CUNY lacked essential communication during the omicron crisis

The Editorial Board

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic and CUNY still needs to work on its communication to the community, most recently with regard to the recent booster shot mandate.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced new spring 2022 semester guidance for SUNY and CUNY on Dec. 31, 2021. Students are still required to comply with the vaccine mandate as well as mandating all students accessing the campus to get the COVID-19 booster for the spring semester.

Additional mandates were set for faculty and staff requiring them to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We need to ensure students in New York are able to stay in school and learn in-person throughout the spring semester,” Hochul said. “Students deserve to have a safe, and high quality in-person college experience, and with these new measures, students will be able to stay on campus and in their classes.”

Instead of a quick response to the new mandates, it wasn’t until Jan. 5 that CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodríguez sent out an email informing the CUNY community of Hochul’s new guidelines.

No plan was set to inform the CUNY community of how they plan to enforce this mandate.

“Students enrolled in in-person or hybrid classes for Spring 2022 will be required to get the booster shot as soon as they are eligible for it,” Matos Rodríguez said. “We will soon share details of the process for students to provide proof of booster vaccination, along with the deadlines for doing so.”

On Dec. 15, 2021, Interim Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost Daniel Lemons sent out an email informing CUNY of the new shift toward increasing in-person classes.

“We are on track to return to at least 70 percent fully in-person courses on every campus for Spring 2022. This does not mean that online courses are disappearing. In fact, CUNY will continue to offer a much more robust selection of online and hybrid courses than before the pandemic,” Lemons said.

However, 20 days passed with no further communication from Matos Rodríguez. Students were once again left confused and wondering if the chaotic start to the fall 2021 semester would repeat.

Last semester, Baruch students anticipated a smooth transition from fully online to in-person classes as promised by CUNY. That was not the case. On the first day of the semester, students who arrived on campus thinking their classes were in-person were surprised to find the modality switched last minute to online. This was due to CUNY’s lack of communication and the lack of vaccination proof uploaded by the students.

Three days before the start of the spring semester Matos Rodríguez sent out the new booster mandate deadlines.

“As we look forward to the Spring 2022 semester, which begins this Friday for most CUNY colleges, I wanted to take a moment to remind you that students enrolled in any in-person or hybrid class will be required to get the COVID-19 booster shot when they become eligible,”  Matos Rodríguez said .

The deadline to upload proof of receiving the booster shot to CUNYFirst if you became eligible for the booster on Jan. 28 is no later than March 1.

Those who become eligible after Jan. 28, but before the end of the semester, will have 30 days after becoming eligible to get the booster and upload proof to CUNYFirst.

Instructions for uploading booster proof can be found here. To find a site to get the COVID-19 vaccine or booster, visit here or here.