Dear SUNY Canton Community,
I have said it before, and I will say it again: I am continually impressed with each of you and the ways in which you have met the immense challenges we have faced over the past several weeks. Our students are still receiving the top-notch education and services they deserve thanks to your tireless efforts to adapt during these rapidly changing circumstances. Thank you!
I want to bring you up to date with the ongoing work of our COVID-19 response team and the College’s senior leadership to plan for this summer and fall, even in the midst of the uncertainty we face.
We are setting up eight planning committees to cover the major issues we will be dealing with over the next four months and beyond. The committees are (A) Summer 2020/College Opening, (B) Recruitment and Enrollment, (C) Academics, (D) Student Life, (E) Financial Impact and Operations, (F) Advancement, (G) Debrief & Recommendations, and (H) Campus-Wide Issues. We will keep you informed about the progress the teams are making. The following are some summaries of the issues the teams will be responding to.
Summer Plans & Programs
The Governor’s New York State on PAUSE Executive Order is currently in place until May 15. This means that only on-campus essential workers will be working on campus until at least that date. We appreciate their efforts to keep our operations running, including building and grounds, residence life, health services, and food service for our resident students. The Governor’s Office is working on a regional re-opening plan; we will keep you apprised of how the plan will affect the College and its employees and students.
We expect that many of the 92 students currently living in the residence halls will leave at the end of the semester. There will be a small number who will remain on campus due to extenuating circumstances, so we will still need on-campus-essential workers to serve them and to ensure that the campus is ready for the fall semester.
We are also working on a plan to allow students who were living in our residence halls to come back to campus to retrieve their belongings after the Governor’s PAUSE Executive Order is lifted. We intend to follow the Governor’s phased and regional approach for this. A draft plan has been created, including protocols that will ensure that both the students and our campus community remain safe throughout this process. We will be coordinating our plan with our colleagues at the other Associated Colleges and local officials.
There are several summer programs for students that will be undergoing some changes. Our pre-semester EOP, TRiO, and Jump Start programs will be offered online, with face-to-face activities resuming when circumstances allow.
Fall 2020, Recruitment, Enrollment, and Student Life
We are considering several eventualities for the Fall semester. As you know, the Faculty Assembly approved a revised academic calendar for AY 2020-21, with classes beginning on August 27, one week later than on the original approved calendar. We appreciate the Faculty Assembly’s flexibility in passing that revision, because we believe this will give us the best possibility of a strong incoming class and to begin the semester fully prepared in whatever scenario in which we find ourselves.
For the fall semester, we are creating contingency plans for multiple scenarios, including:
- Returning to normal operations
- Returning in a hybrid manner, with some classes face to face and some online, while practicing recommended social distancing
- Returning in an entirely remote format for part or all of the semester
Which one or combination of these plans we will enact will depend on the circumstances as we get closer to August. In the meantime, we will be seeking out input from faculty and staff on all major issues during our planning processes. Please stay tuned for opportunities to provide your valuable feedback.
We are currently behind the previous several years in both applications and deposits for incoming students, as are most institutions of higher education across the country. This is not surprising, as many families are waiting to see what college plans are for the fall and if the pandemic abates. Our recruitment and enrollment efforts have moved online and have been very well received. The more faculty and staff are involved in these efforts, the more successful we will be at recruiting a strong incoming class, which – as you know – is crucial for our financial health.
We also do not know whether and how students will be able to live on campus in the short- and medium-term. This impacts our residence halls, food service, student life, student health, and athletics programs. Again, we are actively planning for several contingencies.
As you can imagine, SUNY Canton has been impacted financially by this crisis. We have been asked by SUNY to plan for possible cuts to our State allocation, and as I noted above, we may also see decreased revenues from tuition.
We were in a stable financial position before the pandemic, which has put us in a good position to weather this storm. To stay in a stable position, we will quickly need to seek out ways to reduce spending and maximize efficiencies in all areas of campus, academic and otherwise. As a campus that already runs fairly lean, this will be difficult. I believe that with the creativity and commitment that everyone has already demonstrated, we can find ways to do this while not impacting the quality of the education we provide our students. Again, we will be seeking your input in these matters.
The Foundation’s ability to fundraise has also been impacted by this pandemic. Many current and potential donors were hit hard by the downturn in financial markets, and staff were unable to continue their fundraising travel. We believe in the generosity of the College’s alumni and friends, but recognize that this may set the Foundation back in their fundraising goals, which may affect funding available for student scholarships and special projects across campus.
These are difficult and uncertain times. We are committed to responding compassionately to our circumstances and planning efficiently for whatever the future may bring. We are all part of the SUNY Canton family, and we will continue to move forward together, as Roos always do.