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Potsdam Prepared: Fall 2021 Updates

May 8, 2020: Looking Ahead

Dear Colleagues,

We are currently living through unprecedented times. I could not be prouder of the entire campus community for your hard work and your willingness to confront these challenging times together.

As of today, we have not received additional guidance for returning to work after the NYS on PAUSE restrictions expire on May 15. We are also awaiting word on any updates to the tele-commuting pilot for both essential and nonessential employees, which expires on May 14.

We will continue to follow federal and New York State guidelines, and we will work closely with leadership from SUNY System Administration, St. Lawrence County and the Associated Colleges as we plan. As soon as we are able, we will communicate more about how and when employees will return to work.

Fall 2020 Semester
As we think ahead to the fall, it is my sincere hope that we will be able to gather together once again on our beautiful campus. We must plan for all possibilities, depending on the course the pandemic takes. I know we all look forward to the day when it is safe for us to welcome everyone back.

As we consider the unknowns of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, I have charged several workgroups to develop contingency plans for the Fall 2020 semester. Foremost on our minds is the safety of our campus and community. Following state and federal guidelines, we must be prepared to adjust our operations in order to respond to any possible resurgence of the coronavirus.

Our working groups will therefore consider three scenarios:

  1. Opening in the fall for on-campus, in-person instruction with safety and social distancing measures in place, with a contingency plan to return to distance learning if a second wave of the virus emerges.
  2. A hybrid instruction model, using a mix of in-person instruction and distance learning, with some social distancing measures still needed.
  3. A phased opening—either beginning with distance learning and transitioning to in-person instruction—or delaying opening until it is safe to do so.

Our goal is to ensure we can operate safely, mitigate the negative impacts in each of the scenarios, and ensure that we continue to provide the high-quality educational experience that SUNY Potsdam is known for. We do not take any of these decisions lightly, as everyone’s health and well-being are affected by the decisions we make. This approach is in keeping with the risk assessment and planning guidelines outlined by Chancellor Johnson in her recent letter to campuses.

The full descriptions of the workgroups and membership lists can be found online. I am grateful to everyone who is serving on these critical workgroups and for the conveners for their leadership as we confront many unknowns.

At this moment, what I do know is that we will not return to what we once considered normal as a society and as an institution. As a result of our personal and professional experiences during this global health pandemic, we are forever changed. We have been pushed to think differently, more flexibly, about the way we teach, learn and work. We have also been forced to think differently about the relationships that we have with one another.  It is my hope that we emerge from this crisis with greater appreciation for the value of our relationships and our common humanity. Indeed, the Potsdam Pledge has never felt more relevant.

I know you are eager to hear about return to work, and I will continue to update you on our progress. Until then, please stay healthy and be well.

Kristin G. Esterberg, Ph.D.
SUNY Potsdam