I continue to be grateful to each of you for the work you are doing this semester. I’m also really grateful for the small moments of communion and fellowship: when chance meetings in parking lots offer the opportunity to connect with individuals I haven’t seen for a long time, or the moments we spend talking at the pool testing venue. Last week, I was particularly grateful for the time spent seeing colleagues at the Joey Jackson Intercultural Center ribbon cutting ceremony. These little connections are ones we all have missed. Remote working makes it harder to maintain good relationships and connections; it exacerbates the problem of missed communication and can lead to surprises—which may be received as intentional even when they are not. Without wishing time away, I must admit that I look forward to our fall semester, which we expect will be far closer to our fall 2019 than fall 2020.
I’m very appreciative of Jim Wall’s frequent budget updates to campus, Senate, and JPBC. I encourage as many people as possible to log in to the JPBC meetings where detailed information is presented. We also have a budget town hall on April 29, from 12 Noon-1pm. Please see the Daily Eagle for how to sign up.
In budget news there is both good and bad news: the good news is that the state cut to our budget is less than previously forecast by SUNY: it is around a 5% reduction rather than 20% as we had been told to prepare for. There is also more funding for special programs, such as our EOP and EOC, which is welcome news indeed. Statewide, the EOP program received a 20% funding boost, and the EOCs have collectively received an additional 4 million dollars. The assistance directed towards widening participation is welcome and substantial. And the State has also authorized the payment of withheld pay raises, which it will be scheduling soon.
On the downside, the authority to raise tuition has been withheld for three more years. For our campus, this equates to around 8.4 million dollars fewer overall than if approval had been granted (based on a campus population of around 7000 students). Prudently, we had not put any tuition rises into our 5-year budget forecast, but the impact is felt nonetheless as costs increase while revenue does not. And while it is great news that the pay raises have been authorized for our union members, contrary to public perception, no additional funding was included in that authorization.
There are other budget details that are more complex, and for which we need additional information. This includes the good news that the state is looking to close the so-called “TAP Gap” over a period of years, meaning that the College will have to pay less towards the gap between what Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) covers and student need. It is significant that this funding gap will be borne by the state and not by either the college (as it currently does) or individual students. So we have much to thank the legislature for in this budget.
SUNY is currently undertaking a review of all the complexities of this year’s budget and the implications for campuses. As SUNY releases additional guidance and information, it will be shared with campus.
Finally in budget news, our plan to distribute $3.9 M of Student Aid from CARES II has been approved, and the goal is to start to distribute the funds on May 1. We look forward to finalized guidance from SUNY regarding institutional aid.
SUNY has produced a very short document outlining current thinking regarding fall planning. SUNY is reaching out to governance groups and others for input on areas for expansion, and we look forward to the opportunity to help shape this guidance.
In the meantime, SUNY Brockport continues to plan, and to use shared governance as a backdrop of all that we do. To give some examples of this, the Bringing Brockport Back Group was formed in the Spring 2020 to develop a multi-scenario plan that would be flexible, scalable, and meet the challenges of reopening the our campus for the Fall 2020 semester. The Committee consisted of over 40 representatives from a cross-section of all aspects of the College in order to meet the diverse needs of the campus community. Relying on guidance documents from New York State, SUNY Administration, the CDC, and input from the Monroe County Department of Health, the BBB Committee reached their goal of developing a plan that met the challenges of reopening the campus safely during a global pandemic. Aspects of the plan, including areas such as “Isolation & Quarantine” and partnerships with external stakeholders were seen as best practices throughout the SUNY system.
However, with successes, there have been and continue to be areas that consistently present challenges. Some of these challenges are internal, including course offering platform changes and inconsistencies, tracking testing exemptions for students, and securing and retaining volunteers for pool testing, to name a few. Others challenges are external to the College, including the timeline in which we receive guidance versus the timeline in which we need guidance in order to meet campus deadlines or targets.
In our current planning, we are maintaining a number of assumptions regarding the four pillars that previous planning initiatives were built upon. As a reminder, those pillars are:
- Masking—based upon projections of the CDC, it is likely that wearing face masks will continue for the remainder of the 2021 calendar year (even for those individuals who have been vaccinated against COVID). Potential changes to masking could include no requirement while outdoors while maintaining social distance or in small groups (PODS) if all individuals in the group are vaccinated. The particulars of masking are difficult to project, but it is almost certain that masking will continue to be a foundation of all planning.
- Social Distancing—this pillar is also likely to continue to be a foundation of planning moving forward, again with possible changes. We are currently seeing CDC recommendations of shortening social distancing from 6 foot to 3 foot in the K-12 classroom (while maintaining masks). This change could also be approved for institutions of higher education as well.
