Written By Natalina Zieman and Ryan Schwach
Brooklyn College prepare for the worst amid the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. As of now, the Philosophy and Phsyics Departments have moved classes online with more expected to follow.
There are over 700 cases, 27 deaths, and counting, of people affected by the rapidly spreading virus in the United States as of this past weekend. New York governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency on Saturday, March 7 after the number of cases in the state rose to 142, twenty of them in New York City. The city and the MTA are taking action by disinfecting buses and trains routinely every three days, along with their regular daily cleaning process.
An email from Brooklyn College Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration Alan Gilbert was sent out in response to CUNY’s plan to keep campuses safe and clean.
“In addition to our regular cleaning schedule, the Buildings and Grounds team and their crew of custodial staff have been working around the clock to regularly disinfect all touch points on campus, such as hand railings, doors, and dispensers. We are currently awaiting delivery of new no-touch dispensers for hand sanitizer, which will be installed across the college,” he wrote.
Changes around campus have been sparse. Posters were taped to doors, reminding students to wash their hands to keep themselves from getting sick, and emails are sent out every week to update students about the campuses’ response and plans as the pandemic continues to spread.
“I can’t speak for all CUNY schools but I haven’t seen any changes in regards to Brooklyn College’s action towards the coronavirus besides sending out emails,” said Farhana Choudhury, “I believe there can be more that needs to be done. There needs to be a change in the way certain things are for example, removing bathroom sink faucets, installing automated paper releasers and having soap in all the bathrooms.” Alan Gilbert’s BC-Fix-it plan 2.0 aims to better the upkeep of the school’s bathrooms, which is wanted by students now, especially.
“It’s [BC’s response] not very good, but I don’t think it could be better,” said Peter Lipke, Chairman of the Biology department. “Because it’s dependent on a whole lot of stuff that we don’t know yet. We don’t know how widespread the disease is in New York.”
There is a petition going around called “Save The CUNY Students” on change.org. The petition, started by a concerned CUNY student, is calling for CUNY to shut down the schools until the virus is under control, and the state has proper testing capabilities. It also states: “Students’ education should not come at the cost of their health.” It currently has over 23,000 signatures, a number that will undoubtedly continue to climb.
“I think they [CUNY] should’ve followed suit with the rest of the private colleges in New York who have suspended classes and gone virtual,” shared a BC student who asked the Vanguard to be kept anonymous. “The janitorial staff at BC can only do so much, but the issue here is that no matter how clean hand railings are, students are still gathering in close quarters in classrooms and public transport where the threat of exposure is likely to take place.”
Private city colleges such as NYU and Columbia have closed their doors in precaution of the rapidly spreading disease. Many CUNY students took to social media to share their opinion about how unfair that is, because a large portion of the private schools’ students do not have to commute every day, while most CUNY students commute via public transportation, where there is most exposure to the virus.
But it is difficult for colleges to close in the middle of the semester when the tuition is already paid and the classes are only halfway through their curriculum.
“Most of the colleges that have cancelled classes are on the quarter system and they are at the end of the quarter. We [Brooklyn College] are just approaching the middle of the semester, so things are much more difficult for us,” said Lipke. “I fear going to class at this point,” stated Zach Pellecchia. “We go to a commuter school and the fact that the school is promoting going to class, even though the city has promoted less transit use and the school isn’t being properly cleaned, is despicable.”
Gilbert sent out an email on Monday March 9, about if the school has to close, all the students’ CUNY information is up to date, so online classes will be accessible. “Should CUNY campuses be required close in an effort contain the spread of COVID-19, it is important to ensure that all of your contact information is up to date and that you have access to all important Brooklyn College and CUNY online systems.” Verifying CUNYFirst and Blackboard logins is among several priorities for NYC public school students.
“My personal plan [if the school were to close] would be to continue my class over Blackboard,” said Lipke about the preparation for if the school were to close. “The lab issue is going to be a serious issue, because they are in-person labs. There is no substitute for that kind of learning.”
In an email to students sent Tuesday afternoon, BC President Michelle Anderson looked to quell anxieties, “Fear and concern can take an emotional toll. During stressful times, I encourage you to take care of yourselves and each other,” she said. President Anderson also talked about the possibility of classes moving to online. “Brooklyn College is currently open. However, I have granted faculty the authority to move their classes to an online format, if appropriate.” As of press time, several professors have moved their classes online. CUNY John Jay announced late Tuesday night that they would be closing college for Wednesday, the following day, March 10, due to a case within the student body.
There are currently rumours circulating that a BC library employee has tested positive for Coronavirus, Brooklyn College has denied this.