Father McShane addressed town hall participants at the beginning of the general session. “We wanted to make sure that in this upcoming semester, our students experience the fullness of the Fordham education insofar as that as possible” while also prioritizing health and safety, he said. (ZOOM)
Father McShane addressed town hall participants at the beginning of the general session. “We wanted to make sure that in this upcoming semester, our students experience the fullness of the Fordham education insofar as that as possible” while also prioritizing health and safety, he said.


Town Hall Part 1: Fordham Details University-Wide Reopening Protocols

August 7, 2020

On July 30, the Office of the President hosted a series of town halls via Zoom to answer student and parent questions about the fall semester. Faculty and administration discussed modifications to classes, campus life and student conduct and provided new information from the Fordham Forward reopening plan.

For details on how specific Fordham Lincoln Center departments are modifying instruction, read Part 2 of this story here.

COVID-19 Testing and Monitoring

The university will conduct free testing for all students, faculty and staff upon their initial arrival to campus, according to Jeffrey Gray, senior vice president for student affairs. 

Each Fordham campus will have one COVID-19 testing site through a collaboration with The Broad Institute in Massachusetts. Testing will begin Aug. 15 by appointment through a portal to be released soon. People will receive their test results after 24 to 48 hours.

Students traveling from states on New York’s mandated quarantine list, as well as any international country, were initially required to get tested during their quarantine period. However, an Aug. 7 email update from the Office of the Dean of Students at Lincoln Center stated that this is no longer required. According to the email, “The University will test these students on campus when they arrive and after their quarantine period and they can enter campus for classes or to move into their residence hall.” Rose Hill students received the same update.

Students from nonrestricted states are “strongly encouraged” to present proof of a negative test from 10-14 days prior to their first planned arrival on campus. If they do not have this, Fordham will administer a test. It is unclear if students will be allowed back on campus before they receive their test results.

Regardless of where the initial test takes place, all returning students will receive a test from Fordham within 14 days of arrival. The university will also conduct “random surveillance testing”; throughout the semester, groups of students will be randomly selected to receive a test.

As previously announced, the university will use the VitalCheck system to monitor the health of all students, faculty and staff. Each user will have an initial 10- to 15-minute telemedicine visit with a doctor upon registration, according to Public Safety Director John Carroll. Users will then answer a series of health questions via text each day to obtain a pass to enter campus.

Regarding travel, Gray said, “We ask that you engage in travel behavior with prudence and caution.” Anyone who goes off-campus will have to show a VitalCheck pass upon return. Though Fordham will not restrict interstate travel, Gray discouraged students from traveling to states on the mandatory quarantine list.

Carroll stated that Fordham has purchased 100,000 reusable cotton masks, enough for each student to receive approximately four should they need them. Keown also encouraged all students to bring their own “go bag” with snacks, Gatorade, a thermometer and Motrin or Tylenol for a fever, to have ready in case they need to quickly isolate.


Moving In

Move-in to on-campus housing will be an extended process. Students will be able to sign up to deliver belongings to campus from Aug. 7-15, although they are still encouraged to pack lightly in case of changing circumstances. Official move-in will take place between Aug. 22 and 25 as previously announced.

All rooms have been reportedly cleaned and sanitized.

Students need not get tested before dropping off belongings early; however, those traveling from “hotspot” states would need to provide proof of two-week quarantine. Students can bring up to two helpers on both belonging drop-off and official move-in. These helpers will be allowed in the lobby on move-in day to help load bins, but not in the rooms.

Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) Dean of Students Keith Eldredge confirmed that Fordham will coordinate with moving companies to deliver belongings in storage to the dorms on Aug. 24 and 25, and Alex Fischer from the Office of Residential Life told students to expect more information on the subject soon.


Students returning to campus from states on the mandatory quarantine list of restricted states, as well as any international country, are required to provide proof of a two-week quarantine before moving in. A hotel receipt; airline reservation; or the owner’s name, address and arrival date at a private residence in a nonrestricted state will grant access to campus. Pre-move-in quarantine spaces will not be available in the dorms. Dean Christopher Rodgers at Rose Hill reported in the Q&A tab that “New York State requires a single room with a private (not a shared) bathroom to complete quarantine,” and unlike larger schools such as NYU, Fordham does not have enough rooms to accommodate this — even temporarily. 

Additional guidelines for quarantining were outlined in a July 31 email.

Rodgers also indicated that Fordham will be watching for any change in the state’s requirements that would allow students to quarantine on campus and will inform students accordingly.

Late move-ins due to the quarantine requirements will be coordinated through ResLife. Affected students will be sent an email to sign up for alternative check-in dates.

Students who fall ill and test positive during the semester will be expected to return home if possible, according to the Dean’s Office. If not, they will be isolated in designated spaces on campus and provided with medical oversight through health services, as well as food delivery. If Fordham’s capacity to quarantine students is exceeded, they will provide additional off-campus accommodations. Students must be in isolation for 10 days and be fever-free for 24 hours before being released.

