Conversation with President Wu reveals updates on student life, COVID-19 and fall 2021


Baruch College News Center

Crystal Chunnu

In an interview with The Ticker, Baruch College President S. David Wu spoke about issues regarding student life, campus construction, racial equity, remote learning and COVID-19 protocols for the upcoming fall semester.

As students return to campus, they can expect some student activities to resume in-person in the fall.

“We are certainly making more space available for student activities,” Wu said. “When we determine our capacity target, then we can determine which student activities and to what extent students can do them.”

Newly renovated spaces like the Lawrence and Eris Field Building, commonly referred to as 17 Lex, will allow students to social distance while still engaging in student life events. An additional lounge will be created for students as well under phase two of the building’s construction.

After four long years of construction and 10 years of planning, the Clivner Field Plaza, also known as the Pedestrian Plaza, is approximately 80% completed to date and should officially become a part of the Baruch campus by the fall, according to Wu.

He said he hopes to have the opening for the plaza in the early fall and plans on inviting some graduates back for the event.

For the projected 5,700 students who are graduating from Baruch in May, Wu expressed that students are limited to a virtual commencement, but families can expect it to be more interactive with a commencement speaker and other events.

“This whole virtual commencement thing is coming from the CUNY system,” Wu said. “There isn’t much we can do.”

In addition to following mandatory social distancing guidelines, everyone that comes on campus must go through screening on Everbridge. The software will require visitors to answer a set of health-related questions on the day they come on campus.

“Vaccination is one of the most critical ways to get to where we need to be,” Wu said. The #VaxUpCUNY campaign allows students to book appointments at Medgar Evers College, York College and City College.

While some colleges like Rutgers University and Cornell University have already mandated vaccinations for students to enroll, CUNY has yet to update its colleges on whether this will be mandatory for students.

Nonetheless, Wu strongly urges students to get vaccinated as soon as they can.

For students who are falling behind or may need additional help, Wu has recommended professors to use an Early Warning System, a holistic tracking system to track the progress of students in their classes and would recommend learning interventions to catch up.

“We are also beefing up faculty professional development at the Center for Teaching and Learning,” Wu said, acknowledging that professors were struggling to transition to remote learning as well.

Prior to the pandemic, many faculty members had not taught an online class. The professional development resources offered at the CTL provide professors with training, online support and ways to advise students with homework in order to do a more effective job.

According to Wu, 47% of classes will be online, 14% will be hybrid and 39% will be face-to-face.

“When everything is said and done, when we return back to ‘normal,’ I foresee about 25% of our instruction remaining online for students,” he said.

While some students have expressed a newfound preference for online courses, Wu said that the majority of classes offered at Baruch will still be available in-person to help first-year and sophomore students cope with the transition from high school to college learning.

To further ensure the safety of new and returning students, especially minority students, Wu shared his initiatives to make Baruch more equitable and safer for minority students.

The Presidential Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council at Baruch has conducted 40 listening sessions with faculty, staff and students in March in order to hear minority concerns, take action and find the appropriate resources to help students.

“The goal is not to assume but to listen from the community about what is happening and what they have actually experienced. These stories transfer what we hear into actual recommendations about what we can do differently to make a change,” Wu said.

Direct resources that are available to students virtually and in-person include individual counseling, group counseling and New York City hotlines, among other resources.

“Everyone should come together and support each other,” Wu said. “An attack on one is an attack on all.”

Additional reporting by Amanda Salazar.