Dear Lehman Colleagues,
We are less than two weeks away from the start of the Fall 2021 semester, and there has been a lot of activity here on campus and at CUNY Central. I want to update you on what we’ve been doing here at Lehman College to prepare, as well as amplify some of the messages Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez has already shared with you.
The best place to find information about our returning to campus is lehman.edu/coronavirus, where the full Fall 2021 reopening plan is now available. Bookmark that page because whenever there are updates, you can find them there. We are adding new information to this site every day.
Masks Required at All Times for Fall 2021
Our community’s health and safety are always our first priorities. And while we will have a vaccine mandate for students for Fall 2021 pending full FDA approval, which we anticipate being granted sometime in early September, we need to prioritize the health and safety of the most vulnerable among us. For that reason, we will continue to require masks at all times on campus, indoors and outdoors, regardless of vaccination status for Fall 2021. You may only remove your mask to eat and drink outdoors. In addition to wearing a mask at all times, we are requiring at least 3 feet of social distancing at all times, even for vaccinated individuals. Our classroom seating charts have been calibrated using this calculation, and our plans are flexible enough to reinstitute 6-foot distances if necessary.
Fall Reopening Plan
CUNY approved our Return to Campus Plan on Saturday, July 31. It is the result of work that began in the spring by the Joint Return to Campus Committee, which included a cross-section of every campus community stakeholder group, including administrators, faculty, students, staff, PSC HEO representatives, a PSC faculty representative, a DC37 representative, and representatives from the library and online education. I want to thank the committee for its diligence.
I will be hosting a 30-minute live briefing today, Thursday, to highlight some of the plan’s details and answer your questions about our fall reopening.
Return to Work Aug. 16 (Essential Employees)
Many of you know that CUNY’s return to work date is this Monday, Aug. 16 and the first day of classes is Thursday, Aug. 25. In order to return to work, by state mandate, every employee needs to have submitted either proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken at a CUNY testing site within the last seven days of their visit to campus.
Because CUNY’s testing sites have just been rolled out and reporting dashboards associated with those sites are not yet live, the Lehman testing site, which will be located in the Science Building off of Goulden Ave., will not be available until this Friday, Aug. 13, at the earliest. To reduce the density of people on those testing lines, and ensure student access to campus, (students will also be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test in order to access campus on Thursday, Aug. 25), Lehman will implement a soft return to work rollout. Only essential employees will be required to return to work on Monday, Aug. 16. If you have been successfully working remotely these past 18 months and are not in a student-facing or essential role that requires your presence on campus, the return-to-work date is Tuesday, Sept. 14.
You will receive more information from Human Resources about shortly. If you are returning to campus for work Aug. 16 and you are not yet vaccinated, you must register and be tested at one of the 20 CUNY testing sites. We know this is a short time frame; however, you should do this immediately as you may not receive test results for up to 24 hours and the vendor does not issuing test results Saturday and Sunday.
First Day of Classes Aug. 25
Anyone returning to campus on Aug. 25 should plan to arrive at least one hour before their scheduled class or appointment. Two different access systems are being rolled out in very short order and we expect there to be delays. Campus access will only be granted to those who have already submitted proof of vaccination in CUNYFirst or those who have received a negative COVID-19 test from an approved CUNY testing vendor.
For the Fall 2021 semester, you may access campus at one of the three open gates: Gate 5 (on Goulden Ave.), Gate 8 (on Bedford Park Boulevard West); or Gate 13 (on Jerome Ave. near the Student Life Building). Social distancing will be monitored and enforced on lines to access campus, and you will be required to wear a mask, regardless of your vaccination status. Please be patient as we take all necessary steps to keep our community safe.
Vaccines and Testing
If you are vaccinated and have not yet submitted your proof of vaccination into CUNYFirst you need to do so as soon as possible. There is one portal for students and another one for faculty and staff. In fact, just to be on the safe side, if you are fully vaccinated, you should bring with you to campus either your vaccination card or be prepared to present your Excelsior Pass on your phone.
For those students and faculty or staff who remain unvaccinated, CUNY is rolling out a new system that will allow the CUNY community to be tested at 20 locations across the five boroughs, including at Lehman College starting Friday, Aug. 13, and to submit that test for access to campus. Find a CUNY FAQ on testing here. If you are a student, a member of faculty or staff, you must receive a test from one of these locations, not a local health provider. Information is still forthcoming from CUNY regarding testing protocols for students, so please be patient.
