Message on Fall 2020 Semester for Faculty & Staff

In my email to you a few weeks ago, I indicated that our aim was to make a decision by mid-June about how we will operate this fall in the context of COVID-19. On Thursday, the state provided a brief overview of the guidance for reopening colleges and universities in New York. We expect additional details to follow soon. While there are still many unknowns with respect to the trajectory of the virus over these next few months and as we continue to await further direction and guidelines from the state of New York, I want to share the plans we anticipate based on the information we have today.

I have attached an advance copy of the message that will go out shortly outlining our plans for the fall semester. The development of plans for the academic programs was informed by the vital engagement of our faculty and staff, and I want to thank you for your contributions on this front. Whether you participated in a faculty working group, attended community Zooms, or simply remained in close communication with your colleagues about your experience, I think you will see much of your feedback incorporated into the planning effort that took shape over the past few months.

For the fall, our plan will be to continue all classroom and studio teaching online. This will reduce the census in our buildings, freeing up space so that we can provide physically distanced access to labs and student studio space. We will also have dedicated classroom teaching space available to faculty should you wish to utilize Cooper classrooms and technology to conduct online classes. Additionally, we expect to be able to provide physically distanced, in-person access to the AACE Lab, shops, and fabrication and maker spaces, though some equipment may be taken offline to adhere to health and safety protocols. Our reopening plan for these spaces will follow a comprehensive set of protocols for building operations and maintenance that our team is refining now according to the most up-to-date guidance and directives from public health experts, the Centers for Disease Control, and New York City and State agencies.

We expect conditions in New York City to continue evolving, and as we learn more, we will incorporate revised protocols about how and when to reopen our facilities. We are preparing a detailed “Returning to Cooper” guide that we will release in August to incorporate the most up-to-date guidance. It will include protocols for social distancing, required wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE), testing, screening, contact tracing and quarantine practices for when a member of our community tests positive for COVID-19. Our building safety practices are already being piloted by the limited staff who have been coming to Cooper to maintain the safety and security of our buildings and to begin to prepare the building for the fall semester. The pilots have all been running smoothly, and we will begin to scale them up as we are able to bring more people back into the buildings according to Governor Cuomo’s phased reopening plan. We will plan for building access for re-entry of faculty who need building access for their research and, when necessary, for faculty and staff who will require access to the buildings to prepare for the fall semester – all of this with the underlying requirement by the Governor that whoever can work remotely should continue to work remotely. We are not out of the woods of the pandemic, and we do not want to see positive cases of COVID-19 spike.

We know that this has been a significant disruption to all of our work, and we want to make sure you are supported. Many of you have spoken about the challenges of balancing childcare and other home obligations, or outdated home technology. We want to hear from more of you and, in addition to meetings we plan on scheduling with the faculty and staff unions, we will be sending a survey over the summer to better understand how we can best support your work. You can expect to receive that survey in July and hear from us in August about the various plans we are putting in place.

This is new territory for all of us. We know you will have questions, and we will do our best to provide answers. The first point of contact for faculty should be your dean. By sending all questions to them, they can help share information more broadly within each program. For staff, please contact your manager, and they will do the same.

I thank you for your partnership and look forward to our ongoing work together. If there is any institution that can rise to the challenge, I know it’s this one. Onward!

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.