President-Elect Maurie McInnis has released a detailed message outlining some initial decisions regarding the resumption of on-campus operations. The message reads as follows:
I am writing with an update on our planning and some initial decisions regarding the resumption of on-campus operations in the near term and for the fall semester. I have also included some initial information regarding fall enrollment and the campus budget. As noted in my April 28th message, the University’s COVID-19 response committees are deeply engaged in developing plans for the months ahead. Their work is guided by our medical, epidemiological, and local public health experts in concert with the New York Forward requirements set forth by New York State and in coordination with SUNY. Throughout this process, the well-being of our community remains our overriding priority.
I know that we all want certainty about what the fall semester will look like, about what our lives will look like. Unfortunately, certainty will remain elusive. As the journal Science recently noted, “The virus acts like no pathogen humanity has ever seen.” So our planning has to proceed acknowledging this uncertainty and readying campus to adjust as circumstances change. New York State and Long Island have been among the most heavily impacted regions, and we must take great care in developing plans for the fall that take into consideration our location as well as our mission.
Our planning has and will continue to engage our students, staff, and faculty and our shared governance partners. We have held focus groups, done surveys and engaged in discussions on a range of topics with members of our community. Recently, with the input of University Senate leadership, we have added additional faculty representation to key working groups:
- Senior Executive Leadership – Richard Larson
- Finance – Axel Drees
- Academic Planning – Brenda Anderson and Hanna Nekvasil
- DOIT Support Task Force – Keri Hollander
- Student Affairs Task Force – Christine Pitocco
- Facilities Planning Task Force – Tom Wilson
Additionally, I am in frequent contact with both medical experts and other presidents throughout the country. Nationwide, universities and colleges are all asking the same questions. At Stony Brook, I have been especially impressed with the in-depth and very detailed work of the numerous planning groups as they gather feedback from across our community. While I won’t detail all of the work they have done here, it has included: walking classrooms and measuring how many students can safely maintain social distancing in a room; calculating the number of students enrolled in each time slot so that we can ensure campus is not too crowded; measuring dining rooms to gauge capacity with social distancing; and determining locations for plexiglass barriers or layout changes where staff need to interact more closely with members of the campus community.
Below are some of the high-level decisions that have been made, followed by budget and enrollment updates, and then more detailed reports from the planning committees. Ultimately, our decisions regarding the fall semester will be made in conjunction with state government, SUNY leadership, and the Long Island Control Board in order to ensure that our decisions align with New York State priorities and guidance.
We will continue to communicate with you in the coming weeks, and there will be a more detailed note to faculty about fall course planning in the coming days. I also encourage you to visit our Coming Back Safe and Strong site on a regular basis where the FAQs provide more extensive information. It remains our goal to provide more direction by the end of June. As noted, however, all decisions about the coming academic year will be made in concert with our state and regional leaders.
Finally, thank you for your patience and ongoing support. It is indeed a challenging time. I have tremendous faith in our community and firmly believe that together we will overcome the challenges that are ahead of us while we position Stony Brook to be even stronger and more resilient. Working together we are #StonyBrookStrong.
I am hopeful that each of you and your families stay safe and healthy.
Key Decisions [As of 6/4/20] (Please note that these decisions reflect how we will frame the semester once we get approval from state and local authorities to reopen.)
- The October break will be canceled and most in person classes (with the exception of allied health experiential learning and clinical placements) will end as of November 21 (before Thanksgiving). The final week of classes and final exams will be done via remote learning options, and we will contract with a proctor company to ensure remote testing security.
- In an effort to reduce density on campus, we plan to maintain the framework of the traditional schedule while increasing the time for transition between classes. That will require scheduling a greater number of classes from 8 AM – 9 PM across five and, in rare instances, six days a week.
- Courses will exist in a combination of online, hybrid, and in-person.
- Large courses will need to be taught online.
- For classes that move to remote learning, faculty should consider doing face to face recitations.
- In-person courses will be scheduled in rooms that are large enough to accommodate appropriate social distancing.
Masks on Campus
- There will be an expectation that all members of the campus community will wear masks on campus.
- We will make masks available to all students, staff and faculty.
