Dear Faculty and Staff: The resurgence of the COVID-19 virus around our country is intensifying on the heels of holiday travel and gatherings. Here in Onondaga County, we are experiencing rising infection rates and an uptick in hospitalizations. In response,…
Chancellor Remembers Community Members, Addresses Spring Planning, DPS Review in University Senate Remarks
In his remarks to the University Senate Meeting, held virtually, Chancellor Kent Syverud remembered campus community members who recently passed away and addressed the University’s COVID response, spring academic planning and the review of the Department of Public Safety.
Thank you, Marcelle.
As Marcelle noted, it has been a difficult time for our community.
Within the last month, we lost two students, a faculty member and one of our staff members.
Trevor Daley Pierce, a first-year student in the College of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program, lost his life last Tuesday as a result of a traffic accident. A day later, Jack Lundin, a first-year student in the Newhouse School, passed away in Flint Hall where he was a resident.
We have also lost two longtime members of our community. Over the weekend, Sherri Taylor, a member of the Newhouse School faculty for over 30 years, passed away after a long illness. On Sept. 22, Bridget Lawson, who had been with Syracuse in so many ways for 20 years, passed away suddenly. She was a staff member—most recently with the SOURCE—and a mentor and Ph.D. candidate in cultural foundations of education in the School of Education. I want to thank everyone who worked hard so that last night we could have a virtual community service for grief and healing at Hendricks Chapel. Lots of folks worked on that.
I want to again express my sincere condolences to the family, friends, faculty and staff who knew Trevor, Jack, Sherri and Bridget. Please join me in a brief moment of silence and that it is recorded in the Senate minutes in their memory.
One of the cruelest things about the pandemic is that we can’t gather in person until this has passed. I am thinking hard about how we recognize these individuals when we can come together.
My report today is brief to leave time for questions.
At the beginning of October we saw a cluster of COVID-19 cases that really tested our system. It bent but it did not break. Fortunately, we are seeing those numbers decline. This cluster was linked to students visiting another university away from Central New York. Thanks to our testing and surveillance methods, we feel confident that we have traced all of the contacts and contained the cluster for now.
As of yesterday, we had a total of 12 active cases in our roughly 30,000-person community, 11 in Central New York. That has gone down sharply. But please, tell our classes and community members, so no complacency and no hubris.
COVID is on the rise around the state. We remain one party away from a spreading event that could close our campus.
We will, therefore, continue to limit off-campus events and gatherings to five individuals. We have not seen any case where COVID has been transmitted in the classroom, even in the most recent cluster.
To keep us going for the remainder of the semester—five weeks of in-person instruction, I ask all of you to participate in our testing program. The COVID testing clinics at the stadium and on South Campus are open to all students, faculty and staff. Since the beginning of October, 1,500 of our staff and 200 faculty have been tested. It is easy. Please get tested and encourage others to do so. These are non-invasive, pooled saliva tests. I have been going to be tested there regularly. I was tested again last Friday. It took less than a minute, and I got an email less than 36 hours later with a negative result.
I also encourage all faculty, staff and students who don’t have an exemption to get a flu vaccination for reasons I explained previously. We have vaccinated more than 6,350 students and 900 faculty and staff on campus. We have expanded the vaccination clinic capacity to meet demand. Many of you, like me, went to a primary care provider or Kinney Drugs. Tomorrow, we will communicate how to attest that you received a vaccination off campus.
Finally, four quick reminders:
We are delaying the start of residential instruction until Monday, Jan. 25. We will conclude instruction on April 30. There will be no spring break. That decision was made because data tells us positive cases are overwhelmingly linked to travel during the semester.
Last week, we announced the checkout process for students leaving residence halls at Thanksgiving. I just want to say a word about that. Students who leave campus at Thanksgiving will be away from campus for six to eight weeks. In the trajectory of this pandemic and how quickly things change, six to eight weeks sounds like a century. This plan prepares us if the national or regional situation changes drastically and we cannot return to campus in January. We hope that’s not the case, but we want to be able to move online and have a pre-defined plan for retrieval of any belongings left on campus.
We are less than two weeks from Election Day. I have asked colleagues in Academic Affairs, Enrollment and the Student Experience and in the schools and colleges to provide extensive programming before and after the election to promote discussion and understanding of the outcome and process and the results. Many have responded, I have attended some of the sessions. I thank faculty for opening their scheduled forums and discussions to the entire community.
The review by Loretta Lynch and her team is proceeding. This week, Loretta Lynch and her team are conducting listening sessions with students, faculty and staff. These sessions are an opportunity to share feedback on their proposal for a DPS Community Review Board. Secondly, the review of DPS is proceeding.
I have announced the formation of the search committee for the next senior vice president for enrollment and the student experience. We have engaged Witt Kieffer for the search. I have appointed a search committee co-chaired by Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff Candace Campbell Jackson and Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science Cole Smith. The search committee includes administrators, students, staff and trustees. We expect to complete the search in late spring.
That’s my report, thank you.