Dear Members of the NYIT Community,
I write in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to share an update on the status of the university, which has come through the storm in reasonably good shape. Most importantly, the safety of our students and staff remained intact, which, of course, is always our most important concern and is our best piece of good news. The only significant physical and structural damage occurred on our Old Westbury Campus.
Today is the fifth consecutive day we have closed our campuses in Old Westbury and Manhattan to ensure the well being of our students, faculty, and staff. That is unprecedented at this point in the semester. Hurricane Sandy’s impact has been extraordinary in terms of massive power outages and a nearly crippled mass transportation system in the New York metropolitan area. Each day we looked toward and hoped for the next to be the day we could reopen. Without transportation access to our campuses, and with the Old Westbury Campus without power, that proved impossible. All the universities in our area faced the same decisions.
Many of us living in the New York metropolitan area are still without power in our homes. Internet access has been spotty, as has smartphone coverage. I write from the NYIT Manhattan Campus, which survived with only a few broken windows and some stripped metal facings. The Provost and I fortunately have been able to use our offices daily. We extend our best wishes to our students, alumni, families, and all members of the NYIT community and hope you all are well and safe. Certainly we all share deep feelings for those who suffered as a result of the hurricane. Friends of NYIT from around the world have shared concern, encouragement, and kindness, for which we are most appreciative and grateful.
NYIT is continually judged a great place to work, and that is because we are a caring and hardworking community. The work this past week by our facilities staff has been extraordinary. Many have yet to go home and are understandably exhausted. And while they made sure NYIT is ready to get back to the practice of education, the surrounding areas are slowly recovering during an extended period beyond anyone’s expectations. This week, I have heard from and been in touch daily with many members of the staff and administration who have sacrificed to ensure our community is being served well, and we all appreciate and acknowledge their efforts—from their contacting parents of our students from abroad, to journeying to Old Westbury to look after medical students rescheduling their rotations after some local hospitals closed. Even our athletic teams needed help to devise new practice and game scenarios.
Again, thankfully, our resident students in Manhattan and Old Westbury are safe and have food and water, but those in Old Westbury, too, are experiencing power outages. Certainly, we have all learned from this experience and it is troubling to think we will be even better prepared for what appears the new climate change. Our students certainly learned more about nature, hurricanes, disasters, emergencies, cooperation, coping, collaboration, and the challenge of electricity amid so much more. Many have encountered out-of-classroom experiential learning about helping others. And we are very proud of those who are doing organized volunteer work today to help others in the broader community.
Permit me to share a “good news” slice-of-life NYIT academic experience. Our academic programs in Electrical Engineering and Computing Sciences and Mechanical Engineering were long-scheduled for their periodic review for re-accreditation by ABET. The visiting team literally arrived from around the world last Saturday evening, and were housed in a hotel near the Old Westbury Campus to begin the four-day review on Sunday afternoon. We welcomed them with a proposed Plan B: They start the visit to Old Westbury at 8 a.m. on Sunday and we move them to a hotel in Manhattan down the street from our campus. Luckily, we found rooms still available, and the dean, associate dean, the engineering chairs, and all the files were available to the review team in Manhattan. Senior administrators, outside advisors, staff, and students made themselves available in person or by phone, and the process continued. I am happy to report a successful outcome, on time, on Wednesday. It was a very collegial experience for us all, and showed the academy at its best. The reviewers said they would never forget the visit (which for some continues as their flights were delayed until this evening). Certainly those who experienced it at NYIT will not forget the visit either.
As I write, our current concern is fuel shortage and that threatens a Monday reopening. In anticipation of the storm, we brought in a large diesel generator, which has been providing power to most of the Old Westbury Campus, our only property without electricity. We and the supplier are running dry. So, unless we can refuel on Sunday, or the power comes back on in Old Westbury, we will face another go, no-go decision on Sunday night. Moreover, as many know, gasoline is now in short supply, and I have been advised that many members of the facilities crews on our campuses will be able to get home today but might not be able to get back. Our concern for Monday is whether the very large percentage of our faculty and staff who drive to our campuses will be able to do so. We will keep you apprised of final plans via our web site at www.nyit.edu/alerts and our text and voice messaging programs.
Please know we are working to schedule makeup classes and exams so that our students will be able to complete the semester smoothly. We have make-up days built in the schedule, which we will obviously use, and Academic Affairs is looking into the use of our Blackboard and online systems for supplementary contact time.
Finally, let me close on a positive back-to-NYIT-life note. We have opened the NYIT Auditorium on Broadway today for an advance screening of Hitchcock by Fox Entertainment, and through the good work of our facilities staff clearing downed trees and making emergency repairs, NYIT’s de Seversky Mansion is able to host events as scheduled.
Best wishes for the coming days and challenges of the aftermath of Sandy. Our thoughts are with you.
Edward Guiliano, Ph.D. President