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March 11, 2020

A Message from Lehman College President Daniel Lemons

By now you have probably learned that beginning tomorrow all CUNY campuses will begin a spring term reboot in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This decision, mandated this afternoon by Governor Andrew Cuomo, is meant to reduce the density of people on CUNY and SUNY campuses, an action that will help limit the spread of COVID-19. In this communication I will explain what it means for each us to successfully complete the spring term when, from tomorrow, March 12, most classes are not physically meeting on campus.

First, I want to update you on what has transpired at Lehman to date. We have had no known individuals on campus that tested positive for COVID-19. Two nursing students in recent days have notified faculty about their potential exposure to COVID-19 by way of contacts with those on mandatory quarantines due to recent travel to countries under CDC Level 3 travel restrictions. As a precautionary measure, while the students have been quarantined and await test results, nursing faculty members notified their students about their potential risk and moved classes the students are currently attending online classes.

When we are informed about potential COVID-19 exposure, our facilities team disinfects and deep cleans areas where that individual has been as soon as possible. If, in the coming days, we learn about a confirmed case of COVID-19 on the Lehman Campus, we’ll follow the protocol for CUNY campuses by closing for at least 24 hours to investigate and undertake any mitigation that is indicated.

As for the time from tomorrow until March 19, when all classes will be converted to distance instruction/learning, we all have a lot to do. I’m sorry to inform you that we are not going to be on a holiday. Students, faculty and staff will have to work intensively in the next seven days to get up to speed on distance-learning methods and modalities. The library, the cafeteria, the day care center, research labs and art studios will all be open for business even though in-person classes will not be held.

This spring term reboot is meant as a time of preparation for our campus community. Students have to begin to get themselves prepared to be a student in a remote way, beginning by referring to guidance from Provost Peter Nwosu and determining what additional help they might need so we can provide assistance. Faculty and staff will be doing the same.

As a result, all of the Lehman College staff is expected to show up to work as usual. Someone who has good reason not to come to campus should discuss those reasons with their supervisor. If telecommuting works on a case by case basis, I encourage staff to work that out with their supervisors as well. In order to lower the people density on campus we will need to be creative in order to get the needed work accomplished.

Despite our upcoming reboot week, there is no change in the academic calendar. Spring break, for example, is expected to continue as scheduled. Following the advice of Dr. Howard Zucker, State Commissioner of Health, we have, however, decided to postpone events and performances scheduled for the remainder of March as a precautionary measure to minimize potential risk to the community. The Lehman Center for the Performing Arts is rescheduling its March performances; Lehman Center staff will be in touch with ticketholders about their options for the rest of the season in the coming weeks. The safety of our staff and patrons remains a top priority, and we will continue to monitor COVID-19 developments to determine when it makes sense for us to resume large gatherings that involve our community partners.

We are working to mitigate the impact of this transition to remote instruction and learning modalities on our students who may face housing or food insecurity. We will work hard to ensure that anything they need to be available to them on campus will remain available. You can learn more about CUNY’s actions here.

I want to thank everyone in the campus community for preserving through this unprecedented pandemic event. It has been stressful for everyone, and it’s important for all of us to keep what is transpiring in perspective. We don’t know when the peak of COVID-19 infections will occur or how high it will be, but the Governor has made an excellent point in his recent press conferences. COVID-19 is most deadly for certain demographics. Out of 212 cases in New York, only 32 individuals are hospitalized, or 15%. Washington State has had 279 cases so far and 24 deaths, almost all in elder care facilities. New York has so far had none.

Be well, and stay tuned.


Daniel Lemons

Previous messages from President Lemons can be found here.