SUNY and CUNY To Suspend In-Person Classes

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that all SUNY and CUNY schools will transition to online classes starting March 19 due to the coronavirus outbreak. Physical classes are canceled March 12 through 18, after which classes will take place online for the remainder of the spring semester. 

“CUNY will help reduce the density in New York City. SUNY will help reduce the density in downstate New York,” Cuomo said. Dorms, libraries and essential on-campus services will stay open to accomodate students.

This announcement came after students showed their frustration about what they viewed as a lack of initiative by state officials. #CUNY and #CloseCUNY trended on Twitter on Tuesday and Wednesday with thousands of tweets. 

Users expressed frustration that CUNY remained open while private universities, including Columbia, Fordham, Hofstra and NYU, canceled on-site classes amid the Covid-19 outbreak. 

In response to the closures at other schools, over 40,000 people signed a petition requesting that CUNY take precautions and move classes online. The petition, named “Save the CUNY Students”, has been circulating since Saturday among frustrated students. “Students’ education should not come at the cost of their health,” the description reads. On Tuesday night, Hunter’s Undergraduate Student Government also released a statement expressing support for the transition to online classes. 

While many students feel relieved by the news, some are concerned about their classes. Junior Roman Shumonov says, “I’m glad they finally canceled classes. I’m a biology major and taking a lot of labs so I am worried about how it’ll work online.” Senior Jessica Garcia is also worried about her media production classes. “There’s no way I can practice TV studio production at all unless I’m physically in the studio. I just want to be able to communicate effectively with my professor so I can get the most out of my work.” 

Hunter College West Building. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

CUNY is working with faculty and department chairs to teach classes remotely using Blackboard Collaborate. Training sessions on the platform are being held beginning this week. For classes that might not work online, such as labs and performing arts classes, the faculty is set to work with the Provost’s office to establish a plan.

The first confirmed case at CUNY came after a student tested positive for Covid-19 at John Jay School of Criminal Justice. The student was on campus Thursday evening for one class, but CUNY tweeted that the student “posed no threat to the school community, but out of an abundance of caution the school will be closed Wednesday, March 11.” No other cases of CUNY students with the virus have been confirmed. 

Hunter has been taking preventative measures against the outbreak, President Jennifer Raab stated in an email Monday. These include “routinely cleaning and disinfecting public, high-touch areas, including elevators, classrooms, bathrooms, locker rooms, and equipment, and we are supplying our facilities with hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.”

Students at risk like freshman Narine Andriasova are happy with remote learning. “I have extreme anemia which weakens my immune system,” she says, and her commute to class from Brooklyn worries her. “It takes me over an hour to get to class and most of it is spent in a crowded train. Simply covering my mouth and using sanitizer will be virtually useless in these situations.” 

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