John Jay Faculty & Students Recount Their Last Day on Campus

A look back at where John Jay faculty and students were, 1 year ago today.

Leanna Wells, Editor

One year ago today, John Jay students, faculty, and staff were notified that it would be their last day on campus. As coronavirus spread throughout the city, CUNY schools were monitoring it closely to determine how to move forward.

On March 9, 2020, President Mason announced via email that the college had no plans to close, and the scheduled events in the coming days were moving forward as planned.

Study abroad students were instructed to return home and quarantine.

The next day, another email noted that a student had tested positive for COVID-19 and detailed when the student was on campus.

The risk to the community was deemed low by state health officials, but the school closed and we’ve been on Blackboard and Zoom ever since.

Cenobio Ramirez, a Sophomore and Political Science major remembers exactly where he was on his last day.

“Before school closed, I had three classes in the New Building, and then I went to work after,” he said.

Greg Donaldson, Associate Professor of Communications & Theatre Arts wasn’t teaching that day but recalls what it was like for him. 

“I was in my office briefly because I was on sabbatical, and I came in to do some paperwork,” he said. “So I really didn’t have much of a campus experience.”

When the campus-wide email detailing the school’s closure was sent out, it came as a surprise to some, like Ramirez.

“I felt shocked because I wasn’t expecting us to close due to COVID,” he said. 

It’s safe to say that no one expected March 10 to be their last day on campus.

Katherine Roa, a Senior and Political Science major said, “I didn’t know it would be my last day, but I was always careful because I have a newborn.”

Elton Beckett, a Professor of Communications and Theatre Arts, shared an opposite reaction to the closure.

“They’ll make some decisions and I’ll go with the flow because that’s my training,” he said. “As a theater person, we are trained to take the given circumstances and keep on moving forward.”

The mask mandate for people in public spaces was not recommended by the CDC until April 3, one month after the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed in New York City.

For students like Joy Huang, the mandate existed before its implementation. 

Huang, a Sophomore and Law & Society major said, “I was super cautious and before the last day of school I was already wearing a mask on the MTA because my parents did not want me going to school without the mask on.”

As Huang traveled through the city, she explained what her experience was like. 

“It was really weird because nobody was wearing a mask and everyone was looking at me,” she recalled.

When faculty members were advised to prepare themselves and their courses for the move to distance learning, it left some uncertain. Preparing and adjusting was not easy, especially for those that have never taught an online class.

“I wouldn’t say terrified, but I would say I was concerned because I don’t do the tech stuff as well as most people,” said Donaldson. 

Beckett recalled his experience with adjusting and how he kicked off virtual learning.

“I asked my students to take it as we were all learning together, and it was new for me and new for them,” he said.

At the start of the outbreak, there were many factors that were unknown and undiscovered.

Donaldson expressed how his knowledge of media helped him understand what was happening.

“Although I will say that I was watching and reading the news, so I knew that something was coming and something was not good,” he said.

Anyone looking to return to campus for specific services and resources has to complete a number of steps before entering. A reservation has to be made 2 business days in advance of a visit to campus. Public safety will review the request and upon approval, a training video is to be completed.

Every trip to campus requires a pre-screening health symptom checker on the Everbridge app.