November is a month where traditionally we offer thanks—and I want to begin my November newsletter with gratitude. This has been a semester like no other, where we had to plan for multiple modalities and constantly watch the metrics to see whether we could continue face-to-face teaching and campus activities. Almost every aspect of our working lives has been affected by COVID-19, and our home lives are affected, too. Those of you with caring responsibilities have been particularly affected by changed circumstances, and I know it hasn’t been easy. And I suspect we don’t often feel as if anyone even notices the hard work we’re undertaking. But please know that your efforts are recognized: whether you have had your workload changed with new duties to support our COVID protocols and testing, or you volunteered your time—as so many of you have done—to support protecting the nest, I appreciate what you have done. Thank you for all of the visible and invisible ways that you are supporting your colleagues and our students.
You may be aware that we are having a virtual commencement ceremony for our 2020 graduates on December 4, which will be streamed at 6 pm. While this is not how we had hoped to celebrate our students’ accomplishments, it is the safest way to do so, and they deserve to be celebrated for their achievements. Watch out for more information to come in The Daily Eagle.
We have had to make some changes to the calendar this week. The Budget Town Hall which was originally scheduled for Monday, November 16, at noon will now take place on Friday, November 13, at 9 am. On Monday, we’ll have a Spring Semester COVID Plan Town Hall at noon. Watch out for updates in The Daily Eagle, and thank you for your flexibility.
Spring Semester Planning
We are deep into the planning for spring semester. On Sunday, November 8, SUNY released mandated guidance on spring semester protocols, and each campus has until early December to submit plans, which will need SUNY ratification and approval. Some elements, like cancelling spring break, were already part of our plans. Other elements, such as testing all students, faculty, and staff returning to campus, are new. In addition, we will be starting our spring semester remotely, as per the mandated COVID protocols. While the semester will begin as planned on January 21—based on recommendations from the Academic Affairs Subcommittee for Bringing Brockport Back, a recommendation accepted by Cabinet and the Emergency Operation Center—ourface-to-face classes will not commence until February 3. In addition, as we did this semester, we must be prepared to go into a pause mode if metrics require it, either on our campus or in our region.
Dr. Michael Mendoza, the County Health Commissioner, continues to be concerned about rising levels of the virus. He believes that a vaccine may be available by the end of the year or early in 2021, but he has noted that it will be disseminated in a tiered way, with health care workers, first responders, and high risk patients getting prioritized above the general public. We won’t know when an effective vaccine will be easily accessible, and we need to plan for all eventualities, including ongoing reduced density on campus.
We will disseminate our full Spring Semester Plan as soon as it is finalized and approved. In the meantime, we have developed a What Students Should Know site which will be updated as needed.
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Updates
Dr. Rodmon King’s special assignment to SUNY Brockport will end on December 31. We are so fortunate to have had his expertise over the last several months. I have particularly valued his appreciative inquiry approach that has allowed cabinet and others to gain knowledge about how to be part of the solution for historical and cultural inequities and how to build an actively antiracist environment.
The concerted efforts to accelerate and amplify our EDI efforts will continue. The Presidential Campus Climate Committee has begun meeting, and the EDI Strategic Planning Committee will commence its work in the Spring semester, coinciding with SUNY-wide efforts on EDI that were recently announced by the Chancellor. In addition, we are making great progress on our search for a new CDO.
Some of the highlights of the work we are achieving together are listed below:
- We have received conditional support from SUNY for four new PRODiG faculty members. This will bring our total PRODiG faculty to nine, including our new PRODiG fellow. The PRODiG Steering Committee is working on a survey for faculty regarding their promotion and tenure experiences at Brockport
- Academic Affairs Leadership Team is reading Leadership and Diversity in Higher Education: Communication and Actions that Work by Dorothy Ige Campbell and continuing the high-level training that commenced this spring in the division.
- EMSA has scheduled mandatory monthly diversity trainings for all members of the Division. Directors, all of whom have read and presented on the book Becoming a Student Ready College, will assign this book reading to their staff with discussions from Nov-Jan.
- EMSA Directors have been presenting and having Q and A with the EDI Student Advisory Board (SAB). Residential Life/Learning Communities and University Police have presented at the last two meetings.
