Baruch Forward: Faculty FAQs on Reopening
August 11, 2021
Updated August 16, 2021
Dear Baruch Faculty:
Classes begin on August 25. Some classes are fully online, some are hybrid, and some are fully face-to-face (F2F) on campus. Staff are returning to campus, joining the public safety and building and grounds staff who have been working on site. I have had the opportunity to begin to meet some staff in person, which feels like a gift. Over the past several weeks, we have received numerous questions from faculty about the campus reopening plans. Following are the most frequently asked questions from faculty (FAQs) and answers.
Q: Can I ask students to wear masks in my classroom?
A: Yes. While we will have a campus-wide policy consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which at this time only recommends masking for vaccinated individuals in high-transmission areas, faculty have a fair amount of discretion in their classrooms (for example, faculty have discretion over whether or not to allow the use of cell phones in class, or whether or not there is assigned seating). As such, they may exercise discretion in requiring or requesting that students wear masks in their face-to-face (F2F) classes.
Update: CUNY issued new mask guidance effective August 16, 2021: everyone, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a face mask inside all CUNY campuses and office buildings.
Q: What if a student shows up without a mask and I require one in my class? [Update: Masks are required.]
A: There are masks available at the public safety desk at each building entrance; the student can be referred there.
Q: Can I change my instructional modality?
A: Students are registered and have created their schedules based on the published modalities; to change them now could negatively impact our students. Dan Lemons, CUNY interim executive vice chancellor, adds “, …the coming Fall Term should not begin to look like the Spring Term of 2021….We are transitioning to vibrant campus environment in the Spring Term of 2022, and the Fall Term is the pivot point.”
Q: Why can’t we remain in an all-remote environment?
A: We have students who have not yet met their professors except through the mediation of a Zoom screen. Yet, we know that many students do not thrive in a remote learning environment. In making the decision to offer (approximately) one third of our classes in a fully F2F mode, we support the rigor of our academic programs and give every student the opportunity for academic success while simultaneously adhering to public health guidance.
Q: Why isn’t there a mask mandate for classrooms?
A: [Update: see above – a new mask mandate took effect August 16, 2021.] Currently, there is a CUNY-wide mask mandate that will stay in effect until August 15. We are waiting for CUNY to determine whether the mask mandate will be extended. Our guiding principle is to follow CDC and local public health guidance, which can evolve quickly. CUNY’s FAQs are updated in real time, including a section on mask guidance. Any policy changes would also be communicated on Baruch Forward.
Q: If K-12 schools have a mask mandate, why don’t we? [Update: see above.]
A: K-12 schools are in a different situation because children under 12 cannot get a vaccination so there will be a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people in a classroom. In our case, CUNY requires all students in F2F classes to be vaccinated so the classroom situation is different. People who are not fully vaccinated are required to wear a mask indoors.
Q: The CDC recommends indoor mask wearing for unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals in areas with substantial or high rates of Covid transmission. Isn’t New York one of those areas?
A: Yes. As stated in the question, the CDC does recommend that fully vaccinated persons wear masks in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission. The current CUNY-wide mask mandate is in effect until August 15 and we are waiting to hear if it will be extended. [Update: it has been extended.]
Q: Is a vaccination required for me to come to campus?
A: Vaccinations are required for students to register for in-person or hybrid classes. For everyone else, including faculty, a recent negative test is required. CUNY-approved testing is being offered at a growing list of campus locations, including Baruch starting on Saturday, August 14. Vaccinated people are exempted from the testing requirement. Thus, we encourage faculty and staff to get vaccinated and to upload proof of vaccination to CUNYfirst if they have not already done so.
Q: How are we creating a safe environment in the library?
A: The library will be open at only 50 percent capacity as part of the overall Safe Campus Reopening Plan. Anyone entering campus, including the library, must show proof of a recent negative Covid test from a CUNY testing site or proof of vaccination.
Q: What is Baruch doing to acknowledge and address the emotional and mental health aspects of this unique transition period for students, staff, and faculty?
A: Currently, our HR Wellness Corner also has various offerings to support mental and emotional health and a healthy lifestyle. In early September, additional support programming for Baruch’s faculty and staff will be scheduled and announced. In addition, CUNY has engaged CCA@YourService to support the emotional and mental health needs of faculty and staff. CCA offers Virtual Support Offerings, counseling services, and workshops. Thriving in Your Workplace, offered by the City of New York, also has a range of resources and webinars. For students, the Counseling Center is available to offer individual and group counseling. Should you identify students of concern in your classroom, please refer them for support through the Campus Intervention Team.
Q: Will there be a separate building entrance for faculty and staff?
A: Not at this time. Our DPS staff will be checking credentials at each entrance; please plan for a slightly longer entry time.
Q: Will there be elevators reserved exclusively for masked people?
A: At this time, we are not considering a separate protocol for elevators. The current reopening calls for 50% capacity in elevators; public safety staff will be posted nearby to enforce capacity limits.
Q: What is Baruch doing to help rebuild a sense of community cohesion after so much time away?
A: Some events are being planned at the department and school level. There are several College-wide gatherings that will help serve this purpose, including our new faculty orientation (August 16), the annual fall faculty convocation (September 23), and the general faculty meeting (date TBD). We are planning face-to-face gatherings to resume in the spring.
Q: If someone in my F2F class tests positive, do we have to go back to remote instruction?
A: No. Quoting from the CUNY FAQ website, “CUNY will continue to aid in the identification of exposures and notify close contacts, as appropriate, of exposure as soon as possible after being notified that someone in a campus or office has tested positive to COVID-19. Working with the NYC Test & Trace Corps, outreach to all close contacts will be made; unvaccinated individuals will be notified that they are required to self-quarantine. Unless showing symptoms of COVID-19, vaccinated individuals do not have to self-quarantine.” Because vaccinated individuals do not have to quarantine and all students in the class are vaccinated, remote learning would not be required.
Q: Will there be unvaccinated students in my classroom?
A: The likelihood of any unvaccinated students attending an in-person class is very low and they will be dropped from the course rolls after the September 14 deadline to upload student vaccination documentation; this is the same process and timeline used for MMR vaccination requirements. Although faculty are discouraged from asking students if they are vaccinated for privacy reasons, they can ask the Covid campus liaison if there are any unvaccinated students in their class. Baruch will have an LVA team consisting of Hugo Morales, Marisa DeLaCruz, Mildred Figueroa, Katy Lugo, and Mary D’Amato. You can contact them at LVA@Baruch.cuny.edu. And, returning to the first question, faculty can request or require that all students remain masked in class.
My Appreciation for Your Commitment to Our Students
These continue to be challenging, fluid times and we will need to remain flexible as guidelines evolve. One thing that will not change, however, is our students’ need for your expertise, strength, understanding, and skill as educators. Through this most unprecedented era in our institution’s history, you have continued to teach and inspire our students. Despite the pandemic, but because of your commitment to our students, our six-year graduation rate has improved and so did our qualified applicant pool for the fall. Our students and Baruch’s leadership team have you to thank for that.
Please continue to reach out with any additional questions you may have and I will likewise share updates as needed. I also look forward to meeting you in person as the academic year progresses.
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs