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.


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

John Jay Chapter, Professional Staff Congress