Additionally, Eldredge wrote in the event’s Q&A, “We will engage in contact tracing to track down anyone who might have been exposed to an infected individual for long enough to have put them at risk of infection, and those students (which will include suitemates) will be asked to quarantine in their apartment for the designated time frame as determined by Student Health Services following DOH guidelines.”

Withdrawal and Housing Refunds

Students will have until the start of classes, Aug. 26, to withdraw from housing for the fall. They may either withdraw entirely and receive a full refund for their room and board costs (excluding the housing deposit), or defer for the fall and be guaranteed housing in the spring, receiving a refund for the fall only. The Dean’s Office also confirmed that if conditions force the university to once again close operations, students will receive prorated refunds for the unused portion of room and board charges at the end of the semester. It is unclear if this means students will be refunded for the period after Thanksgiving break.

Students are permitted to live on campus even if they take all their classes online.

It is unclear whether students whose time in housing must be shortened for reasons other than university closure — including medical reasons, such as illness and quarantine requirements — will be issued a partial refund or lessened housing costs. The Observer reached out to the Office of Residential Life and the Office of Student Financial Services for confirmation, but received no response as of Aug. 7.


According to John Puglisi, associate vice president for facilities management, facilities at the Lincoln Center campus are being prepared to receive students in a safe way that will accommodate social distancing and meet the necessary ventilation standards.

Elevator policy is particularly important at Lincoln Center, where “there is a very heavy reliance on vertical transportation.” 

In accordance with guidance from the state, the elevator capacity will be limited to six occupants per car in the Lowenstein Center, and four occupants in the 140 West Building. Elevator riders will be expected to wear masks, as required in all common areas of the campus, to face forward and to remain silent while in the elevator.

“We’re trying to balance getting people up and down through our buildings with the safety aspect and making sure that we’re doing it safely. It’s obviously not an optimal situation,” Puglisi said, but the department is confident in the safety of its approach. 

Campus buildings will have 24-hour ventilation, a distributed air system and “near-medical grade quality” filtration units to “maintain a high level of indoor air quality.”

All campus facilities including libraries and study spaces will be opened, barring any changes to directives from New York state. The school will make sure that common areas, potentially including vacant event spaces, are available to commuters for study, according to Puglisi, Gray and Associate Dean Robert Moniot. 

These spaces will have limited capacity to ensure that de-densification and social distancing is maintained. The school is working on making lockers available to commuter students as they have been previously.

We’re trying to balance getting people up and down through our buildings with the safety aspect and making sure that we’re doing it safely.

— John Puglisi, associate vice president for facilities management

Outdoor spaces will be open and available. Gyms, including the fitness center, are closed pending a green light from the state government. All dining spaces will be open but modified to satisfy New York state guidelines. This includes physical adjustments to furniture spacing and reducing the capacity of interior areas, as well as extending dining to tents outdoors. To avoid the hazards of self-service, all meals will be served by staff or prepackaged.

With regards to classrooms, Puglisi said, “We have removed quite a bit of classroom furniture to enable everybody to spread out,” and the school will provide hand sanitizer and “access to hand washing facilities in copious amounts.” In shared dorm bathrooms and common spaces, students are expected to maintain safety and social distancing measures. “A lot of this is going to come down to the goodwill of our students,” Gray said. 

In an email regarding facilities operations from the Office of the President sent on Aug. 4, the university also addressed increased disinfecting procedures by Custodial Services, particularly at high-risk contact areas. 

Fordham will also be “providing wipes and other appropriate disinfecting materials with the expectation that the students will wipe down desks, shared equipment, and other contact surfaces before and/or after class,” as well as setting up “transparent barriers in locations where social distancing cannot be maintained and where face-to-face interactions with visitors or potentially COVID-impacted individuals take place.”

The email also included information about modified procedures for picking up mail and packages, using public restrooms, riding the Ram Van and maneuvering in high traffic areas on campus. The latter will be facilitated using “associated floor markings, directional signage, and modifying stairway directions to minimize potential face-to-face exposure” as well as designated “enter” and “exit” doors. 

If a student is found to be in violation of the Ram Pledge and campus rules regarding pandemic safety, students will be subject to disciplinary measures via the established conduct process “designed to educate people around boundaries and community standards,” Gray said at the town hall. 

“We will enforce those policies in the same way we enforce other policies.”

Campus Life (Clubs, Dining, Experiencing NYC)

Employment and Internships

Brian Ghanoo from Financial Aid confirmed that while the campus is open, work-study positions will remain available. Dean of FCLC Laura Auricchio noted that all student workers who can work remotely are encouraged to do so. 

Career Services will be open and working in-person, but will provide and expand virtual internship opportunities in addition to existing in-person opportunities. The Ram Van will remain in operation with a normal schedule at half capacity, and students with internships will have priority. All passengers will be required to wear face coverings.

