Dear Members of the Fordham Community,
When I wrote to you a few weeks ago about the formation of a task force to develop a plan for the Fall reopening of the University, I promised that I would share that plan (which is required by New York State) with you as soon as it was finished. Before getting into the details, protocols, procedures, measures and recommendations contained in the plan, however, I would like to share a few reflections with you on the way our colleagues on the task force and its thirteen subcommittees did their work.
The members of the steering committee and subcommittees did not do their work in isolation. They consulted widely, pored over thousands of pages of statements and recommendations prepared, proposed and issued by various federal, state and local health agencies and tracked down as many epidemiological studies as they could. (They paid special attention to the requirements laid down by New York State for the reopening of higher educational institutions.) Their research convinced them that the University would have to develop a sophisticated, multifaceted plan to deal with COVID-19 and to mitigate the risks associated with reopening in the Fall.
The members of the steering committee and subcommittees also listened. They listened to members of the faculty, members of the staff, our students and the parents of our present and prospective students. As they listened, they learned that the University community values and takes pride in the distinctive and recognizably Jesuit educational experience that Fordham has always offered its students. That is to say, they value an environment marked by that mixture of care and challenge that nurtures intellectual curiosity and human growth. They miss the rich interaction of the classroom. They miss the opportunity to teach and learn from one another. And they yearn to return to the community of scholars and learners that has formed them — faculty, students, staff and administrators alike.
They also learned that there is real concern among many members of the University community about returning to campus (and to on-ground learning and instruction) while the virus is still active. As a result, the members of the task force came to believe that we would have to take a measured, phased approach to reopening and create a plan that would be robust enough to inspire confidence that we can, indeed, mitigate the risks associated with reopening.
As you read the brief outline of the plan they developed attached to this letter, I think that you will find that they achieved the goal that they set for themselves: creating a balanced, wise, and compassionate plan that was in compliance with State guidelines and directives and that sought to respond to both the dreams and concerns that were shared with them in the course of their work. I think that you will also see that it is a practical plan that is richly detailed, phased, multilayered and that both draws on the expertise of the members of the University community, and that appropriately distributes responsibility for its execution to the members of the community.
Having said that, I would not be honest if I did not admit that the coming months are going to be challenging. We will still be living with a fair degree of disruption to our usual routines and a fair degree of mystery. But, I believe that we can and will more than “get through” if we draw on what we have all learned in the course of the past few months about the effectiveness of vigilance and a shared sense of responsibility in containing the virus, and on the strength of the Fordham culture, a culture that has always been marked by a similar sense of shared responsibility.
Let me now share with you the following important information about the phases through which we will pass in the coming months:
- Summer Session is proceeding as scheduled, but the delivery of instruction is entirely online.
- Study abroad has been suspended for the Fall 2020 semester.
- Since New York City has entered Phase Two of the State’s Plan for Reopening, effective immediately:
- With the State’s permission, all construction projects on our campuses, including the work of re-engineering and/retrofitting the campuses, can proceed as planned.
- With the State’s permission, all research laboratories may begin reopening in a phased manner, with the understanding that all the necessary safety precautions outlined in New York Forward are observed by both the faculty researchers and their students.
- All administrative offices may reopen, but only with up to fifty percent of their staffs on-ground. Managers will share their plans with the members of their staffs prior to reopening.
- Faculty members who wish to retrieve materials from their offices are free to do so. To ensure, however, that we don’t violate the State’s mandates with regard to social distancing and campus density, I would ask those faculty members who wish to do so to contact Public Safety to reserve a time for their visits.
- Before any employees return to campus, they must register with VitalCheck, Fordham’s telehealth screening program, and be cleared.
- Effective 20 July, when we anticipate that New York City will enter Phase Four of Reopening, all offices will be allowed to reopen, but not with full staffs on-ground.
The Fall Semester will begin on time, and on-ground instruction will begin as scheduled on 26 August.
As has been the case every time that I have written to you since the pandemic began, let me end this letter with my deep and heartfelt thanks to every member of the Fordham Community for the patience, resilience, creativity and deep devotion to both the mission of the University and the loving service to our students that stands at the center of that mission that you have shown since our lives and our work were disrupted in mid-March.
Please be assured of my prayers for you, your families and all whom you hold dear.
Joseph M. McShane, S.J.
Below, you will find a brief outline of the contents of the report prepared by the Fordham Forward Task Force with links that will take you directly to those sections of the plan that deal with the topics in the outline.
You may access the State’s guidelines for reopening higher educational institutions via this link.
A. Protecting the Health and Well-Being of the Members of the Community
This section contains information about daily screening, testing, contact tracing, and provisions for isolation and quarantining.
B. Creating and Maintaining A Safe Campus Environment
C. Lessening Campus Density
This section contains information regarding Fordham’s effort to de-densify all aspects of campus life.
Please note: We will limit visitors to “invited guests” only, who are expected to abide by all building/campus protocols (including screening) and require University ID’s to enter on-campus buildings.
D. Additional Considerations and Plans for De-densifying the campus:
In order to lessen campus density, we will also seek to reduce the number of staff members on campus at any given time. To achieve this, managers will be asked to look into the creation of additional shifts and/or rotations for the members of their staffs. In addition, they will be asked to determine which jobs under their supervision can only be done on the ground.
- Those tasks that can effectively be done remotely should continue to be done remotely.
- Those tasks that can only be fully and effectively done on campus will require in-person activity. (Staff may be rotated or be spread out over shifts.)
- Those members of the University community in a high-risk category or who have other personal circumstances are asked to contact the Office of Human Resources Management about accommodations by following the instructions on this page.
E. The Delivery of Instruction:
The University will be using a flexible hybrid model of instruction that will contain a mix of synchronous and asynchronous elements that will enable classes to be taught either fully or partially online, thus allowing us to pivot to full online learning if circumstances make that necessary.
F. Areas of Special Concern:
The State’s directives for the reopening of higher education make it clear that all colleges and universities are to follow the industry-specific recommendations and directions for those parts of the University enterprise that are not covered in the higher education directives. Among those elements/operations would be dining venues (in our case, our cafeterias, and other food venues), gyms (in our case, all of our athletic and fitness facilities), retail stores (in our case, our bookstores) and post office (in our case, the mailroom). Fordham Forward contains both extensive and detailed plans for all of those enterprises and venues, which you will be able to find in the full document.
Travel: The University is continuing the suspension of university-sponsored international and domestic travel until further notice. The United States Department of State and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are continuing to advise avoiding all nonessential international travel due to widespread ongoing transmission.