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Author Archives: Ellen Belcher

Open Letter to President Mason and Provost Li 1/17/2021

Dear President Mason and Provost Li,

We view with alarm the continuing high city-wide rate of Omicron Coronavirus infections, especially considering the vulnerable people in many households of John Jay colleagues, staff and students. Until the infection rate slows significantly, no one who can work remotely should be obliged to come to campus.

We would like to share Chancellor Matos Rodriguez’ optimism that the pandemic will soon be behind us, but we believe now is the time for clear-headed planning in light of the Omicron variant’s high transmission rates. In person courses will be approximately 70% of the total, and there will be twice as many people on campus as Fall 2021. We want a return to campus that all can greet with enthusiasm, not super-spreading. The murkiness of last semester’s start – delayed application of CDC guidance and shifting vaccine deadlines – should not be repeated.

Therefore, we urge you, President Mason and Provost Li, to announce immediately that all classes for the first two weeks of the spring semester will be in online mode. Of course, all work performed by HEOs, CLTs and faculty would also be online, not on campus, so long as infection rates are high. Why not use the example of Queens College? Well in advance of the fall term, Queens College announced a uniform online start, in response to local Covid transmission rates, which were then less than 1/20th of what John Jay’s local rates were this week (115.6 per 100K v. 2760.86). City College also started with an all-online modality, despite having lower local transmission rates than John Jay did.

Our students travel long distances. We are asking them to use public transit to come to a vicinity where infection rates soar above where they were when the 70% goal was set. Announcing a science-based online start for all courses and services would also give faculty, staff and students the time to obtain and document the vaccinations, boosters and negative test results that the Governor now requires. It would also allow the College time to procure the necessary PPE to comply with the most updated CDC safety recommendations.

The clarity and improved planning enabled by an announcement such as this from you now would help ensure the safety and well-being of the entire John Jay community, and as smooth as possible a start to the academic semester.

Sincerely,

John Pittman and Zabby Hovey, Co-Chairs
John Jay College Chapter, Professional Staff Congress

Open Letter: Omicron Surge and John Jay Campus

Dear President Mason and Provost Li,

    Many members of our PSC bargaining unit share the concern of all New Yorkers about the unprecedented surge of COVID among the vaccinated, compounded by inadequate testing opportunities throughout the City. The city’s COVID positivity rate nearly doubled in the 3 days from December 9 (3.9%) to December 12 (7.5%). On Friday, December 19, New York City’s positivity rate broke the record for a single day.

    Many universities and colleges have shut down in response to this alarming situation, yet we have had no communication from CUNY’s central leadership. If the campus is not shut down immediately, we think that guidance needs to be immediately provided to the John Jay community that endorses limiting travel to campus.

    Since you have recognized the importance of safety first and flexibility, we ask that you generally endorse working remotely for all faculty and staff whose tasks do not require an on-campus presence. It seems particularly burdensome to require 35-hour-a-week employees to come to campus, if they are able to work online, since online is where most people will seek services. The local rate of transmission is presently eight (8) times higher than what the CDC counts as “high,” 4 times higher than it was all fall.

     We ask that you allow all remaining finals to be administered online. Many faculty, in response to students’ concerns, may have already moved their finals to an online format. Others, who feel vulnerable as contingent faculty, may be afraid to do so. However, since many of our students have likely already been exposed, received positive results, or are awaiting results, this step would act to limit the risk of exposure to both students and faculty.

     We ask you to provide voluntary testing to all John Jay employees who need to come to campus as long as the current surge continues. We suggest extending the days and times that the NYC H&H mobile rapid/PCR testing van is available at the college’s entrance. Please urge CUNY to renegotiate with Applied DNA to make the testing facilities at John Jay and other CUNY locations available to all documented members of our CUNY community, not just the unvaccinated or those chosen for surveillance testing.

      In the interests of reducing exposure to the Omicron variant and increasing the safety of the whole John Jay Community, we ask you to make an immediate announcement that:

  • Reminds all community members how to self-report a positive COVID test and/or known exposure.
  • Suggests that all faculty with final exams for in-person classes on Monday or Tuesday move these activities to an online format where feasible.
  • Encourages students to stay off campus and use the remote provisions of support services and the library whenever possible.
  • Endorses pivoting services back to remote options, with minimal in-person services, if any, until the start of the Spring semester.
  • Encourages all community members to test before coming to campus.
  • Explains what steps you will take to broaden access to free on-campus testing.

     Since stress can undermine individual immune systems, we hope that you will communicate assurances to the John Jay community over the weekend.

Sincerely,

Zabby (Elizabeth) Hovey and John Pittman, Co-Chairs

John Jay Chapter, Professional Staff Congress

Walk-throughs Report to John Jay Campus Employees

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We write to report that a small group of PSC Health and Safety Watchdogs completed two walkthroughs of our campus spaces.

