Lehman’s Laptop Loaner Program Keeps Students on Track and in Class

Lehman Laptop Loaner Program Keeps Students on Track and in Class
Lehman Laptop Loaner Program Keeps Students on Track and in Class
By Colleen Lutolf

Drop out or flunk. Those were the two options anthropology major Jamarne McGill thought he was facing for the spring term after he learned all CUNY schools were moving to a distance learning format in mid-March due to the coronavirus outbreak.

McGill didn’t own a laptop and wasn’t sure how he was going to get one in time to continue his studies. Then, a lifeline: Lehman College would lend him one through its Laptop Loan program. McGill was grateful and turned to Twitter to let everyone know just how much the borrowed laptop meant to him:

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“I can not think of the appropriate way to say this, but thank you. Thank you so much. You saved my life, the entire academic term, my graduation for next year, and all of my future prospects. You are lifesavers indeed. What would I do?” In addition to his thanks, he posted images of the emails from the College confirming he would indeed be receiving a device to continue his studies, adding a note to one of them: “Like a good neighbor Lehman is there.”

McGill was not alone. Once the campus library and computer labs closed their doors on March 18 and transitioned to virtual services, requests for laptops began flooding the inbox of the College’s COVID-19 Task Force and the Office of Student Affairs.

Some students reported trying to keep up with their coursework on their phones.

“It is hard and frustrating,” wrote one student. “I'd like to request a Laptop or Tablet to continue my work from home. I can't afford to buy a Laptop these days, I can barely afford to pay rent these days.”

One student reported secretly using the computer at their job to file assignments; another reported having to share one working computer with a house full of roommates, all of whom were students.

After Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all CUNY and SUNY schools to transition to a distance-learning format on March 12, the Information Technology, Student Affairs, and Finance and Administration divisions immediately began working with Leonard Lief Library staff to round up available campus laptops and tablets, but the need quickly outpaced supply.

They launched an online loaner application form for students to fill out if they needed a device, which is still taking requests. They ordered a shipment of Chromebooks, but manufacturers were struggling to meet demand as every student in the country almost simultaneously moved to a distance-learning format.

Lehman was able to fulfill 170 initial requests for devices by April 3 via UPS. As of today, Lehman has received more than 660 loaner requests from students, the majority of which have either been delivered or are on the way, thanks to additional shipments of devices courtesy of CUNY Central.

“We were pleased to provide Jay with the Chromebook he needed to continue his studies. His social media posts were great to see, and we wish him success as he pursues his online education,” said Vice President for Technology and CIO Ronald Bergmann, “Jay is one of hundreds of Lehman students who have requested loaners. An extraordinary team of Lehman staff mobilized quickly to prepare devices, driven by their dedication to our students, and we owe them our thanks. CUNY’s leadership in providing devices has also been critical.”

“We know a lot is being asked of our students right now and we want to make sure they have the resources they need to stay healthy and continue their studies,” said Dean of Students Stanley Bazile. “So many of our students are struggling with just getting their basic needs met; if they’re committed to finishing the term, we’re committed to making sure we do whatever we can to make that happen.”

Bazile said if students are struggling at all to meet their academic requirements due to a lack of resources or for any reason, to reach out.

“There are resources available to help you,” he said. “Whether it’s through emergency grants for basic needs, food bank services, laptop loans, or advocating on your behalf with your instructor. We may not be on campus, but the campus is not closed. We are here for you.”

To access these resources, go to lehman.edu/coronavirus. A list of virtual campus offices, services and programs is also available here.