Some CUNY workers protest ahead of students' return on Wednesday

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Tuesday, August 24, 2021
Some CUNY workers protest ahead of students' return
N.J. Burkett has more on the reopening concerns at CUNY schools.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- CUNY Schools reopen on Wednesday to students, but the union that represents workers is concerned due to the COVID pandemic.

Faculty and staff held a demonstration in Midtown outside the CUNY offices on Tuesday insisting that many of their colleagues are not ready for in-person learning. They also said that CUNY wasn't doing enough to protect them from COVID-19.

They say while the university has addressed some of their concerns, some buildings do not have adequate ventilation or classrooms that are big enough for proper social distancing.

The group made a list of demands including allowing apprehensive faculty and staff to work from home, and even go back to in-person learning if the faculty members insist on it.

Students are set to return to at all 25 campuses in all five boroughs of New York on Wednesday and the university gave them 44 days to become fully vaccinated. Anyone who is not fully vaccinated by then must test negative for COVID-19 every seven days.

Some students say they are apprehensive about returning -- others not so much.

"There has to be some sort of return to normalcy. You can't just sit at home all day," City College junior Sam Nisan said. "So I'm completely happy to be back."

"A lot of people who are vaccinated right now are getting COVID, especially the Delta strain," City College junior Sela Schneidinger said. "So part of me is scared while the other part of me is relieved that I'm going back to school because school, online, is terrible."

CUNY wants to return to pre-pandemic learning and a pre-pandemic learning environment.

Those demonstrating want the ability to remain off-campus until the vaccine mandate kicks in.

"A lot of our faculty and staff are perfectly comfortable, they've been fully vaccinated, they're fine with going back in," said James Davis, Professional Staff Congress. "But many people have concerns that are very well-founded. I think we all thought in June that things were trending in the right direction, and it's terrible to say, just a couple of months in, that people are very concerned about the delta variant, they know how quickly it incubates, how quickly it spreads, so additional precautions are not unreasonable, it's not paranoia, it's a real fear."

CUNY released a statement on Tuesday saying, "For more than a year the university has been preparing to welcome students back to a more in-person fall...We expect these precautions will have a reassuring effect on our students, many of whom reside in communities that were impacted the most by the health and economic crisis.

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