- The Office for Community Development has begun programming in the Intercultural Center
- College Communications met with SAB to discuss how we market the college
- College Communications along with the Bias Response Team is rolling out a campaign to build a positive campus climate and inform the campus about bias reporting. This will include a combination of social media, posters, digital screens, and video focused on a variety of different topics, such as appropriate Halloween costumes and handling differences in political views in a productive way.
ADMINISTRATION AND FINANCE
- HR continues to transform its processes with a re-vamped recruitment process, new search committee training focused on unconscious bias, and stay interviews with under-represented employees.
- Our new Diversity Recruiter, Christiana Ortiz, has joined the Workforce Diversity Network, which gives her access to Diversity and Equity community leaders, online resources and monthly journals. She will be attending the monthly member meetings to share best practices.
- Jim Wall continues to lead the Policy Steering Committee, which now requires a thorough review of both updated and new policies to guard against any unintended bias and to make adjustments accordingly.
- As previously announced, Advancement secured the recent gift from Joey Jackson ’88 to put his name on the Intercultural Center in the Seymour College Union. Joey also did an interview with Channel 8 here in Rochester to share his views about why he is supporting the College and this effort.
- Advancement is implementing an educational series on EDI topics and prominent alumni will be involved. More will be announced on this in the coming weeks.
- A virtual Town Hall with alumni and friends was held in June, and Alumni Engagement will be doing a follow-up with the same group in early December to provide updates on campus advances in this area.
- Lastly, conversations have started around including funding for equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives in the pending Comprehensive Campaign. These initiatives have been included in the Case for Support for the Campaign and will be tested as part of a feasibility study this fall.
- OEDI launched the Everfi Diversity training earlier in the semester, for all faculty, staff and students. We will be transitioning to diversity training through BizLibrary in the spring.
- OEDI has spearheaded the Brown Bag sessions for the 21 Day Racial Equity Challenge. Hundreds of individuals with a Brockport email address have signed up for the challenge, and the Friday lunchtime sessions have proven popular, with almost 100 people signed up for the last session
- OEDI is putting the finishing touches on the 2019-20 EDI Strategic Plan update, which will be published on the website after Thanksgiving.
- Earlier this year, just as SUNY Brockport did, the REOC signed the Greater Rochester Black Agenda Group Declaration. Several REOC faculty/staff meetings and REOC Advisory Board meetings contained conversations regarding racism as a public health crisis and REOC getting more involved. Not only did REOC’s 2020 Convocation focus on EDI, but through various professional development opportunities, the REOC also addressed civility and structural racism.
- Several of the REOC staff members who attended the Interrupt Racism Summit will present information to peers and colleagues during the REOC’s Spring Professional Development Day. We believe that learning from, and with, each other is the most effective and engaging method of providing true meaning and growth to all we serve.
GROSS Project Update
Following one of the previous College Leadership Summits, 106 ideas to “Get Rid Of Silly Stuff” (GROSS) were submitted. All of these ideas were evaluated for implementation and grouped into 28 categories. Two of the major categories were Digital Workflow (27 items) and Annual Report (8 items). Subcommittees are being formed to address the issues raised in these major categories, and the remaining items are being assigned to various people for resolution. Updates on progress made will be provided on a regular basis.
The Day of Giving
I want to extend my thanks to everyone who contributed to the Day of Giving on Oct. 28. A total of $89,177.64 was raised through the gifts and pledges of 754 donors. That total included 237 faculty/staff donors, 77 Graduates of the Last Decade (or GOLD) donors, and 281 gifts in support of Athletics. 175 people who donated were first-time supporters of the College! Special thanks to those who provided “challenges” to incentivize gifts, including members of the Brockport Foundation Board of Directors, alumnus Connor Wolfe ’16, and VSP Graphics.
As we all know, our country just completed a contentious election, and emotions ran high in all parties over the last week as votes were being counted. As engaged citizens and residents of the United States, it is now our obligation to look to the future and do what we can to move our country forward. If we focus on being a great place to learn, a great place to work, a sustainable institution for the 21st Century, and a college engaged with its community, we can not only Build a Better Brockport—but we can help build a better United States, as well.
Thank you for all that you have done over the last semester to build community.