On July 20, 2020, Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab shared this update:
Dear Hunter Faculty and Staff members,
We hope this finds you and your loved ones safe and well. As we continue to work with our “Focus on Fall Planning Committee” to prepare for the semester beginning August 2020, we wanted to share some importantinformation and updates. We describe below how, pursuant to the CUNY Chancellor’s recent memo, we are asking faculty to transition most courses to an online format for Fall 2020. While the majority of classes will be held remotely, we also outline below our approach to planning limited in-person instruction in certain disciplines. Finally, we share our work with our committees to restart other activities on the Hunter campus such as research and creative work and to reopen certain student support areas including study and practice spaces and computer labs.
PROTECTING OUR COMMUNITY: CREATING A SAFE AND HEALTHY CAMPUS
We are grateful to our essential personnel including our Public Safety Officers, Custodial Staff and faculty supporting animal facilities, for being on campus and maintaining critical operations since the Pause was instituted in March. As our laboratory-based researchers joined other essential personnel on-site at the main 68th Street campus in the last few weeks, we have instituted a number of new safety protocols that follow the strict guidance of the New York State Department of Health. For example, we have developed increased cleaning and sanitation procedures, installed physical-distancing signage and hand sanitizers, and instituted both mandatory health trainings and daily health screenings for all campus visitors. We are continuing to work with CUNY to refine and develop new safety practices and procedures as we plan for the Fall 2020 semester. This information is posted on the College’s Focus on Fall website page. As a limited number of faculty, staff and students return this fall, we will continually update these protocols to meet the current health standards and requirements and share this information with the Hunter community.
A ROBUST FALL 2020 STUDENT BODY
We are grateful to faculty and staff who helped support Hunter’s successful summer instruction program and our donors and fundraising team for generous scholarships. Our summer enrollment has been robust—over 40% more undergraduates are taking classes in Summer 2020 than did in Summer 2019. With your help our students are “making summer count!” We are also pleased that our enrollment in all cohorts—including entering freshmen and transfer students—remains strong for Fall 2020.
ENHANCING AND REDESIGNING REMOTE INSTRUCTION
Deans, Program Directors and Chairs will be in contact with all faculty scheduled to teach in the fall to discuss moving classes scheduled on-site to a remote-learning format. As we move to increase the number of classes to be delivered remotely this fall, our priority is supporting faculty to ensure that our online instruction is of the highest quality. To that end, we ask all faculty with fall classes to take advantage of the robust set of trainings and support we have developed to help you retool and prepare for teaching remotely in the coming semester. We are offering compensation to faculty members who utilize a number of these resources and hope you will take advantage of these opportunities to develop or enhance skills in online course design and teaching. Please click here for additional information about the workshops and Virtual Ed Tech Office Hours, and contact Associate Provost Jenny Tuten with any additional questions. We also plan to reopen the Education Technology Center on campus to allow faculty to record lectures and receive on-site support from our ICIT experts. Access will be by appointment only. We will provide more information about how to utilize on-site support in the coming weeks.
We are also committed to making sure that faculty and staff have the technology needed to teach and support students remotely from their homes. Please inform your Dean, Department Chair or Program Director or connect with ICIT if you need additional hardware, software or other technology such as headphones to support your work. Please be assured that the College continues to acquire software to enhance the faculty’s ability to provide remote instruction. For example, this summer a number of classes benefited from Labster, a web-based alternative learning program for activities that would usually take place in campus science labs. We are also continuing to work with CUNY to secure system-wide licenses to an online proctoring software program. Please let us know if there are additional programs that can enhance your instruction in a particular field of study.
We are also aware that there are courses that rely on materials that students would, under ordinary circumstances, access in computer labs or other labs on campus. Please let your Dean, Department Chair or Program Director know if your students will need specific materials or software at home to participate in the learning experience and succeed in your courses. We hope to find ways to help our students access these materials, including bulk purchasing, cost reduction and/or subsidies and home delivery.
