President’s May 3 Campus Message

I know the financial state of CUNY, and CSI in particular, is of concern to all of us. In the various town halls on which I have appeared, I have noted that the State-enacted budget for the upcoming fiscal year contains a provision allowing further adjustments (reductions) on Thursday, Apr. 30, Tuesday, June 30, and a final opportunity on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020. While Governor Cuomo recently warned that the State Budget has a projected $13 billion gap related to the pandemic response, no further details regarding specific cuts to the CUNY budget have been provided.

I understand the anxiety and frustration caused by the uncertainty of the situation, in addition to the overarching health and safety concerns of the moment. While we have not received budget details, we have started to plan for options so we are better prepared when we are advised of specific cuts. Any recommendations for budget reductions will be guided by three principles – maintain quality instruction for our students, minimize cuts to staffing to the greatest extent possible, and maintain a safe and healthy campus, for the day we are able to return to normal operations. I will be consulting with the Personnel & Budget Committee, the College Council Budget Committee, and other stakeholders regarding any recommended actions.

Aside from any actions related to the financial health of the system, I know we all are concerned about what the fall semester will look like. To date, no final decision has been made and we are engaging in conversations with CUNY, our Board of Trustees, the NYS Education Department, and our accrediting agencies, as well as various City and State agencies as to what the fall may look like.

Regardless of when the decision is made, now is a good time to prepare for the possibility that instruction may be fully online or a hybrid model of instruction. To that end, we have worked with CUNY and the School of Professional Studies to make the SPS certification course, Online Teaching Essentials, available to all faculty teaching this summer for whom this semester was their first experience working online. Additionally, our Faculty Center and IT team continue to provide guidance and support to faculty, staff, and students and will be announcing some additional workshops in the near future to improve on the great education being offered online.

While we plan and adjust to this ever-changing world, it’s important to recognize some of the great work that continues despite these difficult times.

Undergraduate research has long been a signature component of our academic program at CSI. Every year, we host a Conference on Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Performance where, in most years, over 400 students present their original scholarship and creative activities, covering a wide spectrum, from traditional science posters to dance, composition, and debate.

This year, we had to change the format, moving the conference online, but it was still a great experience. The students did a wonderful job showcasing their scholarship, with faculty members observing and asking questions. It was clear from the questions posted in the chat room that a lot of students were participating as well.

Putting on this virtual conference was a heavy lift, involving considerable effort and ingenuity from our IT team, the Office of Graduate Studies, the Office of Research and Institutional Effectiveness, and the participating students and their faculty mentors. My thanks to all who worked so diligently to offer this experience to our students.

The event truly embodied the spirit and persistence of our faculty, staff, and students. I look forward to sharing clips on our Webpage in the near future. 

We continue to provide support for our students outside of the classroom. Our Student Emergency Relief Campaign has raised over $23,000 to support students in need and our Food Pantry has continued to provide food to students and their families.

Valerie Tevere, Professor of Media Culture, was awarded a 2020 Guggenheim Fellowship (jointly with Angel Nevarez of the Faculty of Art, Media, and Technology at the New School University) in the field of Fine Arts. According to their Website, Tevere and Nevarez “are multidisciplinary artists whose projects and research investigate contemporary music and sound, the electromagnetic spectrum, dissent, and public fora.” Congratulations to Professor Tevere in joining the growing ranks of our nationally recognized faculty.

Significantly, Professor Gerry Milligan has advised that the Verrazano Honors Program has the largest incoming class of students in the history of the program, nearly doubling the number of incoming students in 2018.

A number of our faculty are documenting the effects of the pandemic on our Staten Island and tri-state communities through efforts including the History Department’s Coronavirus Public History Project, the School of Education’s Poetic Pandemic Project, and the Department of Social Work’s study of the effects of moving to distance education on the CSI community.

The above is just a sample of the great work happening throughout our College, and makes clear to me that working together, we will be able to handle this and any challenge that comes our way. Thank you to all for your continued hard work and support for our students during this time and always.

