Hunter Releases Focus on Fall, Its Plan for Those Returning to Campus

After CUNY announced it was preparing for a hybrid semester, Hunter College released Focus on Fall on Tuesday, their plan to support students both on campus and online. The plan details how Hunter will take precautionary measures and implement new protocols on campus for the limited number of students and staff who will be there in person. Hunter also released information on which classes will meet in-person. 

Attending in-person classes this upcoming fall will be different compared to previous semesters. All students, employees and essential visitors are required to fill out an online COVID-19 screening questionnaire on an application or website at home prior to traveling to campus, however, self-service terminals are also available on-site. 

The app asks the three New York State Department of Health-required questions. “Occupants who have successfully completed the online questionnaire having no symptoms of COVID, no diagnosis, or contact with someone diagnosed, will receive approval to come to campus,” the safety plan states. 

Many colleges are implementing fever checkpoints and asking everyone to test for the virus before returning to campus. Hunter, however, will solely rely on the screening app to grant access to campus property. 

Face coverings such as cloth masks, surgical masks and face shields are now required at all times on campus property and free masks will be available for all employees and students. Everyone must practice physical distancing when possible, the plan states.

As more professors prepare for hybrid or online courses, courses that require hands-on learning will be held in-person. “There is general consensus that student success may be enhanced by on-site instruction in particular areas of study,” Raab writes. “As a result, the Provost’s Office has been working with Deans and faculty leaders in three specific areas—1) the lab sciences; 2) studio art, film and performance arts; and 3) clinical training.”

Hunter is also considering the possibility of holding one or two sessions in-person for classes that don’t require hands-on learning. Raab said professors have inquired about starting class off in-person so they can meet students before shifting online and holding in-person finals. These requests for limited in-person sessions are being examined and planned by several Hunter committees. 

Talk of in-person finals comes after CUNY professors found an overwhelming amount of cheating during online final exams, according to NY Post. CUNY decided not to implement Respondus, an online monitoring system, during exams due to legal issues but is looking into alternatives. 

Hunter College’s 68th Street campus. Photo by Afia Eama

As of now, on-site classes will take place at the 68th Street campus; however, if needed, Hunter will open the Brookdale and Silberman campuses. Raab also mentioned that Hunter is exploring the reopening of the Brookdale dorm, which dismissed all residents in late March. “We are aware that many students would prefer to continue their education and even their online learning from a dormitory room,” Raab writes. 

At the 68th Street campus, spaces like computer labs, study spaces, the food pantry, music practice rooms and art studios are reopening for student access. But every campus will be rigorously cleaned and disinfected daily, especially the high-touch surfaces. Entrances, stairs, elevators, restrooms, corridors and other shared public spaces will be cleaned with an Emergency Protection Agency approved cleaner multiple times a day. Daily cleaning logs will be required and reviewed by administrative superintendents.  

If an employee or essential visitor tests positive for COVID-19, they are required to immediately disclose it. The Office of Human Resources will then trace all contacts within the workplace and cooperate with the health department. The facility will then be thoroughly disinfected using a third-party specialist. 

Hunter has also improved their signage program on-site which consists of posters and PSAs with information and reminders about physical distancing, personal hygiene, PPE and other safe practices. Other measures include hand sanitizer dispensers, plexiglass barriers for areas where transactions occur like the public safety desk and hazardous waste bins for disposal of masks at exits. 

Fall sports is also cancelled due to the pandemic, CUNY Athletic Conference announced on Tuesday, stating it would be “unsafe and unwise to compete at this time.” Hunter is looking into the possibility of moving fall sports to the spring semester. 

Many students expressed disappointment with Hunter’s lack of communication like junior Sylvia Welch who is unsure of whether they will return to campus this fall at all. “I have not received any emails about any of my classes being online or in person. I am thoroughly disappointed with the communication from Hunter,” said Welch, who double majors in clinical psychology and classical studies. “There is confusion around what labs will be in-person.” 

Although Hunter is working to transition many courses into remote or hybrid delivery, they haven’t clearly stated which courses will meet on-site. Senior Theresa Vu, who is enrolled in one studio art class, hasn’t heard from the art department on whether her class will take place on-site. If her class is held on campus, Vu says she is one of the lucky few. “I [was] honestly worried that I [wouldn’t] get the full experience and be able to take advantage of studio space/facilities and in person critiques, especially since I don’t have the capacity to do my art at home,” the media studies and studio art major said. 

With one month remaining until the start of classes, whether in-person or remote, this semester promises to be one for the history books. 

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