- Robust cleaning and sanitizing—the College’s cleaning and disinfecting plan will continue for the foreseeable future.
- Hand washing—the placement of hand sanitizing stations and signage related to frequent hand washing will also be part of the ongoing campus environment moving forward.
These pillars also have an effect on the transmission of other health concerns, such as influenza, as we have seen falling rates of transmission of the flu nationwide.
A new committee, “Academics/Facilities/Planning” group, will be formed to work together on all aspects related to the scheduling of classes in appropriate rooms based upon projected numbers of students that can fit into a classroom space using 3 foot social distancing parameters, 6 foot social distancing parameters, and spacing limits in a “non-COVID” environment. Membership will consist of individuals with specific responsibilities related to the charge (the Registrar, Vice Provost, space planners, etc.) as well as shared governance representatives through College Senate.
Our Housing and Emergency Services subcommittee will be discontinued, as members belong to other subcommittees and the duties can be absorbed into them.
Many of the current BBB subcommittees will continue into the fall. They include the following:
Quarantine & Isolation Group: relying on the assumption that some level of quarantine & isolation will be required for the summer/fall 2021 semesters, this group will continue to evaluate and update their processes for the coming months and look to find solutions to any problems encountered over the 20/21 academic year and build upon best practices or successes they’ve achieved. We hope that with greater vaccine availability to the public, the previous “quarantine space percentage” that SUNY mandated in the Spring ’21 semester may be reduced. Membership for this group would remain the current Q & I team members.
Testing Group: relying on the assumption that there will be some level of campus pool testing of faculty, staff and students required by SUNY moving forward, the testing team will continue to meet with a similar charge as the Q & I group: evaluate processes, build upon strengths, and fill gaps based upon existing capacities. We are hoping that SUNY testing percentage requirements will be reduced in the fall. Membership for this group will remain the current Testing team members.
Facilities/Planning: this group will continue to review campus needs in the COVID environment as it relates to cleaning/disinfecting of campus, the impact that construction events may have on COVID operations (which includes vendors or contractors on campus), supply chain issues, and other Facilities and Facilities Planning related events.
Student Engagement: Assuming that there will still be some campus restriction guidance as mandated by SUNY or campus leadership, this group will continue to require (and review) safety plans for events as necessary. This group membership consists of Campus Recreation, Student Union & Activities, Athletics, EDI, Community Development, BSG and student representation.
Finance & Technology: The overall charge of this group will remain the same. Group membership will also remain the same: Procurement/Contracts, IT, HR, JPBC, Student Accounts, BASC, and Research Foundation.
Communications & Offsite Partners: The primary update for this committee will be the development of a “Weekly Campus COVID Message”. Over the course of the Spring ’21 semester, due to ongoing updates from SUNY Administration or other process changes, often times multiple, detailed messages were sent out on a weekly basis. The hope for the summer/fall ’21 is that these process changes will be less frequent, cutting down on the number of required messages related to COVID that need to be sent out weekly.
I hope that you had the opportunity to attend some or all of the Diversity Learning Series last week. Dr. Lorraine Acker and Susan Osher worked tirelessly with a committee of volunteers to produce the series, and I’m grateful to all who were involved. In addition to the series, Cabinet, along with representatives from both the Faculty and Staff of Color, and International Faculty Group, continue to meet weekly to explore issues of diversity and inclusion through guided exercises, group projects, and discussions. I look forward to sharing the results of our collective efforts at the end of the project in mid-May.
We have also mapped Brockport’s current status, actions and goals against SUNY’s new 25 point DEI plain. You can follow our progress on the SUNY DEI Action Plan Map.
As many of you are aware, accessibility has become an increasing priority not only here at SUNY Brockport, but across the country. It is imperative that the documents we create and disseminate—especially those posted to our website, in addition to platforms such as Blackboard and MyBrockport—are accessible for all. Creating accessible documents is our collective responsibility. This will require understanding, patience, and most importantly, training. SUNY Brockport will provide this training starting in May. We are phasing in a new process which will ultimately mean that our Web Team will only be uploading documents to our website that have been provided to them in an accessible format. Much more information will soon be provided in the Daily Eagle and on Brockport Today. Thank you so much for your understanding and cooperation as we work to become a more accessible institution.
Did You Know?
In March, SUNY’s Free Online Training Center began to offer numerous online, asynchronous academic and vocational programs through the state wide network of EOCs. As of April 16, 2021, over 47% of the students enrolling in the asynchronous programs are from REOC. This is an incredible figure, and shows the strength, depth and breadth of our REOC. I am proud that we are the sponsoring campus for the REOC, and I want to thank Dr. Roosevelt Mareus for his ongoing commitment and stellar leadership.
Thank you again, colleagues, for all that you are doing to Build a Better Brockport.