Dear Lehman Colleagues,
Welcome to Fall semester. I have spent the summer months visiting campus as often as possible, meeting online with a number of students, staff and faculty, along with elected officials and getting to know my fellow CUNY Presidents. It has been exciting to see markers of normalcy pop up on my calendar, even as we remain vigilant about COVID-19 protocols in response to the uptick in the Delta variant. I also enjoyed the Chancellor’s visit to campus on the first day of classes.
You have likely seen the evolving guidance from CUNY Central about vaccination and masks. In case you haven’t been reading those emails, I wanted to remind you that you can find the most up-to-date guidance on our website. I have also been joined by my colleagues in Cabinet who have been working diligently throughout the past 18 months and especially over the summer to prepare for our broader reopening to being increasingly in person at a number of briefings in August which you can view here, if you missed them.
I know it has been difficult to stay updated on our multifaceted safety response to the pandemic on campus because so many have been working remote. I wanted to give you a more granular sense of the numerous steps the College has taken to improve safety on campus:
- The Facilities team has tested all campus windows that can be opened -- and should be depending on the air flow of the space -- to ensure additional air can flow into the room;
- Bathrooms have been limited to single or reduced occupancy to allow distancing and automatic bathroom hand dryers will not be in use;
- The Facilities teams will be performing routine checks of ventilation systems to ensure there are no mechanical issues with their performance; and
- Individual portable HEPA filter air purification units have been placed in spaces as an added measure to ensure a healthy environment. The HEPA filter air purification units remove 99.9% of particles down to 0.1% microns. The College has purchased 400 HEPA filters which have been placed in classrooms and various faculty and staff offices across campus.
We’ve been working with a third-party contractor, Ramboll, a global engineering, design, and consulting firm, to verify that mechanical systems are fully functional, fitted properly with MERV 13 filters and identify systems or spaces of concern requiring either repairs or identifies as unsuitable for occupancy at this time. Before the semester began, the College discovered that the exhausts in Gillet Hall’s bathrooms were not working, and as such, the College will not reopen this building until the installation of a new toilet exhaust system is completed and the exhausts are properly working. As another layer of review regarding the health and safety of those in that building, even after the repairs are made, the College will perform another additional walkthrough and review of the spaces before the College reopens the building and classes are permitted to resume.
Ramboll assessed campus spaces, followed by Lehman’s Buildings and Grounds staff. As these thorough reviews were happening, Lehman’s Reopening Committee and its subcommittees also met regularly to finalize our CUNY approved Reopening plan.
In addition to our masking, vaccination and/or testing requirements, less than half of scheduled courses this semester will have an in-person component. The classrooms that our students and faculty will be teaching and learning in which have uninvent systems (a system that is designed to draw air from outdoors through a fresh air intake located on the outside of our buildings) have been fitted with MERV 13 filters to trap a higher degree of airborne particles and viruses.
The CUNY Comeback debt forgiveness program, believed to be one of the largest in the country, has forgiven more than $5 million in debt for 2631 Lehman College students to date, which is significant, extraordinary news.
Ahead of its planned Oct. 2 opening, the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts announced securing $1.1 million in funding – a wonderful achievement.
Congressman Adriano Espaillat earmarked $250,000 from Congress this year for the Bronx Recovery Corps, which is a great affirmation of the importance of the program as the Bronx recovers from the ongoing impacts of COVID-19.
Lehman’s student chapter of the Society of Human Resource Management was awarded their seventh consecutive award from the national Human Resource Management association of the same name over the summer. Many thanks to Dene Hurley, NSS Chair, for sharing this latest achievement and sharing, too, that Lehman is the only CUNY college to have received this number of recognitions from SHRM.
We received notification that Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors has awarded The Bronx Institute a new grant in the amount of $200,000. This brings their contribution to our programs to $648,000. Needless to say, we are extremely pleased.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz secured $1 million in Capital Funding to assist with furnishing for the new Nursing Building.
City Council Member Carlos Menchaca also fought to secure $1 million in funding for the CUNY Mexican Studies Institute, which reflects a strong commitment to supporting equity among our communities.
Over the summer, City Councilmember Eric Dinowitz made a generous $10,000 donation to the Herbert H. Lehman Food Bank. Given the ongoing food insecurity challenges that our students and the community continue to face, this gift will be critical to helping meet a need that only continues to grow.
It was my pleasure to begin to engage with state and local elected officials and to get to learn more about the Bronx through them.
I spoke with Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in July about the persistent low vaccination rate in the Bronx. She shared her strong support of higher education and of Lehman, as well as closing the Tap Gap.
I also talked to City Councilmember Diana Ayala and Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez. As I did with each elected official, I gave them updates on the fall semester at Lehman and our plans for a broader reopening than has been possible since our transition to remote learning and working in March 2020. I discussed the Bronx Recovery Corps with Senator Alessandra Biaggi, along with food insecurity and other initiatives the senator would like to develop on campus.
There is broad agreement among elected officials representing the City Council, NYS Assembly and NYS Senate on the need for low-cost Internet services for the Bronx that Assemblywoman Fernandez, City Council Member Ayala and Senator Bailey all agree upon.
Another topic I discussed with Senator Bailey also came up with Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, which is related to increasing the number of males at Lehman and further investing in Black and Latinx male achievement.
September 1 Lehman College Senate
September 2 Cabinet
September 8 Cabinet
September 14 FP & B
September 16 Cabinet
September 22 President’s Advisory Board
September 29 General Faculty
September 30 Cabinet