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

Welcome to the Fall 2020 Semester

As we prepare to start this most unusual fall semester, I want to thank all of you for your creativity, persistence, and support of our students during the last six months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our re-entry plan was approved by CUNY last week, which lays out a plan for a slow, careful move back to campus. This does not mean that there will be significant on-campus activity in the near future. We hope to have two academic buildings, 6S and 5N, up to the standards for air quality and signage specified by New York State for higher ed by early next week, which will open the door for very limited sponsored research activities as approved by the research re-entry committee and also will allow for some necessary on-campus teaching in areas such as physical therapy, nursing,  biology, and chemistry. Stay tuned for updates on these activities, but for now, assume all instruction and other work will occur via distance education/telecommuting unless you are specifically informed otherwise.

Speaking of research, this was a very good summer for our faculty receiving research grants:

• Tobias Schaefer from the Math Department and his NYU colleague Eric Vanden-Eijnden had their project, “Sharp Large Deviation Estimates of Fluctuations in Stochastic Hydrodynamic Systems,” funded by the National Science Foundation. The award amount is $147,603 over three years.
• Dr. Kristen Gillespie-Lynch​ in Psychology received funding from NSF for her project, “Promoting Engagement in Informal STEM Learning as a Path to Employment for Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” The award amount was $945,539 over three years.
• Also in Psychology, Dr. Sarah Berger (and her co-PI Regina Harbourne) were funded by NSF for their project, “The Role of Sleep in Infant Motor Problem Solving.” The award amount was $485,916 over three years.
• Dr. Maria Knikou from Physical Therapy received a National Institute of Health RO1 grant to support her research project  titled, “Priming with High-Frequency Trans-spinal Stimulation to Augment Locomotor Training Benefits in Spinal Cord Injury.” The amount in the first year (of five years) is $597,511.

Several faculty members achieved recognition for their scholarly efforts:

• History Professor Alexander Zevin was selected to receive one of the five Henry Wasser Awards presented for outstanding Assistant Professors in CUNY for 2020. The Feliks Gross and Henry Wasser Endowment Awards are named after two of the CUNY Academy’s founding members. 
• In Media Culture, Associate Professor Racquel Gates is the recipient of one of this year’s Academic of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Academy Film Scholar awards for her book in progress Hollywood Style and the Invention of Blackness.
https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/race/film-academy-unveils-film-scholar-grant-recipients-1305243
• In the School of Education, Dr. Greg Seals was a recipient of the John Dewey Society Outstanding Achievement Award for his book Teachable Moments and the Science of Education (Routledge, 2019). 

All of these accomplishments emphasize the importance of research, scholarship, and creative activity to the academic life of CSI. I know that our researchers and scholars have been frustrated by the impact of the campus closure resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, and Facilities and Academic Affairs are working hard to provide a safe campus environment where research activities that rely on campus facilities can resume as soon as possible. In the meantime, I would like to wish you all a productive and safe fall semester.

J. Michael​ Parrish

Fall Semester Update

As the beginning of the fall semester approaches, we are charting unprecedented waters in higher education. The progression of the COVID-19 pandemic has created uncertainty and anxiety in a way that most of us have not experienced in our lifetimes. 

With classes starting next week, we continue to plan for a semester that will almost entirely be delivered by distance education. An extensive survey by the Curriculum and Instruction subcommittee of the CSI Re-Entry committee identified only 88 out of 1,650 course sections that are currently proposed to be offered as hybrid rather than fully online. Any courses that are listed as fully online will be delivered in that mode throughout the semester. Those that are listed as Hybrid (all labs, studios, and clinical experiences) may have some in-person instruction, but the campus is not currently ready for students and faculty to convene on campus in this mode. We are anticipating that some in-person instruction should be possible for these courses later in the semester, depending on the progress of the pandemic, and we are working on off-campus solutions for Physical Therapy and Nursing. However, for the time being, most instruction and student and employee support services will continue to be offered remotely. 

Over the summer, much effort has gone into developing strategies for how to maintain our academic activities during the pandemic. Two large committees have been working on how to resume on-campus activities. The first of these is the Research Re-Entry Committee (RRoC) chaired by Dean Michael Cavagnero. The RRoC report was submitted to CUNY in mid-July. Following review by CUNY Research AVP Tamera Schneider, the report was approved by EVC Cruz on Tuesday, Aug. 4 and can be viewed online​ . This approval opened the door for faculty with funded research projects to prepare individual plans for how to resume limited research safely within their labs. However, resumption of research activities is also dependent on the establishment of safe conditions within the buildings where research will be conducted. Supplies have been ordered to provide improved HVAC capacity, touchless bathroom fixtures, and signage for three high-priority buildings – 6S, 5N, and 5S, and we will be able to resume limited research activities for PIs with sponsored research and doctoral students nearing completion once the safety conditions have been met in those buildings. I understand that those with such research commitments are anxious to resume activities in their labs, but our campus has significant infrastructural issues that we need to address before we can safely have regular research occupancy of our buildings.

The second committee, the Campus Re-Entry committee, which is co-chaired by VP Hope Berte and me, submitted their report to CUNY on Friday, Aug. 7. It is currently under review at CUNY, and will have to be approved by both CUNY and the State of New York before we can begin to implement that plan. Per CUNY directions, the plan details how we can institute a phased reopening of the campus up to a 25% capacity. The work of this committee is expected to continue throughout the academic year, and Hope and I would like to thank all of the committee members and co-chairs for their dedicated work over the last few months. Once the plan is approved by CUNY and the state, it will be posted on the Website. In the meantime, just about all instruction and academic support services will continue to be delivered remotely, and the St. George and Willowbrook campuses will remain closed except by previously approved appointment. 

This semester will be a learning experience for all of us, and I appreciate the dedication and creativity you are all bringing to serving our students during this remarkable health crisis. Even though we will not be together on the Willowbrook Campus, I look forward to working with all of you in the coming weeks.​

By J. Michael Parrish