SUNY schools to close March 19, shift to ‘distance learning’ as coronavirus cases continue to climb in NY

State News


President Heidi Macpherson sent out an email Wednesday evening in regards to how the campus will operate after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that all SUNY and CUNY schools will switch to ‘distance learning’ classes for the semester. She said:

“Dear Brockport Community:

We have been working around the clock, in coordination with SUNY and state and local health departments, to explore options designed to protect the health and safety of the SUNY Brockport community as it relates to COVID-19. SUNY Brockport will be taking the following course of action to help achieve Governor Cuomo’s goal of reducing campus density:

  • Following spring break, face-to-face classes will transition to alternative delivery formats wherever possible until further notice. We have asked all faculty to contact students in their classes about this transition by March 12 at noon. In this communication, faculty will either share their plans for the remainder of the semester or notify students when those plans will be available. After reviewing the plans their faculty have put in place, students with concerns about meeting these expectations due to technological or other considerations should contact their instructor about making other appropriate arrangements. We will be creating a website to serve as a resource for students as this transition is made.
  • SUNY Brockport will remain open during this time and all staff will report to campus as usual. All instructional spaces, offices, labs, and the library will remain accessible during this time. Residence halls and dining services will also remain open throughout the semester and students are most certainly welcome to continue with their current housing arrangements. Residential students should notify us of their plans by March 12 at 4 pm. Non-student guests will not be permitted into residence halls for the remainder of the semester. Further information will be sent to residential students this evening.
  • All SUNY Brockport-hosted events will continue as scheduled, but maximum attendance will be limited to 100 people until further notice. Brockport Athletics and Fine Arts events will be limited to 100 spectators.
  • All events hosted by an outside organization on the SUNY Brockport campus between now and April 13 are cancelled or postponed. Should we need to modify external events beyond April 13, a decision will be announced by March 30.

We realize this is incomplete information that will undoubtedly pose a number of logistical challenges to our community. We ask for your continued patience as we work to solidify details.

Sincerely yours,

President Macpherson”


ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — With 212 cases of coronavirus now confirmed in New York State, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that distance learning will soon be the norm at all SUNY and CUNY schools, starting later this month.

Cuomo says the school campuses will close March 19, and this will last the remainder of the semester.

Students and professors at SUNY Brockport are still processing the news. Professor Carvin Eison read this email from President Heidi Macpherson aloud to his class on Wednesday evening:

As many of you are aware, Governor Cuomo announced a plan this afternoon that calls for moving the majority of SUNY and CUNY classes to a distance learning format. Governor Cuomo has indicated that the nature of some classes (i.e. laboratories) make them unconducive to such formats. SUNY has provided some guidance for how this may happen. Here at Brockport, we are working rapidly on implementation strategies related to this initiative, but a comprehensive plan is not yet in place. I urge you not to take immediate action, such as moving out of your student housing, before we issue official guidance from the SUNY Brockport campus. I realize this is incomplete information that will undoubtedly pose a number of logistical challenges to our community. But due to rapidly changing circumstances, I ask for your patience as we work through these issues and formulate our plans. More information will be forthcoming this evening.

Governor Cuomo also mentioned classes with labs, saying some may not fit into the distance learning format. President Macpherson said SUNY is helping guide the college in what to do in these cases. Senior Zach Wagner and Eison said they’ll miss that in-person element.

“The face to face interaction with your professor is what helps to guide you through the course and if you’re not there with your professor it’s kind of difficult to understand the full content of the class,” said Wagner.

“Online is a completely different environment, it’s a completely different experience than face to face communication where you can look at someone and see the expression on their face and see uncertainty or confusion or see that moment when everything comes together and immediate feedback,” said Eison.

Some students said they’re also worried about the on-campus dorming situation and on-campus work-study jobs.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization officially declared coronavirus a pandemic. To date, roughly 5,000 people in the U.S. have been tested for the virus, compared to the 200,000 tested each day in China, or the 15,000 tested daily in South Korea.

MORE | Wegmans limiting purchase of toilet paper, cleaning products and more over COVID-19 concerns

New York says it will start contracting with private labs to increase the amount of testing in the state. Cuomo says he spoke with 28 labs on Wednesday alone.

Still, none of the confirmed New York cases are in western New York. That being said, more than 100 people in Erie County have been quarantined, along with seven in Niagara County.

“This is basically pneumonia,” Cuomo said. “When is pneumonia dangerous? When you have an underlying illness.”

MORE | Student quarantined at SUNY Brockport: ‘Frustrating and upsetting’

The Governor downplayed the fears many have had over the coronavirus, noting the amount of recoveries versus deaths around the world.

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