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LIU students to return in-person Nov. 1, under enhanced safety measures

The LIU Post campus in Brookville.

The LIU Post campus in Brookville. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

LIU Post plans to reopen — with enhanced safety measures — for in-person instruction Nov. 1, following two weeks of remote instruction to stem an outbreak of COVID-19 on campus.

The added safety measures include surveillance testing of up to 20% of the student body and staff each week for the coronavirus, tests of wastewater for signs of the virus and spot temperature checks on campus.

At least 64 positive COVID-19 test results were reported over the past two weeks at the Brookville campus, and 213 students are currently in quarantine after exposures to infected fellow students, according to state and school dashboards.

LIU President Kimberly A. Cline released letters to faculty and students late Thursday announcing the changes, the same day faculty released a statement announcing its vote to censure Cline over her handling of the pandemic response. The faculty had demanded that the school ramp up surveillance testing — which are random tests of a portion of the campus to detect signs of an outbreak — to bring it in line with the testing programs of other Long Island colleges and universities, and called for more accommodations for at-risk faculty to teach remotely.

"This week, the reported daily cases support that the exposures from off-campus gatherings have been contained," Cline wrote in a letter to the LIU community. "Students can return to campus or continue taking courses remotely for the remainder of the semester."

Faculty members applauded the announcement on the new testing strategy, but continued to call for more remote teaching opportunities for faculty members whose health or age puts them at risk.

The private university, which also has a campus in Brooklyn, offers most of its classes in person, although students could opt for remote learning. The LIU Post campus went to remote instruction Oct. 15 for two weeks to dampen the outbreak. Athletic team members were quarantined, after school officials pointed to gatherings of teammates at off-campus residences as the source of the original cluster of cases.

Cline defended the school’s protocols as being in line with state guidelines, and said LIU was working with the county health department to "evaluate and enhance our protocols." And she called on everyone to "take responsibility for their actions."

In a separate letter to faculty, she defended the university’s record on testing and other safety measures and asserted that before the outbreak, its infection rates were low. She said that over the past month the university had sought out companies that could test its wastewater for evidence of the virus, and expected its first test results soon.

"I'm heartened to learn that the university is taking these measures, and I think they will contribute to keeping the campus community, and the larger Long Island community, safe," said Jeremy Buchman, chair of the Faculty Council and an associate professor of political science.

Heather Parrott, chair of the social sciences department, responded that LIU's announcement about surveillance testing "is wonderful news — it’s too bad it took an outbreak and overwhelming faculty outcry for them to do the right thing."

"Cline’s letter did not say anything about accommodations for faculty, though," Parrott said. "At-risk faculty need to be provided the option of teaching online. There is no reason that a fraction of our classes can’t be taught online."

Danielle Burman, a junior musical theater major at LIU, said she had written several times to administrators complaining about student partying and calling for harsher penalties for violations of COVID-19 safeguards and increased testing on campus.

In response to the announcement of more surveillance testing, she said the administration was "finally making the right decision by increasing testing. Their actions speak louder than words, though … I hope to see testing taking place starting the week of November 1st and an increase of social distancing and other precautions among all students on campus."

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