On April 6, 2020, Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab shared this update:
Dear Hunter faculty and staff,
As we start another week during this unique and challenging time, we want to take a moment to say thank you again for your extraordinary work. You have likely read the Chancellor’s late Friday announcement of two significant, central decisions for our community: commencement ceremonies across CUNY will be postponed and CUNY’s Summer 2020 course offerings will be conducted via distance education format.
The Chancellor has postponed all commencement ceremonies across the University system. Please note this will have no impact on our students’ graduation status: at the completion of the spring semester, all degrees will be conferred as scheduled. It will also not impact the official summer start date for our full-time faculty. While this decision was not a surprise and many of us have already begun thinking about ways to mark this important occasion for our graduates, it will still be disappointing news for many of our students who have worked so hard to reach this milestone. We turn to you to find ways to help our students celebrate this achievement; please share your ideas and suggestions with your department chair or program director. We are also speaking directly with students and the student government to solicit their ideas on the best way to mark this occasion.
SUMMER 2020: REMOTE INSTRUCTION
The Chancellor has also determined that CUNY’s Summer 2020 course offerings will be conducted via distance education format. As you consider what courses you can most effectively teach remotely, please also think about what support you need to make these transitions. We are committed to supporting your work with training, resources, faculty development, and the best technology possible, including by providing laptops, monitors, software, and hardware, as we all determine what we need to effectively teach and work remotely. Beginning next week we will offer additional information about resources available to help support you so we can offer robust, high-quality courses to our students. This includes workshops that focus on developing or rethinking your summer courses, including redesigning courses, designing asynchronous modules, creating (text and video) accessible materials, designing interactive activities and tools, and rethinking assessments. We are also developing a handbook that contains all the relevant resources and guidance needed to support several online platforms.
The initial guidance indicates that there may be some flexibility for courses that are not suited to remote instruction; we may be granted waivers to this policy for in-person instruction depending on the status of the COVID-19 crisis, particularly during the second summer session. Please flag any of your courses that fall into this category for further discussion with your chair.
NEW YORK STATE ON PAUSE EXECUTIVE ORDER
Earlier today the Governor extended his New York State on PAUSE executive order through April 29. All non-essential personnel will continue remote work through April 29, consistent with the executive order.
UPCOMING SENATE MEETINGS
The Hunter leadership team has been working in close collaboration with the Senate Chair and Senate Administration committee. We are currently finalizing the details for technology that will allow the Senate to move curricular proposals and other committee business forward. We are pleased that the Chair has agreed to hold two Senate meetings through remote technology this semester, on April 22 and May 13, during which I will provide a College update. You will receive an email from the Senate shortly with more information.
COMING SOON: GUIDANCE ON TRAVEL
Currently, all non-essential university-related international and domestic travel has been suspended through Summer 2020. Knowing that much of the planning happens months in advance, CUNY is now considering extending that policy, which includes student credit and non-credit travel and faculty travel, for the Fall 2020 semester. CUNY has invited colleges to provide input as they develop this revised guidance; if you are engaged in planning travel for conferences or research or in creating student programs, please share your advice on this issue with your chair or program director.
We are continuing to focus on to how to best support our students in this difficult time. I am meeting regularly with Student Services Vice President Eija Ayravainen and her dedicated team of mental health counselors and advisors to discuss the challenges our students are facing and the best ways to support them remotely. I know student success is an important focus for all of us now, and I am interested in your ideas for best practices and your insights on the challenges our students are facing. We ask that you continue to direct students who need additional support to student services and to work with your department chair to help address academic issues that may arise in our unique circumstances. In addition, recruiting season is underway, and we are committed to reaching our accepted freshman, transfer and graduate students and promoting Hunter’s resources and excellence. As always, we will ask some of you to help to recruit the best and the brightest to come to Hunter next year.
As a reminder, we have been able to obtain a significant number of laptops for long-term loan through private donations and an allocation from CUNY. We are working on safe ways to distribute them to students, including by mail, in-person, and with the help of our GIS faculty, potentially through neighborhood mobile drop-offs. We continue to give out funds to students through the Coronavirus Emergency Assistance Fund and ask that you encourage your students who might need additional support to apply.
We are grateful for all you have done, and continue to do, during this difficult time. We hope that you and your families continue to stay safe and healthy.
Jennifer J. Raab