Clubs and Events

Both clubs and events will proceed as usual, with safety measures in place. Clubs are encouraged to continue operation in the fall, and budget requests may still be submitted, but according to John Carroll, the ability to keep them running will “depend on your cooperation.” 

Events such as New Student Orientation and Family Weekend, as well as all club meetings and activities, are expected to “be supplemented with virtual components.” In addition, all in-person meetings, events or activities must require masks, social distancing and caps on attendance. Off-campus events will be expected to follow the same procedures. Specific guidelines will be available shortly, online and by email.

Classes and the Flexible Hybrid Model

As the beginning of the fall semester approaches, students were given the choice between online or hybrid classes. Students were being asked to fill out an online survey by Aug. 6 if they are choosing to only take online classes. After the results of the survey and decisions from faculty on how they prefer to hold their classes, Fordham will update all course statuses in Banner by Aug. 10.

Online courses will have both synchronous and asynchronous components, according to Auricchio. Additionally, since online classes do not pose the difficulty of distance, all core classes can be taken at either campus. 

Online classes will not have additional seats added. The caps will remain the same to allow professors to give students adequate attention, according to Associate Dean Robert Moniot.

“Do reach out to us, don’t be afraid and we will try to accommodate you as best as possible,” Assistant Dean for Sophomores Mica McKnight said.

For hybrid courses, Fordham’s provided training to over 500 faculty members about how to design a hybrid course so that faculty can easily switch between online and in-person coursework.

screenshot of dennis jacobs speaking at the town hall
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dennis Jacobs spoke at the general town hall. “Since March, we’ve been thinking carefully and gathering feedback from students on how we can create a more adaptable and resilient form of instruction,” he said of the flexible hybrid model. (ZOOM)

“This will not be last semester’s online learning,” Auricchio said.

Due to a need for social distancing in hybrid courses, most classes will not be able to meet fully in person. The class capacity is being reduced to roughly a third for in-person classes. Auricchio explained that many faculty members may choose to do online only as the segmented classes require only half the class to come for half of the class period and then switch or switch days during which half of the class is in-person.

Classes that are held off-campus can meet at any facility that complies with the New York guidelines, according to Jason Morris, the outgoing chair of the natural sciences department. 

Many aspects of a Fordham education will return to normal, according to the faculty on the Zoom. Dean for juniors and transfer students Rebecca Stark-Gendrano explained that the add/drop period will proceed as normal, concluding on Sept. 3. Additionally, students will not have the same opportunity to declare all their classes pass/fail this semester, according to Moniot. 

Students will still be able to receive academic help from their professors and the writing center throughout the semester. Professors will hold office hours either virtually or in-person. Additionally, the Writing Center and tutoring will be available online, with Fordham College at Rose Hill and Fordham College at Lincoln Center joining forces.

If a student’s financial situation has changed, they can contact Assistant Dean for Student Support and Success Tracyann Williams. Williams can help students appeal for additional financial aid and help them make use of the emergency funds that are available for students.

Full recordings of the town hall can be found here.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that students are asked to get tested within 7-10 days of returning to campus. As of Aug. 7, the window was changed to 10-14 days. The article has been updated to reflect the most updated information.

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About the Contributors
ESMÉ BLEECKER-ADAMS, Fun & Games Editor and Assistant Photo Editor

Esmé Bleecker-Adams, FCLC ’21, is a visual arts major and (oh-so-jaded) New Yorker who is incredibly grateful for her time at The Observer and for all the lovely people she has met there! Favorite hobbies include sewing, playing table tennis and ignoring her alarm clock.

GILLIAN RUSSO, Online Editor

Gillian “Gil” Russo, FCLC ’21, is one of The Observer’s virtual vanguards — er, online editors. Previously, she worked as the arts & culture editor and one of the inaugural newsletter editors. Gil is a journalism major/theatre minor who had hoped to write just one Broadway show review before graduation, and although that didn’t happen, she did achieve her new goal to do at least one thing for all 15 divisions of The Observer by then. Other fun facts include that she enjoys dancing and sword-fighting, she can say the alphabet backwards, and she modeled for a French chair catalog one time. gillianrusso.com

ALLIE STOFER, Former Editor-in-Chief

Allie Stofer (she/her), FCLC ’23, is the former editor-in-chief at The Observer. She is a political science major, with a double minor in history and women, gender and sexuality studies. Previously, she has worked as a news editor. When she is not editing articles, she can be found embroidering and trying new restaurants.


Evan Vollbrecht, Fordham College at Lincoln Center ’22, was an opinions editor alongside Grace Getman from 2019 to 2020, and now works as IT manager. He has written for The Observer since September 2018. An ex-STEM student, he has an eidetic memory, though it only functions on useless information. This is the link he's mad about. This is the other link he's working on.

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