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CUNY needs to directly communicate fall 2020 plans with students

Tdorante10 | Wikimedia Commons

As New York State takes careful steps in reopening toward a new normalcy, CUNY has yet to inform students on any metrics related to what determines if classes will be held in person or online for the upcoming fall semester.

Opening schools again falls under phase four of New York’s plan to reopen following the PAUSE order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. New York has been one of the hardest hit states by the virus but also one of the most aggressive states in testing, tracing and treating COVID-19 outbreaks.

Prior to reaching phase one of reopening, each of the 10 regions in New York had to reach seven requirements, including a decline in the number of hospitalizations and a certain percentage of hospital beds and ICU beds available.

Cuomo has held press conferences every day since the beginning of the pandemic and has been frank when it came to discussing the number of deaths and infection rates in each region. Many New Yorkers felt reassurance watching these broadcasts, as the state constantly informed everyone on what was being done to reopen and created a sense of trust between the people and state government.

In this time of uncertainty, CUNY needs to take similar actions and mimic the state government when it comes to informing students about how classes will be held in the fall semester.

In order to have the trust of students, it’s important that CUNY demonstrates how it’s actively working to address the concerns they have in maintaining social distancing within CUNY campuses. Since the end of the spring semester, CUNY has said little about what actually determines how classes will be held in the fall.

Similar to Cuomo, CUNY needs to outline the metrics they are looking at in deciding the state of fall semester classes. Many private colleges such as New York University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have been updating their students frequently to keep them informed on the steps they are taking to ensure students can return to campus safely and what determines online versus in person classes.

The only communication from CUNY at this point has been a vague email from Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez discussing two task forces which were developed “to provide a roadmap for the physical reopening of our campuses and on-site teaching and support services.”

However, students deserve and need to know more about what this roadmap actually entails and what kind of issues each campus has to address for a safe fall semester if it were to be held in person.

Many out-of-state and international students need to figure out whether they need to find housing for the fall semester, and they can’t make the most informed choice without the most recent information.

It is important to recognize that CUNY as a whole differs from private universities when it comes to deciding how classes will be held. Each campus in CUNY has different aspects to consider when it comes to the logistics of holding in person classes for the fall.

For instance, Baruch College had 18,679 students enrolled for the fall semester in 2019 and this number has only increased for the upcoming fall semester.

Controlling the spread of a virus and enforcing social distancing rules in a college with five express elevators in its main building is a different story compared to more open campuses like City College and Queens College.

However, to have no communication from CUNY task forces on the actual metrics it would take to have hold college classes in person makes it difficult for students to plan living arrangements with an adequate amount of time.

Though the situation in New York is fragile and ever-changing, the fact remains that students have not been informed of what exactly CUNY is looking at in determining the status of in person classes for the fall semester.

Any information is better than no information, and CUNY needs to realize that in order to secure the trust of students and be able to address their needs, they need to do a better job of keeping students informed about the discussions being made on what it takes for classes to be held in person and the roadmap being used to get there.

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