Congratulations to Professors Macaspac and Verene

In the last two weeks, two of our faculty have received global recognition for their scholarship. Assistant Professor Nerve Macaspac in Political Science and Global Affairs serves as a co-investigator on a newly awarded $2.5 million (£1.87 million) research grant through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) as a Co-Investigator for a major international research project aimed at providing greater protection for millions of civilians caught up in conflict zones.

In the Department of Performance and Creative Art, Associate Professor Christopher Verene was one of 184 recipients of 2021 Guggenheim Fellowships. Professor Verene’s portfolio of creative activity is broad, encompassing photography, performance art, and music. 

I would like to congratulate Professors Macaspac and Verene on this recognition of their scholarly and artistic achievements.

By Michael Parrish

Re-Entry Updates

I know many of you are anxious about re-entry in the fall. This will continue to be a work in progress as we learn more about the course of the pandemic and the changing guidance and requirements from CUNY, the NY State Department of Education, and the City and State of New York.  We are still anticipating being in Phase 3 of our re-entry plan at the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester, which would call for the campus to be at roughly 25% of its normal daily capacity.

The subcommittees of the re-entry committee will be meeting during March to plan for the potential impact of this plan for campus operations. As has been the case since the pandemic started, we will maintain our highest priority for the safety of our faculty, staff, and students. 

As of yesterday, the NY State Department of Education extended flexibility for distance education through the 2021-2022 academic year. This means that programs that want to continue to offer more than 50% of their curriculum online can do so without applying for exemptions to do so. Programs seeking permission to offer over 50% of their curriculum online will need to go through the usual approval process through CUNY and NYSed. 

Finally, we have scheduled a Re-Entry Town Hall for Wednesday, Apr. 7 at 2:00pm, and hope to have more updates from the subcommittees to share at that time.

By Michael Parrish

Re-Entry Update

As the vaccines for COVID are being distributed and the number of cases is going down, CSI is looking ahead to the Fall 2021 semester when we anticipate having a greater number of face-to-face experiences and more faculty and staff on campus. Most forecasts by health professionals indicate that we will still be using social distancing and masks for the fall semester, so we need to plan accordingly. Allowing for the gradual transition detailed in the CSI re-entry plan, we expect to be at phase 3 (roughly 25% occupancy) by the beginning of the Fall semester. For our campus, this still means that the bulk of courses will be delivered entirely or partially via distance education, and that classes with some or all instruction done in person will be prioritized to those with the greatest programmatic need for face-to-face interactions, including accreditation needs, lab experiments, or studio instruction. Chairs, Deans, and Program Directors have been asked to work together on this prioritization as we develop the Fall schedule.

One of the main obstacles we face as we contemplate return to campus is the capacity of classrooms, teaching labs, and studios as is required for social distancing. For in-person instruction, the capacity of most rooms will be 50 to 60% of that previously allowed, which will require modifications on a room-by-room basis for any on-campus instruction. We will also be outfitting up to 40 classrooms with technology to allow blended instruction, reaching a mix of students attending in person and those participating by distance education.

To incorporate on-campus instruction, we will need to employ more flexibility in times, dates, and locations where courses are scheduled. We are looking at maximizing the time slots for course offerings, including weekends and evenings. Courses may be offered in different rooms and buildings than where they usually take place, and our re-entry plan calls for some campus buildings remaining closed for instruction while we remain in phase three. 

We have a lot of work to do to prepare for the fall, and the Administration and the Re-Entry committee will be working over the spring and summer to ensure that our return to campus is as safe and academically rich as possible. Those students who want an entirely online education may still be able to do so, but we also want to provide as many opportunities for on-campus learning as resources and facilities allow. 

I am grateful to all of you for your dedication and persistence as we have moved through this difficult period. It is hoped that we are near the end of the beginning of our global response to this pandemic, and I look forward to the time when we can all safely be back on campus again.​ In the meantime, I hope you are all staying warm and safe.

By Michael Parrish

Call for Honorary Degree Nominations

As you know, the College has usually granted one or more honorary doctoral degrees as part of the spring Commencement ceremony. I am writing to invite suggestions for possible candidates for honorary degrees at the Spring 2021 Commencement. As a reminder, recipients of honorary doctoral degrees are typically individuals who have distinguished careers in the academy, the arts, or public service, and who have a connection or special relevance to the College. As in the past, nominations will be considered by an appointed faculty committee chaired by the Provost, which will forward its recommendations to the President.

Please submit any nomination to provost@csi.cuny.edu by no later than Friday, Feb. 12, 2021.

The committee looks forward to receiving your suggestions. If you offer a nomination, please provide information relevant to the criteria stated in the above paragraph.

By J. Michael Parrish

Re-Entry Update Dec. 4, 2020

As you know, the Thanksgiving holiday weekend was a source of concern regarding the spread of COVID-19, and national figures this week have certainly shown that concern to be well founded. Fortunately, the impact on campus to date has been modest. We currently know of three active cases involving people who have come to campus–one student, one staff member, and one visitor.

