Following New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s mid-semester decision to indefinitely discontinue in-person CUNY and SUNY school classes, many questions have been raised regarding how – if at all – schools ought to go about reopening in the Fall. To address these questions, Queens College organized and convened a planning committee consisting of faculty members considered especially well-equipped to chart the course of the school in the coming months.
The Queens College Ad Hoc Working Group on Reopening, as it is called, was formed with the purpose of “planning for reopening physical use of campus space for academic instruction and other in-person activities with an emphasis on the Fall 2020 semester,” according to its website. The committee’s variety ensures that the needs of Queens’ similarly-varied student body are all taken into account. It represents a wide array of disciplines; among its members are Daniel Weinstein, Interim Dean of Queens College’s School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, and Megan Healey, Chair of the Department of Drama, Theatre, and Dance. Also involved is student Zaire Couloute, who as President of the Student Association, serves as the committee’s sole student representative.
As the committee deliberates, it keeps students informed via email. The first of these emails, sent on June 19, announced the formation of the committee and allowed for the future addition of “smaller working groups with additional college administrators, faculty, and staff…as needed to focus on a specific issue.” Since then, two “Progress Reports” have been sent out. The first, sent on June 26, reiterated that the Queens College campus will remain closed for the summer (except for research labs); the second, sent on July 9, detailed additions to the committee’s personnel, and made the unfortunate announcement that the college’s long-running Summer Camp had been cancelled. This latter report also mentioned that in response to the abrupt manner in which the spring semester moved online, a contingency plan is now in place, providing for a more orderly course of action should Queens College open its doors in the Fall and then decide to reclose.
Even with the diligence with which the committee works toward its stated goals, many students have still expressed reservations regarding the status of the Fall semester and whether reopening would be prudent. Ezra Hermann, a rising Junior and Psychology major, said that “the health and safety of students and teachers is of utmost importance,” adding that “many students would have to take public transportation, which is not necessarily safe right now.” The point about public transportation was echoed by Joshua Sacker, a Senior and Environmental Science major, who felt that he would not return to potential in-person classes next semester because “my commute to Queens College involves a train and a bus and I don’t feel public transportation is safe to use so often yet.”
However the Ad Hoc Working Group on Reopening decides on conducting the next semester, it must consider that personal safety is the primary concern of many of the students it is tasked with serving. This and other issues will inform the moves of the committee as it navigates an uncertain future.