- We are working with the Long Island Control Board to determine when a phased return to research may begin.
- We expect to be able to bring back health researchers first and then gradually bring back other researchers as Long Island moves through the phases of reopening. Labs must meet our new safety protocols.
- We will offer singles and doubles only. We will not offer triples.
- We will hold some of our rooms for quarantine and isolation purposes.
The University budget is dependent in large measure on a number of factors including an allocation from the State of New York and tuition and fees as established by the SUNY Board of Trustees. Our budget, like those of colleges and universities nationwide, is under stress due to both loss of revenue and additional costs incurred by the campus response to SARS-CoV-2. It will be further stressed by New York State’s budget challenges. We have been told to expect cuts to the overall SUNY allocation but do not yet know the extent of those cuts. We also do not know the level of tuition and fees for the upcoming year. Finally, we know that it will be difficult for many of our international students to get to campus in the fall, but we do not know how many fewer out-of-state students will be able to enroll. Even with those areas of uncertainty, we do know that we will need to be strategic in our spending and that we will need to work together as a community to respond to the fiscal challenges. Accordingly, I am working with leadership to develop a strategic budget process that will include faculty leadership and campus engagement. I will announce that process once we have more clarity on our budgetary situation.
Total fall undergraduate transfer and first year deposits are running ahead of last year, although there will be more in-state students, and fewer out-of-state and international students, than in the past. Summer enrollment is up by about 15%. This is a testament to your hard work and Stony Brook’s quality and reputation.
Key Committee Highlights
Health and Safety Committee
- Working with our hospital partners as well as state and local health departments, we are building our campus capacity for robust testing.
- We will enhance our existing system and multi-disciplinary team to intake, screen, advise and trace members of the campus community when they become ill or test positive for COVID-19.
- Developing training and an app and process around regular symptom assessment and temperature checking for members of the campus community.
Research Task Force
- Worked with the Faculty Advisory Group to hold focus groups with deans, chairs and directors.
- Developed a robust plan that sets forth a process for determining priority areas of research for a safe return to our labs, studios and field research locations.
- Coordinated with the Facilities Group to determine the role of building managers in preparing the labs for returning researchers.
Return to Work Task Force
- Worked closely with all of the Planning Groups to develop a plan that will guide our efforts to welcome our faculty and staff back to campus utilizing enhanced cleaning protocols, masks, appropriate health screening and changes to facilities and schedules.
- Developed the COVID Health/HR Information Line.
- Distributed campus wide messaging outlining the principles around return and developed related FAQs.
- Sent campus wide email outlining the principles around return and developed set of FAQs.
Academic Planning Task Force
- Conducted faculty focus groups to work through a variety of scenarios regarding class size, calendar and timing to be considered for the fall semester.
- Gathered perspectives on perceptions of remote instruction and faculty needs and concerns for the upcoming semester.
- Analyzing input solicited by Interim President Bernstein from the campus community.
- Analyzing data from a survey of graduate students and a survey of undergraduate students regarding the fall semester.
Student Affairs Task Force
- Finalizing proposed staggered move-in schedule for resident students.
- Developing isolation/quarantine locations and protocols for COVID-19 positive and other impacted residents.
- Working on student event protocols.
- Met with the Student Advisory Council to get insight into our change to a remote learning environment. The Task Force will continue to work with this group and the elected student leaders as it develops options and plans related to student health & safety, campus residences, student life and campus climate and community building.
- The Faculty Student Association is collaborating with their vendors and partners to reevaluate food service areas, seating, menu options and overall processes to safely provide for our campus community within existing and expanded spaces.
- Assessed all classrooms and developed a draft plan regarding classroom utilization for proper social distancing.
- Developed protocols for custodial support and working on enhancing HVAC systems.
- Developed zone structure to help with management of campus buildings in concert with building and lab managers.
- Developing draft signage and reconfigured walking traffic flow options along with other engineering controls.
Marketing and Communications
- Developed, and continually updating, Coming Back Safe and Strong website.
- Developed branded signage for use across campus.
- Created branded #StonyBrookStrong face masks.
- Exploring the development of a face mask awareness campaign.
- Developing PSA video on infection control guidelines.