Per a recent communication from HR, copied below, priority testing is available at select testing locations for those faculty and students who currently work/reside/attend classes on campus are available. Those meeting those criteria can request a letter from HR (staff and faculty) or Student Affairs (students) that should allow those with the letters to go to the head of the line for testing at the indicated locations.

Fortunately, the holiday weekend has not significantly impacted campus activities involving classes, research, or housing to a significant degree to date.

HR Memo sent 12/3/20:

Pursuant to the Chancellor’s email yesterday, priority testing is now available for faculty, staff, and students working, living, and/or attending classes on campus. Priority testing is available for CUNY faculty, staff, or students who: currently reside in a CUNY dorm,or regularly work on a CUNY campus, or attend or teach in-person or hybrid classes including those at clinical sites off-campus. Eligible CUNY staff can work with their managers to schedule a 45-minute work break twice a month in order to get tested. Everyone must present a valid campus identification card at the testing site. CSI faculty and staff currently working on campus can request a letter from Human Resources by emailing the Human Resources mailbox at humanresources@csi.cuny.edu. Students residing on campus or taking in-person classes can request a letter from Student Affairs by emailing studentaffairs@csi.cuny.edu  

Human Resources

By Michael Parrish

Teaching Modalities for Spring 2021 and Re-Entry Update

On Monday,  the CUNY Board of Trustees approved a resolution entitled “APPROVAL TO CONTINUE THE OFFERING OF ONLINE INSTRUCTION FOR THE DELIVERY OF COURSES IN DEGREE AND NON-DEGREE PROGRAMS AND THE OFFERING OF REMOTE SUPPORT SERVICES FOR THE SPRING 2021 SEMESTER.” The resolved statement reads as follows:

RESOLVED, That the Board of Trustees approves the University’s decision to extend and continue the offering of online and distance learning instructional modality for the delivery of courses in degree and non-degree programs and the offering of remote support services for the Spring Semester 2021 — with exceptions only being made for courses that cannot be effectively delivered at a distance, such as those courses which are highly experiential, or services that involve some form of tangible exchange, such as food pantries, provided they meet New York State and University guidelines for on-site instruction or delivery; and that the Chancellor shall take such actions as are reasonable and necessary to give effect to the foregoing.

This is consistent with the planning we have been doing as a campus for a mostly online Spring 2021 semester. It is hoped that we will be able to accommodate more hybrid instruction including on-campus presence, but that will depend on how the pandemic progresses over the coming months.

We are also planning on mostly online Winter and Spring semesters at this point. In the meantime, we are continuing to prepare more campus spaces for safe occupancy and once we have the materials and personnel to accommodate preparing and maintaining those spaces, we hope to open some additional buildings. However, right now, we are experiencing a worrying rise in cases of COVID among faculty, staff, and students who had been on campus, (currently totaling seven active cases), some of which have resulted in additional campus personnel being quarantined. As a result, we are currently being very cautious in not increasing the number of people coming to campus. If we were to reach a total of 34 active cases among those who have come to campus, we would have to close the campus again for a minimum of 14 days. 

We will be facing a lot of unknowns as a campus in the coming weeks, with the pandemic, the election, and the federal, state, and CUNY budgets. I will keep you informed regarding campus events, and I hope that all of you are faring well during this very unusual time for CSI, for New York, and for the nation.

Best wishes to you all.

By Michael Parrish

Re-Entry Update

As we move into the fall, CSI continues on a path toward slow campus re-entry. Over the weekend, we had the sobering news of the first two cases of essential personnel on campus who had tested positive for COVID-19. This is a signal that, although campus occupancy remains low, we need to be vigilant in monitoring and tracing those with symptoms. Those in contact with the individuals have been notified to quarantine for two weeks, and the areas where the people worked have been deep cleaned over the weekend. Because of these new cases, we are holding off on expanding the number of people approved to come to campus for the time being, and will have to restrict campus visits on weekends. For the present time, work will have to be concluded by 3:00pm on Saturdays and we can’t allow access on Sundays.

As we remain in Phase 1 of campus re-entry, we are maintaining a cap of 450 staff, faculty, and students on campus any given day. Those coming to campus need to be approved in advance and must complete the Everbridge health screening application in order to gain entrance to campus.

Building 6S is fully functional, and hosting researchers, as well as students in Physical Therapy. Work continues on signage and HVAC in 5N and 5S, the other two buildings identified in the re-entry plan as highest priority, and those buildings are near the end stages of that preparation. 

The co-chairs of the re-entry subcommittees met on Friday to receive updates and to formulate a strategy for the rest of the semester and beyond. Rather than regularly convening the entire committee, the subcommittees will meet monthly, as will the committee and subcommittee co-chairs. I will also continue to provide updates at least twice a month to Academic Affairs, or more often as new developments occur. 

As President Fritz and I have indicated several times, we expect Spring 2021 to look very much like the current semester, with most instruction and campus business conducted online. We hope to continue to move ahead, preparing the campus for more extensive re-entry as budget and personnel are available to implement the necessary changes. However, a the two new cases, and the general trends toward increased COVID incidence in New York indicate, we need to continue to be cautious, individually and as a campus.

By Michael Parrish