resources between classrooms. Enhanced cleaning protocols will be in place, with campuses undertaking deep cleans of each classroom multiple times per day. Campuses will ensure that there is a remote substitute for any quarantined or high-risk students.


To enable health screening, CUNY has selected the Everbridge Safety Connection Pro/Contact Tracing mobile app. The application is expressly focused on higher education and is designed to create confidence for students, faculty, staff, and parents when returning to CUNY colleges and offices. It is also easy to use.

  • Starting tomorrow, Aug. 26, students, faculty, staff, and visitors planning to come to a CUNY campus or office for any reason or length of time, will be required to use the app to take a Wellness Check Survey prior to entering a campus or building.

The quick survey involves five short questions and is accessible through Everbridge’s health screening app. Please use this Instructional Guide for accessing and using the app. Visitors should use the Visitors’ Guide for instructions. Based on the answers provided, you will receive confirmation on your phone or email that clears you to enter the college or office. Those not cleared to enter will be given additional guidance on what they should do next. Please also review these FAQs if you have a question.


  • It is always mandatory for every person to wear a mask while on campus. Please consult the University Guidance on Cloth Face Coverings and additional guidance from the CDC. CUNY continues to make having a sufficient supply of masks and face coverings a top priority. To date, we have procured more than 145,000 masks for distribution to campuses and offices.
  • Social distancing and hand washing are as important as ever to stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Take it seriously. Always maintain a physical distance of at least six feet on campus and when gathering with individuals outside the classrooms and other areas. Please remember to wash your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds; use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable.


With almost all of CUNY’s fall classes being delivered online, it’s crucial for me that students have the right technology in place. We purchased Chromebooks and iPads in the spring to enable students to continue their academic progress online. More recently, we procured thousands of Wi-Fi hotspot devices for student use.

If you are a student and don’t have all the tools you need to start strong, your college may be able to lend you a device and provide you with software for your courses. Tell us your needs today through the CUNY Technology Needs Form.


All employees are required to complete the NYS COVID-19 Response – Return to Work Training before returning onsite. The 12-minute training video, which is housed on Blackboard, provides valuable information about the mandatory Daily Staff Screening Program; who should be tested, and where to get a test; daily work requirements such as social distancing, cleaning/sanitizing, elevator protocol, face coverings and personal hygiene; and mental health information and resources.


There is much that remains uncertain about this new academic year, but the many ways in which our community has come together makes me hopeful that we will be prepared to face any challenge that may arise.

Our faculty and staff have committed time this summer to learning best practices about virtual teaching and working remotely. CUNY raised millions of dollars to expand the Chancellor’s Emergency Fund, created to help students suffering financial hardship because of the pandemic.

We have received millions of dollars more to help fund key CUNY initiatives. Portions of a $10 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will be used to reimagine and expand the University’s programs in Black, race, and ethnic studies, and part of the award will expand our CUNY Cultural Corps, a program that provides paid internships and an on ramp to careers in the city’s arts and cultural sectors.

Speaking of jobs, our promising new partnership with the New York Jobs CEO Council promises to open 25,000 employment opportunities to CUNY students. Other CUNY partners are contributing resources to our 90-day Upskilling Challenge, which equips students with training and in-demand expertise to obtain jobs in the city’s high-growth industries, which are hiring skilled applicants despite the impacts of COVID-19.

I’ve been excited to welcome nine new college presidents or interim leaders to CUNY, accomplished, experienced, and diverse leaders who are poised to take their schools to a new level and help write the University’s next chapter.

But the biggest source of my optimism about the fall semester and the 2020-2021 school year is you – our students, faculty, and staff. Over the course of the past half year, I have seen your remarkable resilience and your refusal to be deterred. I saw how you pulled together in times of crisis, how you helped each other to cope with the effects of debilitating grief and loss. As the city and country grappled with the realities of systemic racism, you stood united to demand meaningful change and showed your resolve to do the hard work that will be needed in the years to come.

I know that the coming year won’t be easy. We continue to mourn the members of our community lost to COVID-19. We are still coming to grips with the many adjustments the pandemic has visited on our society, our University, and our lives. We have no choice but to keep going, and I know we will. Together, we’ll make this semester another success, and we will keep looking forward to the day when we can again see each other on our campuses and our Central Office locations. Thanks for remaining patient and flexible. Thanks for being #CUNYstrong.

By Félix V. Matos Rodríguez