SUNY Maritime responds to coronavirus, juggles Sea Term

The following is text of a news release from Rear Adm. Michael Alfultis, president of the State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College:

(THROGGS NECK, N.Y.) — I hope this message finds you and your families well. These are undoubtedly trying times with much uncertainty, but I thought I would take a moment to update you regarding the measures we have taken at Maritime College in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Academics, residential life, and student affairs

Two weeks ago, the number of cases in New Rochelle (Westchester County, N.Y.), New York City, and Long Island were increasing exponentially. As we were in the nation’s epicenter of this pandemic, I made the decision to request all students vacate the residence halls, cancel/postpone all on and off campus activities, and take an academic pause during the week of March 16 to allow our faculty to transition as many courses as possible to distance learning modalities. This includes online synchronous and asynchronous classes, video teleconference, email, conference calls, or any combination of these modalities.

All of our students were able to return home safely or make arrangements to live off campus, and on Monday, March 23, we resumed classes through distance learning. There are some courses such as labs and STCW courses that will need to be completed on campus once it is safe and restrictions for face-to-face instruction are lifted. We are working hard to ensure our students still feel a "connection" to the campus and have access to the essential academic services they would normally have, including academic advisement, IT support, tutoring, and counseling.

Among the many events we had to postpone to a later date were the Admiral’s Dinner and the Spring Commencement Ceremony scheduled for May 1. We plan to hold a commencement ceremony sometime in September for all students with May, July and September degree conferrals.

Sea Term

Considering the State Department’s issuance of a Level 4 Advisory (no international travel), which led to SUNY canceling all Summer Study Abroad programs, we have decided it is no longer prudent or realistic to plan on Empire State departing on May 4 for Summer Sea Term. In order to keep the Class of 2021 on track to graduate on time, we must complete a Sea Term in 2020. With loss of cadet shipping billets, the 2/c and 3/c must complete a "traditional" split Sea Term. The Coast Guard has granted several temporary accommodations relative to sea time for the Classes of 2020 and 2021. Our Sea Term Planning Committee is assessing the impact of accommodations on needed sea time and hence length of Sea Term. We are currently looking at several different Sea Term scenarios, and all scenarios impact our 2020-2021 academic calendar in some way. Our goal is to make a decision prior to the start of final exams in April, and communicate the decision to the Maritime College community.

Looking ahead

Not all is lost in these challenging times. We are pleased to share with you a new date for the Admiral’s Dinner, which has been rescheduled to Tuesday, Sept. 22. The time and venue (Marina Del Rey) remain the same and I look forward to seeing you there as we celebrate the honorees and come together to offer much-needed support to our students. The economic impact of COVID-19 is likely to have a negative impact on many of our hardworking students. As these students and their parents lose work, they will struggle to meet basic financial needs with tuition, the Sea Term and books becoming unattainable luxuries. I am increasingly concerned that some students and their families will be forced to choose between funding Sea Term or tuition and fees for the fall semester since they will be unable to do both. The college’s limited scholarship budget will not be sufficient to allow these students to remain enrolled, and their dream of a Maritime College education and career may be postponed or lost completely. Now more than ever, our students need the "one hand" of our alumni and friends.

We continue to navigate these unchartered seas together, make adjustments based on a rapidly-changing situation, and we will keep you apprised as we go along. In the meantime, please be safe.

By Professional Mariner Staff