  • Pre-occupation walkthrough 1 July 21, we joined management representatives to visit the BMW level 6; Haaren Hall Levels C, B, 1 (Library), 2, 3.
  • Pre-occupation walkthrough 2- On July 27, we joined management representatives to visit LL Westport both floors, and the New Building levels L, and 1.
  • Future Pre-occupation walkthrough 3– This Is scheduled for 8/17/2021 during which we will visit classrooms which will be in operation FA21 and academic departments, including all locations where specific issues have been raised by members of the bargaining unit.
The group of people on these walkthroughs included Janet Winter, Rulisa Galloway-Perry and Ellen Belcher, who have been attending PSC Health and Safety Watchdogs meetings weekly, as well as ventilation and workplace health and safety training from NYCOSH, OSHA, NYSUT. We were joined by JJC co-chairs John Pittman and Zabby Hovey and other JJC PSC volunteers. All of us have received walkthrough training with PSC-CUNY. We encourage you to sign up for to be a PSC H & S Watchdog because it empowers our safety vigilance going forward.   From management, we were joined by Mark Flower, Oswald Fraser, Don Gray, Diego Redondo, Tony Balkissoon and Anthony Bracco. We were told that DC-37 had a separate walkthrough previous to ours.
We are pleased to report that the spaces we visited looked, smelled, sounded and felt clean and well-ventilated. We thank our brothers and sisters in DC-37, Teamsters and other bargaining units who have obviously been working very hard to get the campus ready for our return to our workplaces. We do not have the equipment nor expertise to measure ventilation levels, but we were told that CUNY, ASHRAE and CDC guidance was being followed in all areas. We did measure temperature and can report that all areas we visited were in the 68 – 74 degree range.
 
While we did not notice any egregious concerns regarding our physical workplaces, we do continue to have great concern about policy, procedures, and communications necessary to keep all of us safe.  For example, during our walkthroughs we had many discussions about our concerns: potential crowding, especially in shared offices, reception areas and computer labs where PSC members’ workstations are located, especially after students return.
 
Administrators emphasized to us that the safety of departments and units, including adequate distance, are the responsibility of each supervisor; many or most of these individuals are also in the PSC bargaining unit.  We hope that they are getting the support and information that they need to keep us all safe.
 
We know that many health and safety concerns and questions remain about individual workplaces. We encourage you to register for and attend the Return to Campus Update Forum for Employees on Wednesday, August 4, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.  (Described here). We also encourage you all to continue to report Health and Safety concerns to your supervisors and management.  There is also an anonymous complaint option for you to voice your concerns. 
 
Our reporting form will remain open to receive your concerns, but it does not substitute for a discussion of your concerns with your supervisor and/or facilities staff.  Please keep in touch with us, by using this form or email us directly (jjcpsc@gmail.com).  Please also visit the PSC health and safety web resources on our website and on the PSC website.
 
We hope you enjoy the rest of your summer.
 
Sincerely,
 
Ellen Belcher, JJC PSC Chapter Health and Safety Committee Chair, JJC PSC Delegate
Rulisa Galloway-Perry, JJC Campus HEO Advisor, JJC PSC Delegate
Janet Winter, Cross Campus Officer, PSC Executive Council, JJC PSC HEO Delegate
John Pittman & Zabby Hovey, JJC PSC Chapter Co-Chairs, JJC PSC Delegates

Today (July 20, 2021): Tell the JJay watchdogs what You know About your Workplace

Dear John Jay Colleagues,
It was great to see many of you at yesterday’s management forum on the return to campus.
As you heard, the situation keeps changing, and a few important decisions and procedures are still to come.  Soon, we’re told, perhaps when the Reopening Committee next meets.  What hasn’t changed is CUNY and John Jay management’s goal of an August 2nd return to campus (at 50% levels) by full time staff and library and other hourly faculty.  The 8/2 date is almost upon us.
Fortunately, we now know our first walkthrough inspection will be tomorrow afternoon, Wednesday 7/21. So we need your help quickly.   Many of you are actually experts on the spaces we will be visiting, so we seek your input on the physical concerns you have – like locations that have previously been tightly occupied or had inadequate air flow.
Anyone in our bargaining unit, with any title, whether represented by the “John Jay” or cross-campus “HEO” or “CLT” chapters, can fill out this linked form. (https://forms.gle/jLCKDrq9AZvoLBvN9)
 
On policy and procedural issues, you may find it helpful to review the written presentation VP Mark Flower used in yesterday’s forum.  He indicated it would be made broadly available.  The College administration’s AskJohnJay@jjay.cuny.edu email address may possibly receive your policy queries.  Share your reasoned arguments with the management policy deciders.
We are happy to learn that our essential colleagues in DC37 (serving administrative, technical, maintenance and other roles) will have representatives on the walkthrough tomorrow as well as the PSC.
In solidarity,
Zabby Hovey & John Pittman

From the Chairs, 19 July, 2021

Dear John Jay Colleagues,

Management is having a zoom forum about our ”Return to Campus” today at 1 pm. We think it is important that it answer your workplace safety questions in the continuing pandemic. Register here. Send them your questions in advance if you like.

We should expect to hear whether John Jay is going to be more protective than CUNY’s July 1-posted guidelines. Those are here.

If you have specific workplace concerns that do not get addressed at today’s forum, tell them to our PSC John Jay Health & Safety Watchdogs. Look after 2:30pm at our PSC @ John Jay College Commons webpage for a link to a googleform designed to receive any specific workplace concerns.

FORM WILL APPEAR HERE

Our trained chapter representatives will walk through our buildings in three careful visits. We hope management will put them in the calendar today. We will inspect ventilation, physical improvements, support for distancing and other protections. A 50% return of on-campus staff and faculty is scheduled for August 2, but we must have convincing walk-throughs in all those workspaces first. Timing has become urgent.

Please help us help you by communicating your specific concerns at today’s forum and to the chapter watchdogs.

In vigilance and anticipation,

Co-chairs Zabby Hovey & John Pittman
jjaypsc [AT] gmail {DOT} com