Coronavirus and the college

Today the governor announced that all SUNYs would be moving to online instruction for the rest of the semester. This wasn’t unexpected, but we’re underfunded and shortstaffed and there’s no way we could be prepared.

The college isn’t closing. Students with nowhere else to go will stay in the dorms. Some lab classes and internships and experiential learning setups will keep going. And the library and computer labs are going to stay open. Faculty and commuter students are happy about the last, because we’re in a digital desert. Broadband is scarce, and cell networks erratic, once you drive a couple of miles out of the city. Ellen’s museum, fifteen miles north, gets 5 Mbps download speeds — and that’s on a good day.

I hope our faculty recognize this, and don’t try to replace in-class meetings with synchronous video sessions students won’t have the bandwidth to watch even if their hardware is good. But we’ve signed a contract with Zoom, and IT is pushing that service pretty hard. From the library side, most of our services have an online component anyway — an email account for reference service, online appointment booking, subject and citation guides, and of course our discovery system and databases. We’re adding a chat service, something we’d ditched a few years back due to lack of use. And we can use Zoom or Google Hangouts for meetings with students. Most of our classroom instruction is finished by this point of the semester so that’s good.

Ellen and I had planned a long weekend vacation in Qu├ębec City starting this Friday. That’s off now — even if we felt comfortable traveling, I need to stay here to help get the new library systems up and running quickly, and to make sure everyone is trained to use them.