As we implement CUNY’s guidance to move classes to a remote format, we would like faculty to consider whether, and to what extent, it is appropriate to offer their particular courses or sections synchronously, asynchronously, or using a combination of the two modes of online instruction. We have asked Deans, Department Chairs and Program Directors to discuss these options with their faculty and urge you to participate in Department Meetings where these and other issues related to the transition to online learning will be discussed. Our goal is to provide students with as much information about the format of their fall classes as soon as possible.
OFFERING LIMITED ON-SITE INSTRUCTION
There is general consensus that student success may be enhanced by on-site instruction in particular areas of study. As a result, the Provost’s Office has been working with Deans and faculty leaders in three specific areas—1) the lab sciences; 2) studio art, film and performance arts; and 3) clinical training—to ascertain which courses, sections and course components faculty would like to teach fully or partially on campus. Please note there are opportunities to offer only certain sessions or sections on campus.
In addition, at the request of our Focus on Fall Planning Committee, we are investigating the possibility of offering in-person on-site instruction of one or two sessions of classes in disciplines outside the Sciences, Arts and Clinical Training. Certain professors have asked about offering their initial class on campus so faculty and students have the opportunity to meet in person before instruction is moved online. Other faculty have asked about on-site final exam sessions. We are examining the feasibility of these requests. Please talk to your Dean, Department Chair or Program Director if you would like to consider a similar option for your class or would like to participate in these discussions.
As faculty members inform us about the importance of holding certain classes or sessions on-site, we are asking the Vice President for Administration Lori Mazor and her team and the Focus on Fall and Research Restart Committees to help develop plans to accommodate these limited on-site instructional opportunities to be offered on campus in a manner that meets all State and University safety guidelines. We recognize that some requests for on-site learning involve the opening of the Brookdale and Silberman Campuses. We are prepared to reopen these buildings if on-site learning is scheduled and will adapt these campuses in accordance with the strict New York State health and safety protocols implemented at the 68th Street campus.
REOPENING SELECT STUDENT LEARNING AND SUPPORT SPACES
Our Focus on Fall Planning Committee and our Student Services team will make recommendations for limited reopening of select campuses to enhance student learning and support. Areas under consideration include computer labs, specifically those with specialized software, study spaces, the food pantry, music practice rooms, art studios and other areas supporting creative activity. Please let your Chair or Program Director know if you have suggestions about space that should be considered for student access in the fall. We are also examining the feasibility of reopening the Brookdale Dorms for residential use by our students. We are aware that many students would prefer to continue their education and even their online learning from a dormitory room. Please be assured that all plans to reopen select spaces will be developed by the Vice President for Administration and the Focus on Fall Planning Committee in accordance with the safety protocols issued by CUNY and New York State. Additional information will be shared with students in the coming weeks.
ACCESS TO RESEARCH SPACES
We are pleased to report that, working closely with the Research Restart Committee and the individual Hunter faculty serving as Principal Investigators, over 49 Hunter College bench and animal research laboratories have reopened. I am grateful to members of the Research Restart Committee and the Committee Chairs—Dr. Elizabeth Cohn, Associate Provost for Research, Dr. Akira Kawamura, Chair and Associate Professor of Chemistry and Lori Mazor, Vice President of Administration—for developing the plans and processes that made it possible for Hunter researchers to resume their important work.
In addition to meeting with the Focus on Fall Planning and Research Restart Committees, we are consulting with the Faculty Personnel and Budget Committee, Academic Program Directors, the Senate Administrative Committee, the Senior Administrative Leadership Team, Student Services Directors and Student Government as we develop plans for remote learning, limited return to on-site instruction and reopening of select student support areas. Once our campus planning and consultation are complete, we will submit all plans to the CUNY Central Office for final approval.
While this is not a typical summer, I hope you are finding time to relax and recharge. As always, I am grateful to each of you for all that you do on behalf of our Hunter community.
Jennifer J. Raab