CUNY and SUNY have closed. All of us who teach or study within have been told--distance learning. E-learning. Asynchronous study.
There was no chance to bid students farewell. No chance for students to hug each other (some physical contact is not going to hurt anyone anyfurther if they are about to say, "au revoir. It is hardly going to be the last straw to their immune systems). No chance for students to get contact information from classmates they particularly liked. Just disperse. Now.
I know something about abrupt departures, with no chance to say goodbye, with no wrap ups, with no processing about what the situation meant to me. When I came back from the movie to see the ashes of Lehman Hall, I could not go in. I followed one roommate to another dorm and called my parents. I compartmentalized, as, apparently did my roommate. I never really spoke about the loss. Not to my parents, who can't handle it. Not to anyone. In my case, crisis really was an opportunity. I got a better room, a better roommate (or so it seemed then).
Lehman Hall was two-winged structure, each wing was three stories high. Each floor held six suites. Each suite contained six souls, except if they were freshmen. So approximately 80 souls/floor times 3 equals approximately 240 souls. However, only one floor of one wing was permanently banished, scattered, sent packing. My floor. Of these forty hardy, hearty, academically excelling souls, about six disappeared between the time of the fire and the start of the next term. That's 14%. Not solely because of the academic stress. Mainly, they couldn't handle the emotional turmoil away from their families. They returned home and went to Brooklyn College, Queens College, Barnard, etc.
In a time of stress, with little structure, normal souls look to their family for support and succor. They do go home again--and don't return to their formal school.
So probably anywhere from 15-20% of students will disappear from each four year CUNY/SUNY school between now and September. They don't have the mental discipline to structure themselves and do e-learning. Secondly--they didn't sign up for e-learning in the first place. They (rightly) see learning as an interpersonal transaction. Now they get the booby prize. Administration doesn't want to refund them any money for their blighted semester. For our fragile community college students, the rupture is even worse. Probably 25% will disappear--and not return to any sort of formal education for years.
Instructors receive no support either. Administration says, "We're here to support you." But when it comes to structure--bupkis. Apparently, administration supports us by saying things like "We're here to support you." Professors vary in their competence with distance learning. Professors, like me, who see learning as requiring an interpersonal transaction, are frustrated and angry. I wouldn't be surprised if 15% of adjuncts just abandon their classes. You may have heard that CUNY adjuncts received a "generous and historic" pay hike. Yes--2%. You may have heard that CUNY adjuncts received back pay. Yes. Mine came to $57, after taxes.
Even when part of the course is available on Black Board, putting up sufficient content to make up for the interpersonal realm--interpretation, understanding, underlining, hearing, eating, digesting the contents--take up so much time.
It is unlikely one can gather the class now at the same time and do ZOOM lectures. ZOOM will probably be abandoned in a week.
I wrote the following letter to my dean. Let's call her Dean Cardinal.
Dear Dr. Cardinal: I am an adjunct lecturer in your department. I have over 35 years of teaching experience, both as an adjunct and as a full-time professor. More importantly, I am a licensed psychologist. As a psychologist, I am especially attuned to issues involving emotions, enactments, and empathy.
To our students, the abrupt ending to classes may seem as an abandonment, a rupture in their structure. There was no chance to say goodbye to their new friends and classmates. There was no chance for instructors to go over the new normal. Instructors also may have wanted to say goodbye to their classes.
Many students select a community college because they need structure. This rupture severs their tenuous connections to higher learning. They may feel even more confused. They may need someone to tell them they need to structure themselves by logging on every day at the same time. They need someone to tell them how to be more competent at aysnchronous learning, which is probably what most professors will be choosing for now.
Therefore, I believe, both faculty and administration, need to make a high quality video and e-mail it to students. Administration should acknowledge the rupture and the loss, and name the losses (identity as a college students, loss of peers, loss of instructors, etc). Instructors should introduce themselves, the classes they taught, and say in some fashion--not goodbye, but au-revoir--farewell--for now.
This should be a department production where as many of us as possible assemble at the CUNY Broadcasting Studio and utilize CUNY facilities and technicians to make a professional documentary style short. We can bill Governor Cuomo for the expenses. Governor Cuomo is a politician. His goal is to get reelected. We are social scientists. Our goal is to understand how individuals and groups operates, and what strengthens groups.
Ah well. A letter like that can get a girl put on hiatus. Making administration uncomfortable is the best way to not get a contract for next fall.
I will post later my response from Dean Cardinal.