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Fordham Forward Update | Monday, July 20, 2020


From the Office of the President:

Key Takeaways

  • New York City is now in Phase IV of New York state’s four-part reopening plan. Schools are allowed to reopen with appropriate health and safety measures.
  • As of Monday, July 20, the rate of new infections in New York is below 1 percent.
  • Every member of the campus community will be required to follow the health and safety guidelines laid out below, and to sign the Ram Pledge at the bottom of this email.
  • Every student will be able to choose whether they learn fully online, in person, or a hybrid combination of the two (a form will be available on July 27, or shortly thereafter).
  • Faculty will likewise be asked to choose the most appropriate and effective mode of instruction for their courses.
  • Administrators and staff who can work remotely shall continue to do so, at least until the spring semester.
  • In-person classes will commence on Wednesday, August 26, 2020.
  • The University will break at Thanksgiving, and students will not return to campus physically until the spring semester begins.

Dear Members of the Fordham Community,

This is the first of a number of messages you will receive today and throughout the rest of this week regarding Fordham Forward, our plan for reopening. Faculty, students and parents, and staff, will all receive detailed information relative to their roles at the University—that information will also live on the reopening pages of the website for easy reference.

Here are the principles that have guided our planning, and will continue to shape our actions as we navigate the fall semester:

  • The health and safety of the community are paramount. Our actions should not put ourselves or anyone in the community at undue risk during the pandemic.
  • Teaching and learning are at the heart of our mission. Within the Flexible Hybrid model adopted for 2020-2021, the faculty are responsible, as they always have been, for deciding in each of their courses how to create a rich and effective learning environment within the context of their discipline and the learning goals of their course.
  • Fordham offers a distinctive, transformative Jesuit education for all of its students. We must not compromise the personalized and relational aspects of the student experience; the connections that students seek with their instructors and one another; and the powerful sense of community that is derived from residential education, albeit with the modifications necessary for public health.

I would like to offer you a broad overview of the actions Fordham is taking to ensure our students receive the best educational experience possible without exposing them or other members of the University community to undue risk.

We are de-densifying the campus: A portion of the faculty and students will teach and learn remotely, and all employees who can work effectively from home will continue to do so. There will be fewer students in residence halls and in common spaces. All dining venues have been modified to ensure safety and proper social distancing, including many physical changes, as well as furniture adjustments. The University will provide tented areas at each venue to expand on outdoor dining options. All dining formats and platforms have been adjusted to accommodate service requirements and safety, as required by New York state guidelines. Student visitation passes for the fall semester for all non-Fordham individuals will be suspended; intra-residence hall visitation will be limited and capped.

The University has instituted mandatory universal testing and daily screening for all faculty, students and staff.

  • Testing: As a result of an arrangement we have entered into with the Broad Institute (a collaboration between Harvard and MIT), we will provide on-campus testing for students and employees with results within 24 hours, or as quickly as possible thereafter.
  • Prearrival: we encourage all students to get tested at home no more than 7 days before final arrival at campus. Those who test positive at home will be asked to delay move- in/access to campus until they are no longer symptomatic and are cleared to return by their personal physicians. All students coming to campus will be required to provide proof of testing and clearance (i.e. a negative test result within the last 7 days).
  • Arrival: all students and employees who will be on campus will be required to get tested prior to arrival or when they arrive, and again at an interval to be determined after they have been on campus.
  • Ongoing: we will also conduct monthly surveillance and diagnostic testing of the student and employee populations.

More communication and details will follow on the testing requirements and expectations.

Daily Monitoring: we will all be required to participate in daily surveillance monitoring through a screening program called VitalCheck (which is very easy to navigate). All individuals who will be on campus will be provided with instructions in the coming days, outlining how to register and participate.

Please note that all members of the University community will need to undergo VitalCheck screening each day to gain access to campus. (All will be asked to show their daily passes at the entrance to the campus.) Residential students who leave the campus will need to have clearance from VitalCheck to gain reentry to campus, and possibly more frequently when on campus.

Isolation, Quarantine and Contact Tracing:

  • Students who test positive and who can go home will be expected to do so; those who cannot go home, for whatever reason, will be isolated on campus.
  • We have set aside isolation spaces on each campus, for resident students who test positive and cannot return home, for whatever reason; we will supplement these spaces as needed with off-campus accommodations.
  • We have made provisions to provide ongoing support services, medical oversight through health services and food delivery to isolated students.
  • Students from distant markets (including international students) and hot spot markets identified by New York state, including other potential exposure cases, will be asked to quarantine in their rooms when necessary and possible. We will use off-campus sites for quarantine purposes, if needed.
  • We will engage in contact tracing to track down anyone who might have been exposed to an infected individual for long enough to have put them at risk of infection.

We are making the physical environment as safe as possible: Bathrooms and showers will be cleaned and sanitized twice a day, all public areas will be cleaned and sanitized at least daily, and high touch areas will be cleaned frequently. Heating systems will be adjusted to higher settings during winter, HEPA room filtration units will be installed in classrooms, and windows will be left open wherever possible. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems will be operated 24 hours a day with maximal fresh air intake. The University will designate entrance- and exit-only doors for each building to lessen crowding and congestion at those key locations; reduce capacity in elevators; designate directional stairwells; and reduce individual Ram Vans’ capacity (with additional runs as necessary).

The academic experience will be different for everyone: Even those students taking in-person classes may not necessarily attend each session in person: classroom capacity will be smaller, and students in many classes will have to attend some sessions virtually. The three modality options are fully online, hybrid with asynchronous online and synchronous in-person components, and fully in-person (as may be appropriate for science labs, performance-based courses, or other courses that may call for in-person instruction). Chairs and program directors will work with deans to determine which courses should be prioritized for in-person teaching in order to best serve our students, and Academic Records will post the modality of all courses so that students can consider changing their registration to better align with their own plans and preferences.

I want to underscore that all of our plans are provisional. We have no control over the spread of the virus outside of Fordham’s campuses, and less control than we would like on campus. Our plans will always be contingent upon the advice of public health experts and the governor’s executive orders. We will do everything within our power to deliver a safe, pedagogically rich in-person experience, but we will continue to develop contingency plans for going fully online before Thanksgiving, if necessary.

I know this is a lot of information, and more detail on all of these areas will be forthcoming from various offices across the University later today and throughout the week, and continuing as long as necessary into the school year. As I said, all of this information will be available on the web, and will be updated frequently to address changing conditions at Fordham and in New York. As we have learned since March, change will be the one constant in our lives for the foreseeable future.

That said, I am genuinely proud to serve all of you. Your adaptability and ingenuity over the past several months have been impressive and inspiring. You have shown terrific resilience and compassion, and more than a little of the quality some call Fordham grit. Though it will require some hard work and much patience, I am confident we will get through this period together.

You are all in my thoughts and prayers today, and every day.


Joseph M. McShane, S.J.

The Ram Pledge

As a member of the Fordham community, I take the following actions on and off campus to help safeguard the students, faculty, and staff at the University:

  • I will wear a mask/face covering at all times when in public places on the Fordham campus, both indoors and outdoors, and when taking part in University activities off campus;
  • I will wash my hands frequently and thoroughly (for 20 seconds, minimum), especially after contact with surfaces and items in public areas, after eating, coughing, sneezing, or wiping one’s nose;
  • I will self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, and complete daily VitalCheck screenings;
  • I will follow the directions of University officials regarding testing, screening, and quarantine (if necessary), and cooperate with the University’s contact tracing efforts, if called upon to do so;
  • I will act in the spirit of people for others, knowing that I am helping to protect the campus community from illness.

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