By William J. Fritz

Only Essential Personnel Permitted on Campus

We are receiving a number of requests from faculty and staff to come to campus to work in their offices, retrieve items, tend to plants and other activities. Please be reminded that the campus is open for essential functions only. Other than essential functions, operations must happen remotely. There will be no more access to faculty and staff for non-essential actions. If faculty or staff need equipment to perform certain tasks at home, then please submit your request via email to Your request will be reviewed with the appropriate supervisory staff and you will be notified of the arrangements for you to retrieve those items.

This week, construction will likely begin on two separate field hospitals; a 100-bed facility located in the Sports and Recreation Center (Building 1R) for non-COVID patients and a 50-bed structure to be built in Parking Lot 6 for treatment of COVID patients. This construction, along with Governor Cuomo’s recent statement that we still haven’t reached the apex of the crisis, make it more critical than ever that we limit access to campus.

It bears repeating, if during this time you are sick, exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, tested positive, or have been in contact with someone who is sick, exhibiting symptoms or tested positive — do not come to campus. You are advised to call your healthcare provider and please inform your supervisor and/or Human Resources.

Let’s not take unnecessary risks with our own or each other’s lives.

If you have any questions or concerns, please follow up with your respective Vice President or you can email me.

Thank you for understanding.

By William J. Fritz

April 3 Update for Faculty and Staff

As you know, yesterday was the first day of classes following the recalibration period. With the continuation of classes, I wanted to provide an update on some of the events of the last few weeks. This past week, through the hard work of many people in Student Affairs, Public Safety, Dolphin Cove, Purchasing, and Facilities, roughly 200 Dolphin Cove residents moved out, with nearly 30 students moving to the Queens College dormitory on Saturday.

Since that time, we have had a number of discussions with a liaison officer assigned to coordinate the activities of various state and federal agencies in the review of select campus locations. No final decision has been made, though that can change in a moment’s notice. As part of our overall preparations, we have compiled lists of protective gear and equipment that can be used to provide medical assistance.  

Late Tuesday night, we received the first shipment of computer devices from CUNY and yesterday, we had our first distribution of Chromebooks to students. We anticipate a second distribution early next week. Once completed, we will begin distributing technology to faculty and staff who require additional support. If you are in need of a Chromebook or iPad to assist in your work assignment, please advise the Vice President of your Division. I want to thank our IT team, Academic Affairs, the Business Office, Facilities, and Public Safety for developing and implementing our distribution plan.  

This past Wednesday, both Student Affairs and Academic Affairs hosted virtual conferences for students and faculty/staff, respectively, to learn how the transition to distance education is going and to hear what other issues are of concern during this turbulent period. Thanks to all who participated, and look for announcements of additional meetings from these and other departments in the coming weeks. Virtual office hours have also been implemented by Training, the Helpdesk, and the Faculty Center in order to support faculty, staff, and students with technology. They are also continuing to offer online training sessions on the best use of Blackboard Collaborate, Webex, and other distance-education modalities.

We are also working on ensuring that students stay connected and engaged throughout this semester. EDUCares is an academic care unit formed in Student Success that is working to connect students with faculty after the students have been absent from the virtual learning environment. Coordinated out of the Center for Advising and Academic Success (CAAS), it has contacted 1,427 students who were reported in 164 emails to from their faculty.

One thing that I want to stress, is that no matter your position, your efforts are critical and greatly appreciated. During this time of great uncertainty in the world, I know our efforts can seem insignificant against the backdrop of a global pandemic. However, I think what we’re doing now is as important as ever. Right now, we are continuing to give our students an opportunity to retain some normalcy and routine while moving ahead in their lives and academic careers.

Additionally, as the local community recovers from the severe economic impact that this pandemic is having, our College will continue to provide opportunities to receive a top education at a reasonable cost. Importantly, our Small Business Development Corporation is open and assisting our local businesses to apply for grants and loans to help them through this time.

In closing, I want to again thank you all for your work and hope that you and your loved ones stay healthy.

By William J. Fritz

Census Day 2020: Be Counted!

I know that we are all busy keeping ourselves, our families, and our community safe during this public health crisis. However, there is another urgent issue that I urge you to keep in mind, as it will affect our readiness for future health emergencies. Each of us must complete the 2020 Census.

