York Town Hall Talks Vaccine Site, Reopening, New Construction and Planning

York invites students to show up at the first town hall meeting of the semester, drawing a range of people from the college community|Photo courtesy of York College

By Asar John

York College held its’ first virtual town hall of the semester on Feb. 11, with over 70 participants from the college community including staff, faculty, students and President Berencea Johnson-Eanes. 

The town hall serves as a forum for those in the York community to be vocal about the campus by asking questions and sharing concerns related to the college. Some of the main issues raised at the event were the recent news of the campus being selected by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as a vaccination site, the ongoing campus improvement and construction project(s), the potential reopening of the college and several other campus-related subjects. Eanes opened the event by giving a statement of appreciation directed towards the essential workers on campus. 

“Thank you to our essential staff, first and foremost they are on campus, our public safety and of course our facilities workers, especially when it required dealing with snow and cold, we appreciate you,” said Eanes, who also gave thanks to the Advancement Team. 

The first order of business was the plan for York’s vaccination site, which is scheduled to open on Feb. 24. As of the Feb. 11 meeting, details could not yet be provided about getting a vaccine at the future site. However, Eanes did note that information about the vaccination process at the site will be provided on the York website at a later date. 

After briefly covering other talking points such as addressing student concerns, upcoming events, accreditation status, York’s Strategic Plan and 2021 commencement, Eanes let Chief of Staff & Interim Vice President for Advancement, Dana Trimboli, take the virtual stage. Trimboli also serves as the COVID-19 liaison and coordinator along with Claudio Lindow, assessing any  COVID-related work on campus. 

After mentioning the current, although minor, details of York’s vaccination site operations, Trimboli noted that until the governor’s office provides more expansive details on how operations will take place, there is not much to say about the process. Trimboli did, however, note that FEMA and the National Guard would be involved at the site. It was not clear whether those from the York community would be given preference to get a vaccine at the site. 

“We have very few details except to know that we have been chosen and on or about the 24th there will be an open site,” said Trimboli, adding that the governor’s target goal is to vaccinate about 3,000 people a day at the site, which will be located at the Health and Physical Education Building on Liberty Ave. 

Claudio Lindow spoke about working with CUNY, York deans, the facilities team and faculty teaching lab courses on campus concerning campus inspections and updates. 

“We have inspected every single room, we have inspected every single student learning area where these labs are going to take place,” said Lindow. “Some of these labs started at the beginning of the semester, and there’s another group that’s scheduled for March 1.”

Lindow briefly discussed the virtual reopening of the Fine Arts Gallery, receiving supplies for art students from the campus, and tech supplies for those that need it. 

Trimboli addressed the announcement from CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos-Rodriguez about the university planning a mostly in-person return for the fall semester, saying it was “not a mandate” for York to reopen to a space that would look identical to a pre-COVID world. 

“Any reopening would have to take into consideration the health and safety of the campus and the limitations that we currently have based on state and city restrictions,” said Trimboli. “I think this is a time where we want to be optimistic that at some point we can return to campus but there has to be a good balance that’s in line with what is safe from the sources that we’re utilizing.” 

Trimboli notes these sources as the state, CDC and the federal government. She also states that the campus community needs to start talking about what a safe reopening would look like, capacity and security-wise, including other factors that would permit this kind of reopening. 

“We have to begin those conversations now to have a sense of how we work through our reopening plan and return to some increased capacity,” said Trimboli.  “The president welcomes the opportunity for you to share with Claudio and me what is important to think about as we put these groups together to think about reopening.” 

Groups involved in reopening considerations would include faculty, staff, students, labor management, and external community stakeholders. 

“We are looking at the various groups and sub-groups since March and will determine the next steps,” said Trimboli. 

Trimboli said she and Lindow often have conversations with CUNY coordinators from the other campuses to discuss work they are doing respective to their positions as COVID coordinators, although every campus may have different predicaments. 

“All of the campuses are a little different so for example, some of the vertical campuses in Manhattan have some different issues than we may have in a campus that’s more spread out,” said Trimboli. “But it’s always good to think about what your colleagues are managing at a different campus.”

The remainder of the town hall allowed for questions, comments and concerns about reopening, campus visit procedures and York’s campus improvement and construction progress. In the fall semester, Eanes conducted two town hall sessions in November. As of press time, information was unavailable about whether or when another would be held this semester.

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