I write to you with great hope for our shared future as we begin to emerge from the pandemic. As you know from the recent communication sent by CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, we expect that Fall 2021 will mark our return to the beautiful campus of Queens College, consistent with health and safety protocols. In the same spirit of his message, I would like to communicate as clearly and candidly as possible about our phased approach.
Spring remains 99% online with limited activities on site which have been approved for necessity, and by-appointment access to the library to support those who need the facilities. Summer will be very similar. The commencement ceremony for 2021 will be virtual. We’re looking at possibilities for access to outdoor spaces for graduates and families in very small groups, socially distanced, to take photographs and have informal tours. Allow me to reiterate: If you are coming to campus at this time, you must be authorized to do so and you then must use both the Everbridge app and Proxyclick QCA20 visit prep invitation to comply with policy and allow contact tracing.
We recently organized and held two briefings about pandemic issues. We convene these meetings to inform everyone and answer questions as best as we are able. For those who were unable to attend, I’d like to repeat three important points.
First, the current plan is to return to in-person instruction in Fall 2021. Our plans are being made for a mix of online and in person that will allow our students to have a campus experience. We anticipate that we will still need to practice mask wearing and social distancing. I do not expect us to rush back as if it nothing had happened and it was suddenly the first week of March 2020 again. “In person” is not the same as “just like before."
Second, we must be ready for further guidance from the federal government, state government, CUNY central, and other authorities. That means we might need to adapt as matters evolve. We have learned so much about different modes of teaching and learning. There likely will be innovations we adopt beyond this moment because they beneficially serve our students. Strategic planning is proceeding very positively, thanks to the contributions of all. Please come to a Town Hall this semester to offer your input.
Third, within the policies that are announced, we intend to be as sensitive as possible to concerns that individuals may have. I am aware of these issues from personal circumstances, and I extend to your household the same respect I would request for my own. We will take into account the need to adjust depending on the status and availability of vaccinations, including at the individual level. As appropriate, we will consider the alternatives.
The vaccination rollout program is overseen by New York State. Our current understanding is that your CUNY ID card, or a recent paystub, should be sufficient as proof of your employment. The normal protocol for verifying employment through the Human Resources Department is unchanged. We are not aware of any need for special documentation.
In closing, I’d like to thank Meghan Moore Wilk, Chief of Staff, and everyone who has participated in the Ad Hoc Working Group on Reopening. Their weekly meetings have ensured representation and input from all constituencies and perspectives.
We have been resilient as individuals and as a community even as we have been tested literally and figuratively. We have all witnessed how easy it is to have another flare up in the COVID-19 rates. We will continue to be guided by science with the safety of all serving as the touchstone—that includes the health of not only our own students, faculty, and staff, but also their families and the community within which we live and work. We have emphasized empathy, the social contract which binds together our diverse democracy. I am the same as you in yearning to greet old friends and meet new ones, feeling the frustration of quarantine and the anxiety of uncertainty. I have persistently advocated for our college community and will continue to do so in all of the arenas available.
For all of us who have endured the pandemic, our lives will be divided into the time before March 2020, this extended episode, and the time after. I have every confidence that if we work together, as we must and we will, the time after will be an opportunity to make good on the promise of higher education. For our students, and for one another, we will succeed.
Frank H. Wu