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March 06, 2020

A Message from Lehman College President Daniel Lemons

It is understandable in these uncertain times to be concerned about what we refer to in higher education as academic continuity and how operations will or should continue as we are on high alert with regard to Covid-19. When we are exposed to a lot of conflicting information, it can be overwhelming and that feeling can overcome reason or facts.

So here are some facts about how Lehman College’s senior leadership is proceeding daily in response to COVID-19. We are in touch throughout each day with CUNY’s central administration, which is itself in communication with State and local public health officials. The campus senior leadership is continually assessing what risks there are to the campus community, especially given the proximity of new cases of the Covid-19 in New York State. As you probably know, the state has activated the Emergency Operations Center in Albany along with outposts in Westchester County.

Our decision to remain open and fully functioning follows guidance from the CUNY central administration and arises from several priorities, among the most important of which is not to cause harm and possibly jeopardize the spring term for all students. At this point in time there is no reason to consider closing other than fear. We have received communications from a few members of the campus community who are anxious as a result of this decision, but Lehman College has no more reason to close at this time than any other institution or organization in our area. Please rest assured that if there is indication from public health authorities that closing is the best public health step to take, we won’t hesitate to do so.

Keep Calm and Wash Your Hands

Because that is a possibility we can’t dismiss, we are rapidly preparing, but we would only take the step in concert with the CUNY central administration, which is working closely with the New York City and New York State Departments of Health. A great source of updates from an array of agencies is also updated here daily. NYSED has granted us temporary permission to convert courses to online format and we have advised all faculty members who have not yet done so to activate their BlackBoard courses and be sure they are prepared to use that or other online formats to continue courses without meeting on campus. By the same token, all students should be familiar with using BlackBoard and should have the BlackBoard App on their mobile devices. Now is the time to be prepared.

There has been some discussion about the availability of handwashing and drying supplies. The Facilities team has doubled down on its efforts to replenish soap supplies in restrooms, but we have not stocked paper towels for some time due to their repeated inappropriate disposal which has caused many clogged toilets and drains, another health hazard. Concerns have been raised about air hand dryers spreading infection. A study from two years ago found that bacteria were concentrated in the airstream of hand dryers in public restrooms, but the investigators did not measure viruses. A more recent study of bacterial, again not viral, residue on hands after washing found that, “The number and types of bacteria remaining on washed hands were affected by the drying method. Hands dried with a jet air dryer harboured fewer viable bacteria [than after paper towel drying], reducing the risk of infection transmission via touch.” As is often the case, the available science doesn’t point unambiguously to a best practice. One thing is clear, you should keep on washing your hands frequently.

I will probably send out my next email on Sunday evening, but if there are no new developments at that time, I’ll give you a break and update you at the beginning of next week. Have a good weekend and after you’ve done all you can to stay healthy (wash, wash, wash), try not to stress.


Daniel Lemons

Previous messages from President Lemons can be found here.