Lehman College: Path to Reopening


Unlike our departure from campus, which was quickly completed in a two-week time period, we have the ability to carefully plan a phased return to campus, being mindful of and incorporating requirements of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), New York State Department of Health, New York Forward Higher Education Guidelines, CUNY and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). There are many aspects to consider in planning a safe return to the campus. First, and foremost, is ensuring the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors to campus.

It is important to note that Lehman College, CUNY is a commuter campus that prides itself on its diversity and commitment to multicultural understanding. For this reason, we value the input of all members in our community as we develop guidelines that are safe and inclusive.


The Return to Campus Phase 1 Working Group was established to identify the concerns and potential problem areas associated with reopening the campus, and to recommend solutions to guide the plans for a safe return to campus. The working group includes the Vice President for Administration and Finance and representatives from Campus Planning and Facilities, Human Resources, Information Technology Resources, Environmental Health and Safety, Public Safety, Student Affairs, Enrollment Management, the President’s Office, Media Relations, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, a CLT and two PSC HEO representatives. Following is the committee’s report and recommendations.

Guiding Principle
With the safety of our College community as our guiding principle, we recommend a multi-phased return, one that ensures we protect all members of our community while slowly re-populating our campus. Where possible, we will continue to minimize on campus presence with no loss of functionality, or minimal acceptable loss of functionality, by continuing to telecommute. Once cleared to start a phased return, at each step in the return, new groups may be cleared to return to campus, and campus buildings. Progression to a higher step will be contingent on the successful completion of the previous step.

Plan Goal
To have the minimum number of persons on campus as possible to not impact (while maximizing) college operations or interfere with the education of our students until such time as a COVID-19 is no longer a public health threat in New York. To limit and minimize the number and duration of in-person and person-to-person interactions to reduce the risk of COVID—19 spread.

The work on Academic Continuity and Student Support at the College began in spring 2020, and it involved multiple stages, which were informed by 1) Lehman’s Guidelines for Preparing for AY 2020-2021 developed by the Provost’s Taskforce on Academic Continuity and 2) CUNY’s Guidance on Academic Continuity developed through the Office of the University Provost.

Lehman’s Guidelines identified three goals, six objectives, and 41 strategies designed to ensure that both summer and fall 2020, as well as spring 2021, are successful. These goals, objectives and strategies were informed by lessons learned from the college’s quick pivot to complete virtual delivery of instructional and support services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the three goals are:

  • Maximize flexibility and minimize disruption for faculty, staff, and students
  • Maintain our commitment to Lehman’s educational mission and strategic priorities, and,
  • Protect students, faculty, staff and visitors while being responsive to the changing COVID-19 landscape.

The six objectives are:
Objective 1. Enhance the student experience in times of unprecedented disruption (14 strategies)
Objective 2. Enhance faculty professional development (7 strategies)
Objective 3. Improve student learning outcomes and maintain academic quality/integrity across all modalities (6 strategies)
Objective 4. Strengthen technology support, minimize hurdles, and create a safe environment (6 strategies)
Objective 5. Support continued scholarship, creative works, research and discovery (5 strategies)
Objective 6. Create a deeply caring and kind environment that prioritizes physical and emotional safety for all members (students, staff, faculty, community) (3 strategies)

Recommendations of the Taskforce were discussed at the Provost’s and Deans’ Council (PDC), President’s Cabinet, Faculty Personnel and Budget Committee (FP&B) and with other campus stakeholders.  The Provost also disseminated the Guidelines to the College community and discussed the components at the President’s Weekly Briefings to the campus.

Over the course of the spring semester and summer 2020, the five schools and various administrative units went to work to develop and implement several of the strategies recommended in the Guidelines.

A small committee of the Taskforce was also charged by the Provost to provide cost estimates, as appropriate, for the strategies recommended in the Guidelines. Funding for these strategies were expected to be covered under the CARES’ Act.

CUNY’s Guidance on Academic Continuity comprised of a series of updates, new information, guidelines, and policies and resolutions from the Central office, Board of Trustees, City, State, federal and regulatory agencies, applicable to addressing the challenges of the pandemic with regard to academic continuity and student support.  To date, there have been eighteen (18) such Guidance Memos issued by the University Provost to CUNY Colleges.

