With cancellations and postponements of large public gatherings being announced by the hour, there has been considerable speculation that all of New York State’s colleges would close their doors in the near future in response to the COVID-19 crisis. For now, the State University of New York at New Paltz is aiming for the middle ground: extending spring break by a week, encouraging students to go home if they can and teaching all courses remotely after the break, but not shutting down campus entirely.
On Wednesday, March 11, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced “plans to maximize distance learning and reduce in-person classes, beginning March 19th, for the remainder of the spring semester in light of the evolving novel coronavirus situation in New York. All campuses will develop plans catered to the campus and curriculum-specific needs while reducing density in the campus environment to help slow possibility for exposures to novel coronavirus. Distance learning and other options will be developed by campuses.”
SUNY New Paltz students continued to take classes in person up until Friday, March 13. Their spring break was already scheduled to begin the next day, but instead of coming back on the weekend of March 21/22, the hiatus will continue an additional week. Students heading back to their hometowns are being advised to take everything with them that they might need to resume their studies remotely following the break, and even to clear out their dorm rooms entirely if feasible.
Non-essential travel during the vacation period is being strongly discouraged, with cruise ships getting a special mention as a bad idea. Students who nonetheless do plan to travel must record their itineraries in a registry. Any student traveling to CDC-designated level 2 and 3 countries will not be allowed to return to campus until after they have self-quarantined for 14 days.
“Instruction will resume on March 30, at which time all classes will be offered remotely, through the end of the spring semester,” says an announcement issued on March 12 by Donald P. Christian, president, Barbara Lyman, interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, and Stephanie Blaisdell, vice president for Student Affairs. Blackboard was identified as the primary online learning module to be used to administer lessons.
However, college administrators acknowledged, not all resident students have a place to go that’s safer from the virus than their dorms, and international students may not be able to leave the country at all during the health emergency. The goal is to reduce density, but students who need to stay on-campus will be allowed to do so – although, beginning March 23, they will not be permitted to have outside guests. Those who plan to continue living in their dorms during the break are being asked to work out arrangements with the Department of Residence Life. All college offices, food and other campus services will remain open and work/study students will continue to work, though staffing is expected to be reduced if and when employees need to self-quarantine. Closing campus altogether won’t happen unless ordered by the governor.
At least until April 19, all on-campus events have been canceled – with the exception of SUNY New Paltz athletic competitions, which will proceed with competitors only. “No spectators will be admitted and all contests will be livestreamed,” according to a previous announcement.
While “The safety and security of all members of our campus community remains our highest priority,” SUNY New Paltz officials declare that they are “committed to continuing instruction so that students may complete their academic requirements this semester.” To learn more, visit https://newpaltz.edu/coronavirus-info.
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