HIGHER ED TODAY
The steps we take to guide The City University
of New York through the COVID-19
crisis are born out of CUNY’s historic mission
to support our students, promote equity
and make sure the most vulnerable are not
excluded from the learning process.
We see who the coronavirus is attacking
in disproportionate numbers — it’s those
who come from our most diverse neighborhoods,
the very communities that form the
backbone of this University.
The principled imperative to make sure
that no one is left behind has set the framework
for CUNY’s decision-making from the
moment I assumed the role of Chancellor.
As I approach my one-year anniversary
on May 1, I couldn’t be prouder of the
work we have done over the last 12 months to
honor the founding values of this University,
a template of opportunity and inclusion that
led us most recently to announce the Chancellor’s
Emergency Relief Fund on April 8 to
provide an urgent lifeline to CUNY students
facing financial strain amid COVID-19.
Launched with $3.25 million including
$1 million each from the Carroll and Milton
Petrie Foundation and the James and Judith
K. Dimon Foundation, and $500,000 from
Robin Hood, the Fund has enabled us to begin
issuing grants of $500 each to thousands
of CUNY students in the first CUNY-wide
student assistance program of its kind. The
first checks were delivered this week. (Individual
contributions can be made at cuny.
With support from Governor Cuomo,
CUNY last month invested $12 million to
quickly purchase thousands of laptops and
tablets, without which a sizable number
of our students would have been unable to
make the transition to distance learning and
move forward with their courses.
We have broadened CUNY’s record of
public service from participating in relief
work in Puerto Rico to collecting and distributing
vital personal protective equipment
Caribbean L 20 ife, April 24-30, 2020
for health workers and helping to create
face shields from campus 3D printers.
We continue to fill our ranks with pioneering
leaders, individuals like S. David
Wu, the incoming president of Baruch,
who will be the first Asian-American college
president at CUNY. He will be joined
by Robin L. Garrell, newly appointed president
of the Graduate Center; Frank H. Wu,
tapped to lead Queens College and CUNY’s
second Asian-American college president;
and Daisy Cocco De Filippis, who will be
interim president of Hostos Community College
and the first Dominican woman to serve
as a CUNY college president. I am also proud
to have built a cabinet of tested leaders representative
of the City we serve.
As I joined a video conference on April
13 to cheer the inaugural graduating class
of the CUNY School of Medicine, I was reminded
of the school’s mission to address
health care disparities in underserved areas.
These newly minted MDs are a perfect
match for the moment as they graduate early
and embark on their careers at a time of unprecedented
demand, a shining embodiment
of the University’s mission to safeguard the
most vulnerable while creating social mobility
for our graduates.
I also have no doubt that the road to recovery
of New York City’s economy and public
health goes through CUNY. I’m proud to
see, for example, CUNY staff already working
with government and health leaders,
taking steps to train and prepare the thousands
of social tracers we will need in the
months to come.
It all underscores a truth about CUNY,
which I knew to be true 12 months ago when
I had the privilege to become chancellor, and
continues to guide me today: The ground beneath
us may shift, but our commitment to
the equity, inclusion and excellence needed
to sustain New York City’s standing as a
world-class city will never, ever waver.
Brooklynites launch searchable list
of city testing sites, food banks
Chanel Schroff and Timur Seckin developed Covidaid.nyc as a resource for fellow city residents
to fi nd information about testing and food banks. Chanel Schroff
BY JESSICA PARKS
A duo of do-gooders put their computer
skills to good use amid the coronavirus
outbreak, creating a searchable resource
with up-to-date information on the city’s
food banks and testing sites based on one’s
zip code for their fellow city dwellers.
“It’s a search engine that shows the
closest free testing, free food banks near
you,” said 23-year-old Timur Seckin, one
of the founders of Covidaid.nyc.
Seckin and his colleague at the nonprofit
EndoFound, Chanel Schroff, were
surprised to find a disturbing lack of accurate
information available on testing
sites and food banks — which many
Brooklynites are relying on amid a sharp
rise in unemployment.
“There is an online database that has
the food banks, there are at least like three
of them but they don’t have the update
hours,” Seckin said. “Their hours were all
totally wrong, it was surprising.”
Determined to fill the void and help
their community through the crisis, the
ambitious duo, who met as classmates
while studying at Berkeley, began aggregating
the missing information — placing
hundreds of calls and scouring the internet
and social media to locate services.
“We called nearly 250 food banks
across all five boroughs,” Schroff said.
“And sometimes we would have to call
multiple times because they would be
closed, we didn’t know the hours. That
was probably the most time-consuming
aspect at the beginning.”
Since the site launched on March 22,
Schroff and Seckin have listed hours, contact
information, and service offerings for
more than 250 food pantries in New York
City — helping people find the closest facilities,
in an effort to limit travel.
In order to ensure the information is
up to date, the pair painstakingly calls up
each listing every Friday to find out about
any potential scheduling changes.
“Most of the food banks we are finding
are changing their hours of operation
almost on a weekly basis,” Schroff said.
“Some are even closed. So we really have
to call them.”
Unsatisfied with their remarkable
progress, however, the pair plans to compile
a list of places that are donating personal
protective equipment, as well as facilities
where previously-infected people
can donate plasma.