In late spring 2020, Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez announced the reconstitution of the University-wide Coronavirus Taskforce and the creation of the Academic and Student Support Taskforce. A Steering Committee of the Academic and Student Support Taskforce was also established, with Lehman Provost serving as a representative of the University’s Provosts on the committee.

The Taskforce on Academic Continuity and Student Support has structured its work along five key strategies:

Enrollment Management: Explore the impact of various public health scenarios on the academic calendar, initiatives to boost summer and fall enrollments, and course scheduling guidelines that conform to social distancing norms, among other enrollment management issues.

Academic Program: Focus on accreditation and regulatory requirements, recommend policies and practices to ensure the quality of instruction to all students (e.g. ADA accessibility regulations), explore innovative pilot programs to enhance the scale and quality of online course offerings, issue guidelines for effective assessment of distance education.

Student Support Services: Explore the development of innovative support services in areas such as mental health counseling, career engagement (especially for soon-to-be graduates), emergency aid, and engagement with K-12 sector; re-conceptualize how student fees can be reinvested to enhance services in scenarios with a higher proportion of instruction occurring online; and, develop guidelines for the role campus facilities shall play in scenarios with high levels of online instruction and stringent social distancing policies (e.g., libraries, computer labs, research labs, childcare centers).

Research Support: Develop guidance to support the research and creative activities of faculty, students, and staff via enhanced levels of remote services, including grant-writing support, and policies for safely restarting programs that require onsite access.

Professional Development and IT Support: Work to enhance professional development for faculty, students, and staff on effective practices in course conversions and online teaching, online learning, delivery of student support services (e.g., remote career engagement counseling, remote advising, mental health, and virtual recruitment), and discharging administrative responsibilities. The task force will also work to meet technology needs of our students, faculty, and staff so they can learn, teach, and work effectively in scenarios with a higher proportion of instruction and work occurring remotely.
The Steering Committee has held multiple meetings and its work has been guided by principles of equity and inclusion, in ways focused on ensuring that students, faculty, and staff are provided with much academic planning certainty as it reasonably can through the Spring 2021 term, mindful of the safety of all members of our University community, especially those who may be at risk.

Developing Lehman’s Reopening Plan for Academic Continuity for Fall 2020 (Phase 2)
The Phase 2 of the College Reopening Plan for Academic Continuity and Student Support has involved two steps:

Step 1: A four-stage plan developed and presented by the Provost to the Provost’s and Deans’ Council (PDC), which included 1) Engagement, 2) The 90X10, Framework, 3) Plan for 10% In-person instruction, and 4) Plan Implementation. Under this four-stage plan, school deans and Associate Provost for Academic Programs and Educational Effectiveness (APAPEE) were requested to develop plans for campus reopening for their schools, making sure to engage department chairs/program directors and faculty, using the 90x10 framework as a guide, not a target. The 90x10 framework was based on preliminary analysis of fall 2019 classes, which found that 90 percent of all CUNY classes could be conveniently offered online for fall 2020, with 10 percent of courses requiring some accommodations for on-site delivery. We then asked all school deans and APAPEE (LEH courses) to submit plans for their schools and program based on this planning assumption. We also asked them to include in their reopening plans contingency plans in the event of a resurgence. These plans were then submitted to the Senior Registrar, who compiled them into a single spreadsheet. Subsequent discussions with the senior registrar and our facilities management staff with deans and chairs resulted in a narrowing of the ratio.

Step 2: Following the submission of the plans, the Provost established a separate group, the Phase 2 Reopening Plan Task Force, to review the plans, and provide feedback and comments on the efficacy of the plans. The task force also provided feedback on the responsiveness of the plans to NYS guidelines on health and safety and completeness of campus preparations for reopening in fall 2020. The Task force also reviewed both the Phase 1 and Phase 2 Reopening Plans as a single complete plan for the college prior to submission to CUNY.

Coronavirus Campus Liaison: Gladys Santos-Maldoon, Deputy to the President 718-960-1984, gladys.maldoon@lehman.cuny.edu
Campus CoronavirusCoordinator: Rene Rotolo, Vice President Administration and Finance 646-533-2613 (cell), rene.rotolo@lehman.cuny.edu

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