As we’re sure you know, Governor Cuomo has declared a state of emergency in response to the spread of COVID-19 in New York State, where the number of known cases as of this writing has risen to 89. Of those, twelve are in New York City and four are in Nassau County. While this increase in the number of cases is, of course, cause for concern, we also want to echo what Governor Cuomo said when he made his declaration. The fact that the number of confirmed cases is rising means that the people charged with tracking, containing, and ultimately treating those who have this disease are doing their job. Indeed, the State of Emergency itself is meant to facilitate that work by modifying legal, regulatory, and other procedures that would otherwise impede the State’s ability to respond quickly, efficiently, and effectively to the threat COVID-19 poses.
Given how sweeping the State of Emergency is, we have no doubt that the governor, his cabinet, and his advisors deliberated long and hard about its implications and possible consequences before deciding to put it into effect. Similarly, we know—and we know this because we have been part of the conversation from the beginning: at the Leadership Council, with other relevant members of the administration, and with members of the Board of Trustees—that Nassau Community College has been appropriately prudent and deliberate in how it has approached dealing with COVID-19 on our campus.
Contrary to the hyperbolic rhetoric and finger-pointing in some of the virus-related emails posted to the allfaculty list, for example, the administration’s messaging has been consistent, measured, and thorough. There have been three, increasingly campus-specific emails from Dr. Williams, on February 28th, March 4th, and March 8th, as well as more targeted communication, such as this one to the chairs and other relevant parties, from Dr. Collins. Any fair reading of these documents shows that the administration has been taking one, well-considered step at a time as it puts in place the measures necessary to protect not just the health and safety of the campus community, but also the integrity of the work we do here.
As part of the Leadership Council, your Executive Committee played a role in shaping that messaging, as well as the strategy behind it. We agreed, for example, that instead of sending out a new email update any time general information about the virus changed, it made the most sense to encourage people to keep themselves informed by checking the sites to which Dr. Williams linked, which we will list at the bottom of this post. We also agreed that the administration would update the college community only when there was major news that specifically impacted the functioning of our campus. Lastly, we agreed, in the interests of keeping the college’s COVID-19 messaging clear and coherent, that all such messaging should come directly from the administration.
We are breaking our silence now for two reasons. First, we want you to know that if any NCCFT member has health concerns because of a pre-existing medical condition that might render them especially vulnerable to the virus, they should contact Craig Wright’s office immediately and ask for a medical accommodation. (Please make sure to inform the NCCFT Office if you do so. All information will be kept strictly confidential.)
The second reason we are speaking up now is that the potential for virus-related campus disruption confronts us as a union with some serious questions. Within the next two months, we are supposed to hold both our general union meeting—at which we will vote on our revised constitution—and elections for the officers of the Executive Committee. Obviously, the health and safety of our members is paramount, and we will comply with any directive from appropriate authorities that requires us to cancel on-campus activities related to those two events. Nonetheless, both the ratification vote and the election are crucial to our being able to function as a union. We are, therefore, consulting with NYSUT and other relevant authorities and considering all possible options for how we might proceed if the campus becomes unavailable to us. We will update you as more information becomes available.
COVID-19 also has the potential to derail at least the timing of our contract negotiations, which began on Friday, March 6th. If you’d like to read our Negotiations Update, please click here.
Finally, if you have any questions or concerns relating to COVID-19, please do not hesitate to contact the union office, firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to respond to this post, please do so in the comments section below. Note that if you have not commented on the blog before, your first comment will have to be approved by the moderator.
These websites, which Dr. Williams linked to in his emails, offer useful information about the virus and how to protect yourself from it:
I find it amazing that a union which is supposed to be with the faculty takes its own faculty to task for airing any opinions contrary to the “party” line. You resort to the old bully tactic of accusing those concerned with expressing “hyperbolic rhetoric and finger-pointing”. Since none of you have a medical degree or PHD in Public Health your accusations are baseless and many are tired of being bullied by our own union.
The fact of the matter is the college facilities have had unresolved mold and sanitation issues for years and you are all quite aware of this. This makes our situation even more dangerous. Even the very minimum and basic health precautions have yet to be taken at this college. How do I know? I consulted with the Dean of Public Health at Temple U. and sent her the website and all the emails posted on this. She called our college’s response “facile” and not in line with what others are doing.
You have become a union of bullies- telling faculty who disagree with you they are disloyal or insinuating the union won’t help when they need it. How do I know this? Because too many faculty have informed me of this and because I know you all so well.
If you feel like using your platform to retaliate against me have at it Frank because you sold this faculty down the river long ago. First, when you illegally re-negotiated the Senate by-laws, 2d when you didn’t sue over Middle States report (as successfully done in San Francisco) as you should have and now by failing to protect this faculty against this pending public health crisis.
Bullying is now a punishable offense at NCC- read the policy.