You may also come to campus and begin the vaccination process--we remain a vaccination site through Sunday, Aug. 22; or visit any of a number of vaccination sites throughout the city. The city’s vaccination bus is on Bedford Park Boulevard West, right outside Gate 7 by the APEX. You do not need an appointment. You only need to bring proof of your age; visit lehman.edu/vaccine for more info and dates and times of availability. All students who participate in in-person classes must be able to submit proof of vaccination by Thursday, Sept. 14. You are not fully vaccinated until two weeks after your first shot of Johnson & Johnson or your second shot of Moderna or Pfizer. That means you need to have your second shot if you need a second shot by Aug. 31.
Our Campus Is Safe
Following the Center for Disease Control and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers COVID guidelines, we have opened all outside air dampers to 100% and installed MERV 13 filters in all air handling units on campus. We’ve also installed HEPA filters in every classroom and shared office space that will be occupied on campus. The reopening plan also further details the work Facilities and Buildings and Grounds has completed and will continue into the Fall semester to keep our campus safe.
Over the past 18 months, our essential employees—all of whom are union members—have cared for, maintained, and ensured the health and safety of our community on this campus. They came, and continue to come, to campus every day, many traveling by public transportation to ensure that the College’s buildings, building systems, and grounds continue to be operated, maintained, and cleaned. They have worked on a safe campus and have worked to ensure that the campus is safe. We all owe them a debt of gratitude for this. They serve as a model of how we all need to conduct ourselves when we return to campus this semester.
We have not had one single report of COVID-19 transmission on campus since we went remote in March 2020. That is because the members of our community who have come to campus—and that includes the many non-essential employees who have visited campus on a limited basis—consistently follow the guidelines outlined in our return plan. Ventilation is an important part of preventing spread, but so is mandatory masking, hand washing/sanitizing, staying home when you don’t feel well, and being considerate of each other.
Safe Campus: Building Walkthroughs
Administrators began scheduled walkthroughs with union representatives Wednesday, July 14, for occupied spaces on campus, and completed a sixth walk-through today, Wednesday, Aug. 11. Moving room by room, building by building, union representatives have opportunities to inspect and ask questions about each classroom and office space that will be occupied to verify the proper operation of building systems. In planning for a return to classrooms, some rooms have not been scheduled for use to ensure the availability of rooms in the event equipment breaks down and requires repair.
For instance, a tour of Carman Hall last week revealed that some exhaust system fans serving some of the classrooms were not operational. They have since been repaired. Before COVID, systems were turned off or set back overnight. Now, they run 24 hours a day. To ensure that all systems are working properly Buildings and Grounds will inspect systems daily and alert administration if building systems need repair or a room change is required if a repair cannot be made immediately and before the building is occupied for the day.
Reopening but Not Reopened
While we are excited to welcome our community back to campus this Fall, I want to emphasize that this is a partial reopening. It is so integral for the success of our students to be able to access the services this College provides outside of the classroom. However, we will have a no loitering policy in our buildings, and you must maintain three feet of social distance indoors. We are still in the midst of a pandemic, and we know that even vaccinated people can spread the virus.
While many campus student services will be available in-person for the first time since March 2020, you will not be permitted to remain indoors in campus buildings unless you have active business in them. That includes occupying spaces between classes to do homework or socialize. You may do that outdoors, but you will not be able to remain inside, even in the colder months, if you are not engaged in an activity that requires you to be in a building. There will be accommodations made on campus to allow students with an on-campus class preceded or followed by an online class to take that class on campus. Details and locations will follow.
Staircases will be designated up or down so social distancing can be maintained. Grab and go food service will be available in the Harmony Café in the Music Building next to the Faculty Dining Room and tents that will be heated in the colder months will be available outdoors where you may eat; however, you cannot, for your own health and safety and the safety of others, remain indoors if you are not in a class, in a computer lab, the library—with a reservation; or being served by one of our offices.
I know this is hard. I know that one of the best aspects of college life is socializing with one another. You can still do that, but you need to do it outdoors, and you need to keep your masks on at all times. This is so important, and I cannot stress this enough.
The Delta variant of the coronavirus is much more transmissible than what we were dealing with last March. That is why we encourage everyone in the community who can to get vaccinated. If you are vaccinated, you may still transmit the virus, but the chances of you getting sick and winding up in the hospital are significantly reduced. The risk of infection with a deadly virus is not worth five minutes of socializing with your mask off. Please follow these guidelines for your safety and the safety of our community.
Over the next two weeks and through the Fall semester, I will continue to email the campus with updates about what to expect for Fall 2021; you will also hear from other administrators and offices as well, but you can always go to lehman.edu/coronavirus to find the latest information.