Academic Affairs Updates Regarding Re-Entry Plans

The campus has been involved in collaborative faculty/staff/administration efforts to develop re-entry plans for CSI as a whole, and a separate one specifically for research re-entry. I wanted to update you on both of these processes. The Campus Re-Entry committee is working hard on the re-entry plan, which we will submit to CUNY at the end of the week. As President Fritz has announced on several occasions, the submission of a plan does not mean that we will be returning to campus any time soon. Our fall schedule currently shows 91% of class sessions being offered online, and 6% scheduled as hybrid, which means that those sections may include a limited in-person presence when some parts of the campus are ready to open on a limited basis using CUNY, State, and CDC guidelines for safe campus operations. We are looking at options to address a few pedagogical needs dictated by accreditation and licensure. At this point, virtually all campus services will continue to be offered online as well. When we do return to campus, it will be a gradual, carefully monitored process. 

A separate committee developed a plan for research re-entry, which was submitted to AVC Tamera Schneider at CUNY for review on July 17. It was returned with requests for revisions last Thursday, and a revised version was sent back to CUNY for final approval today. The plan was approved yesterday by EVC Cruz, and is now published on the CSI Research Website​. As with campus re-entry, the process detailed in their report will be slow and measured, and dependent on the campus meeting the same health and safety benchmarks addressed in the campus report. 

A thread running through both plans is that the health and safety of our campus community will be our foremost concern. We have significant challenges to our campus infrastructure that will need to be addressed before we can return to campus for even limited classroom instruction and research. I know we are all anxious to return to a state resembling the pre-pandemic normalcy, but cautionary tales from other states and educational institutions support the notion that we need to re-open slowly, monitoring conditions as we do so.

I hope you are all safe and healthy.

J. Michael Parrish

Fall Semester Updates

At last week’s CUNY Board of Trustees meeting, the Board granted CUNY maximum flexibility in offering a primarily online curriculum in the fall, while keeping the option open of delivering a select number of class sessions in person once Staten Island is in Phase 4 and, most importantly, if the campus has the financial resources to meet the necessary safety requirements. 

The Research Re-Entry Committee submitted their plan for the gradual resumption of research activities on campus to President Fritz and me. It will shortly be forwarded to CUNY AVP of Research Tamera Schneider for review. Once it has passed review, campus researchers with external funding will prepare their own plans to resume limited campus activity while ensuring social distancing and safe working conditions for principal investigators, graduate students, support staff, and other essential personnel. 

In the meantime, the CSI Re-Entry Committee continues to develop its plan for how and when various campus operations will resume. The Curriculum and Instruction subcommittee will be submitting a survey to those Deans and Chairs who have indicated that some portion of their instruction will need to be delivered in person. 

After a troubling decision was announced last week by ICE that foreign students would be unable to remain in the U.S. if taking an entirely online curriculum, we yesterday heard the good news that that decision has been rescinded. I would like to thank the numerous faculty and staff who offered assistance in developing ways to keep our foreign students registered, and particularly to Stephen Ferst in keeping me informed as this situation changed continually over the last several days.

The return to campus will be slow and measured, with the safety of our students, faculty, and staff a paramount consideration. In the meantime, I hope you all are having a safe and sane summer.

By J. Michael Parrish

Professor Albert Blank

It is with great sorrow that we announce to the College Community the passing of retired Professor Albert Blank. At the age of 95, Al Blank died peacefully at home in Pelham, NY on Wednesday, June 17.

A research professor in the Computer Science Department since 1993, he was instrumental in developing the Assistive Technology Computer Laboratory for Visually Impaired People. An applied mathematician, he did seminal work in optics, developing a theorem for binocular space perception. As Professor of Mathematics, he inspired students at NYU and Carnegie Mellon, headed a multi-year national study group that developed calculus courses for high school students, wrote a three-volume textbook on calculus, and in retirement, developed a computer-assisted tactile course for teaching calculus to the blind. He loved English Country dancing, served on the Board of the national society, and supported the growth of several local groups. He will be deeply missed by his wife, Nancy DeVore; daughters Sharon, Tamara, Deborah, and Irina (Caldwell); and his four grandchildren. 

A memorial event will be held in his honor at a later date.

By J. Michael Parrish

PCA Student Statements Update

Last week, I sent a message highlighting the poetry readings of Zaenob A. Bashir and Mayah Burke, students in the Drama Program of the Department of Performing and Creative Arts. In the message, I should have mentioned that these two talented students received important and caring mentoring from PCA faculty members Sean Edgecomb, Maurya Wickstrom, George Sanchez, and Kevin Judge. A solidarity statement, written by the aforementioned faculty, accompanied the two poems. The entire presentation can be viewed online. 

Wishing you all a joyful Juneteenth.

By Michael Parrish

Powerful Student Performances on Recent Events

The reprehensible killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Ardery are just some of the latest in centuries of violent crimes against people of color in our country. As a white male of privilege, I know I can go to the grocery store without fearing for my life because of the color of my skin, but thousands of men, women, and children in our city cannot. The most important mission of an institution like the College of Staten Island is to be an agent of change and a catalyst for equity and inclusion, but it should also serve as a venue for exploration of difficult topics and creation of original research, scholarship, and creative activity. In the spirit of those goals, I would like to share a link to two powerful performances​ by young black poets in the Drama program that express their feelings about the events of the last few weeks. We are living in challenging times, but young voices like these give us reason to be hopeful for the future. 

Hoping you are all well and safe.

By Michael Parrish

Congratulations to the Class of 2020

I hope this message finds you well and safe. In a normal year, we would be celebrating your graduation with a Commencement ceremony, and would have celebrated those achieving Honors in a ceremony earlier in the week. The COVID-19 pandemic has altered life for all of us, and I am sorry that we are not having the opportunity to celebrate your achievements in person this week. However, as President Fritz indicated in his video message, we look forward to celebrating your achievements when we are able to schedule the Commencement festivities.​ In the meantime, know that all of us in Academic Affairs are very proud of your achievements, and wish you the best as you prepare for your next adventures.

Go Class of 2020!

By Michael Parrish

Thanks to Nursing Faculty, Students, and Graduates

Wednesday, May 6 was National Nurse’s Day and Tuesday, May 12 is International Nurse’s Day. During this week when we recognize the dedication, sacrifice, and skills of nurses worldwide, I wanted to take a moment to offer profound thanks to those from the nursing community, including the faculty, staff, and students in our Department of Nursing, for all they do in service to others, particularly during this global pandemic. These dedicated servant-leaders are putting their own lives at risk in service to others, often at the expense of their own health. We are fortunate to have a strong Nursing program at CSI that has trained so many of the nursing professionals on the Island, and continues to train the nurses of the future. 

Stay well, and as you do, thank a nurse.

By Michael Parrish