As today is National Census Day, please remember that our ability to address a wide variety of important public needs – from disaster planning, to education, transportation, and public health – is directly affected by our Census responses, determining how the federal government allocates more than $675 billion a year. The funding on which our City relies will be jeopardized unless we all – every household – respond to the Census.

Our political power in Washington is also at stake. With a poor response to the Census, New York State could potentially lose two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. If we have fewer people fighting for our interests, our voices will be diminished.

Complete the 2020 Census onlineby phone or by mail and eliminate the need for a census worker to visit your home, which is safer for everyone.

Unfortunately, New York City’s current response rate is lower than that of the country as a whole. New Yorkers are winners. We cannot let other states beat us! Remember that:

  • Your immigration status doesn’t matter (there is no citizenship question)!
  • Your language doesn’t matter (the census will collect responses in 13 languages)!
  • Your age doesn’t matter (babies count too)! 

It’s also very easy to complete the census, as there are only ten questions. It takes less than ten minutes to respond — but the impact will be felt for the next ten years.

This is our one chance this decade to be counted. Complete the census right now — and then encourage two people to do the same.
By William J. Fritz

Want to learn more? Check out #CUNYcounts #GetCountedNYC

Congratulations to VP Kenichi Iwama

I am proud to announce that Vice President for Economic Development, Continuing Studies, and Government Relations, Ken Iwama, has been named Chancellor of Indiana University Northwest, located in Gary, IN.  

At CSI, as Vice President, VP Iwama led the our strategic initiative of Borough Stewardship, establishing and strengthening the College’s ties with local government officials, high schools, businesses, and Borough entrepreneurs, in an effort to bolster the College’s role as an academic, productive, and creative force on Staten Island, one of the five great boroughs of New York City.  

VP Iwama’s division has re-engaged with the Staten Island community, resulting in unprecedented resources flowing to the College to grow the educational and research environments needed to support and enhance academic excellence. Of particular note, he secured approximately $22 million for major facilities and infrastructure projects as well as academic initiatives supporting the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Division of Science and Technology, the School of Health Sciences, and the School of Business. VP Iwama is currently overseeing the major expansion of the College’s Tech Incubator to create the first innovation center in the Borough, fostering new businesses, technology, and economic growth.   

In addition to providing diverse educational programming for 4,000 pre-college, professional certificate, and matriculated students, the division supports faculty research and innovation, government relations, corporate and foundation engagement, specialized student career services, student residential life, workforce development, auxiliary services, and community-based centers and programming.  

VP Iwama previously served as Chief of Staff and Deputy for two College of Staten Island presidents, and was the College’s Director of Diversity and Compliance.  

Please join me in congratulating Ken as he brings the skills and his CSI experience to Indiana University Northwest.  

By William J. Fritz

Plans for Use of Our Campus

Last week, I spoke to you about the legacy of our campus and how once again we are being called on as an Anchor Institution on Staten Island to serve our community through Borough Stewardship. Yesterday, members of the Army Corps of Engineers Advance Team were on site reviewing the campus to determine the best locations for use as field hospitals. The team looked at Dolphin Cove, the Recreational Center, the Great Lawn, the athletic fields, and parking lots. We anticipate two phases of construction; once sites are selected, it will take between ten and 14 days to complete the first phase, and 21 days to finish the second. We are working closely with the offices of Congressman Rose and Governor Cuomo on these plans.

I will continue to update the campus as we learn more information about the construction. As mentioned in my recent video message, the only thing that appears certain is that we will be returning to our roots, serving as a hospital in a time of need. We all wish that the world was not faced with this pandemic, but I know that we will do our part to support our fellow Islanders, the City of New York, our students, and each other through the use of our facilities and many other measures.

My thoughts and gratitude continue to be with you all during this time.

By William J. Fritz

College of Staten Island Facilities Used to Support the Fight against COVID-19

Consistent with my recent video message, we have been making arrangements for Dolphin Cove and the Recreational Center (Building 1R) to be used by the State in their efforts to stem the tide of the spread of COVID-19 and in support of our Island community. As Governor Cuomo noted in today’s press conference, the College has been designated a Phase B location. I will provide additional information as it becomes available, including when a date for use of Dolphin Cove and the Recreational Center is finalized.

By William J. Fritz