The Officers of the NCCFT should really try their earnest to refrain from using comments like “Contrary to the hyperbolic rhetoric and finger-pointing in some of the virus-related emails posted to the allfaculty list” when referring to the members they serve. This is simply not the way things should be handled for a myriad of reasons. Public humiliation serves no positive purpose toward the unity of our union. If the NCCFT Officers believe someone is acting contrary to the best interests of the college, they should consider contacting the person individually if at all. Otherwise other people are left wondering if the public humiliation was for the purpose of keeping all of their members in line and punishing those whom they have differences of opinion with. I think now would be a great time to reread Article II of the NCCFT Constitution and see how that sits with current conduct.
I agree with my colleagues. It seems the very tepid response we did get was only because of the pressure applied by a long serving and dedicated faculty and union member. To suggest Professor Siminoff’s messages were done out of anything other than a genuine concern for all of us is patently false and disappointing.
The offensive comment about “hyperbolic rhetoric and finger-pointing in some of the virus-related emails posted to the allfaculty list” aside, I would not have contributed to such email discussions had I had any sense that our leadership was actually leading. I continue to be a huge advocate of remaining calm in crises, but there has been ample evidence that compared to other institutions ours is lagging behind when it comes to developing a plan and informing the faculty, let alone the student body, as the evidence in several emails has pointed out. The emergency plan the President sent out is the general plan we have developed in case of a whole range of emergencies, from minor to catastrophic. It is not a specific plan for this crisis, so do not insult our intelligence by claiming that the information given to us shows a thorough and measured response. I personally would have remained silent had anything been sent to faculty indicating that the administration was assessing specific options should students become sick in their classes, or should the college need to close the campus for a period of time. I KNOW that many other schools already have communicated plans for this to their faculty, if not to the students. If you represent the faculty, take our concerns seriously. If we do not feel we are seeing sufficient leadership, let our leaders know this. IF you do not, we will continue to do so.
It might be worth noting that the cases in Nassau county have also throughout the weekend continued to rise–with 6 reported cases I read about tonight (plus at least 72 people in mandatory quarantine–in Nassau) + 1 new case in Suffolk. If faculty are concerned (and many indeed are) about the spread of this virus on our campus, it is in part, a response to the feeling that there is not enough information or concern consistent with those of ours and our students’ daily realities on campus. Inadequately cleaned bathrooms (G building 2nd floor, in particular), some without working soap dispensers, do not inspire confidence. It would be good to know that simply from a campus health and safety perspective, we could feel that we weren’t in the dark about decision-making around the College’s response to this quickly moving situation. Much of the anxiety about this issue stems from less-than-clear protocols in response to this growing crisis and from a sense on campus that we are on our own (I’ll be bringing in my own clorox wipes tomorrow). Its not enough to be told we should feel confident that there are plans in place; we should see satisfactory evidence towards this goal that those plans are in place and that the the safety of our community ought to come before concerns about union elections/ratification.
I did not read the virus related emails that were referenced but I know from this blog post that the NCCFT does care about its members. Medical accommodations are available to NCCFT members that are particularly vulnerable to the flu virus. This has brought me a welcomed sense of relief since news of the virus began. The Coronavirus information, precautions and travel restrictions shared with the NCC community is appreciated. It is similar to information posted on Temple University’s website. Please keep us informed about changes to NCCs preparedness and emergency response plans.
Kathy- I was not citing Temple for what we can see on its website- they have other plans- but that I asked the Dean of Public Health about our plans and the physical conditions at our college etc. I think there’s better information that can been seen by the public (meaning you are not a University member with full access to a website) cited by others. Wishing you and your family health.
I was not recommending the Temple U site ( and there’s things we don’t see because we don’t have access) simply saying I ran by our situation, physical conditions at the college and the information being given etc by the Dean of Public Health. I was not recommending their website- nor was that Dean. I think others have posted much better links etc. Wishing you and your family health.
Honestly, I can’t believe that Dr. Siminoff’s was the first email to start the discussion going. This blog is fine but more members check their email and do not blog. NCCFT could have issued a statement of their own via email to all its members much earlier. All the emails that came from the President’s office came after the fact and the first one was very general in nature as other faculty have pointed out. I’ve read several college and university protocols and plans and NCC is lagging behind. This isn’t time to stand with the Administration or anyone for that matter, it is the time for the NCCFT to protect and serve its faculty in a PROACTIVE manner. I am sorry to say that I haven’t seen anything I have confidence in…and it’s very disheartening. Furthermore, if the NCCFT leadership doesn’t expect its members to speak up and have a critical voice, then there’s no point in a union.
I demand you re-post Dr. Goodman’s comments and apologize to him. This is no time for censorship. The link was not phishing or a scam and you have been informed of this by Hamilton. Re-post and publicly apologize.