MC Senate Addresses Commencement and Renovations on South Campus

By Kyla Guilfoil, Editor-in-Chief

The Manhattan College Senate meeting confirmed that the 2022 Commencement ceremony will be held in New Jersey, with vaccination exemptions, and that further spending on Leo Hall and the Higgins Engineering and Science Center will raise renovation costs above its current $92 million figure. 

After announcing the Meadowlands Exposition Center as the 2022 Commencement venue in January, provost Steven Schreiner has faced a multitude of concerns and complaints, as reported earlier by  The Quadrangle.  

At the meeting last Tuesday, Schreiner confirmed that holding commencement at the Meadowlands was in part to allow unvaccinated students and guests to attend the event. 

“We have unvaccinated people in our community,” Schreiner said at the meeting. “Right now we have exemptions, and that’s part of our community and who we are.” 

However, Schreiner emphasized that safety protocols will be taken to ensure that whoever is attending the ceremony will be in line with the college’s standards, depending on the situation in May. 

Schreiner told The Quadrangle that the rules for guests attending the ceremony will likely mirror those currently in place for events on campus in spaces like Draddy Gymnasium and Kelly Commons. 

According to GoJaspers, all guests attending events in Draddy Gymnasium must be masked at all times, show proof of vaccination and show a Manhattan College Green Pass upon entering. Since it has been established that unvaccinated individuals will be allowed at commencement, Schreiner indicated that it will likely be necessary for such guests to submit negative COVID tests before attending, but nothing is for certain. 

Schreiner added that because the Meadowlands has no pre-established COVID rules, the college has full jurisdiction over the protocols, which will be determined as the date approaches. 

Ultimately, Schreiner confirmed to The Quadrangle that the contract with Meadowlands was signed in early January, so the venue has been set and will take place in New Jersey despite recent complaints and concerns. 

“We’re gonna make it the best commencement we possibly can for graduates who are fully deserving of it,” Schreiner told The Quadrangle. “[We hope to be] as close as we can, anyway, to be together as a community, supporting each other and celebrating this wonderful day. Which is really all this effort is all about.” 

Matthew McManness, vice president of finance, also spoke at the meeting to address necessary renovations to the Scala-Academy room and room 236 in Leo Hall. 

McManness, who spoke at the meeting via google meet, explained that through the recent renovations to Leo Hall and Higgins, the college realized that they had never gotten the proper permits to use the two rooms as public assembly rooms after renovations made many years prior. 

Because the cost to properly renovate and receive permits for the Scala room and room 236 as public assembly rooms was projected to be too costly, it was decided to instead renovate the rooms to hold less that 75 people, to lower them from public assembly room status and more easily obtain the proper certification for occupation. 

McManness explained that this project was particularly important because the adjoining Higgins building currently only has a temporary certificate of occupancy, and cannot receive a permanent one until the rooms are cleared themselves. 

Tim Ward, dean of engineering, further clarified the plans for the rooms, as he has been involved with the process of renovation. 

“For now though this will help immensely, particularly as it relates to gatherings of groups of that size or smaller to the School of Engineering and some of the other programs that use those spaces,” Ward said. “These are very quality rooms for presentations, particularly the scholar Academy room.” 

Ward explained that while it is the hope to one day renovate the rooms back to full occupancy, the current renovations are the required path to fit the college’s budget. McManness established that the renovations for the two rooms are projected to cost half a million dollars, which will add to the current cost of $92 million that has already been spent on Leo and Higgins. 

At the meeting, McManness added that the master plan will be to eventually extend renovations beyond Leo and Higgins in order to update Hayden Hall and the Research and Learning Center (RLC). 

McManness broke down the funding behind the $92 million cost for The Quadrangle, explaining that $35.5 million came from tax exempt bonds, $9.5 million from Higher Education Capital Grant Funds from New York State, $35.5 million in donor funds–which includes the Higgins Family donation of $5 million – and $11.5 million from the College Plant Reserve Fund. The projected half a million dollar cost for the Scala-Academy room and room 236 will also be funded by the College Plant Reserve Fund. 

“The funding for these projects will be supported with funds that are not from the college’s operating budget,” McManness told The Quadrangle. “If the college ends the year with any surplus funds we may use those funds to support this project but we will not cut other operating budgets to fund this project.” 

Aside from commencement and the south campus renovations, the meeting also addressed the planning of spring events by Campus Life, new transfer policies for the School of Continuing and Professional Studies by the Educational Affairs Committee and updates from the OneManhattan team. 

The Campus Life Committee, represented by Emmanuel Ago, assistant vice president of student life, and Esmilda Abreu-Hornbostel, interim vice president of student life, explained that they continue to work with the CDC, New York City and New York State guidelines to plan events and maintain compliance. By doing so, the committee hopes to keep expanding the amount and the types of events that are held on campus for the community. 

Schreiner represented the Educational Affairs Committee to explain the new School of Continuing and Professional Studies transfer policy proposal. The committee has found that the school will now allow transfers of up to 75 credits from accredited institutions or institutions affiliated with a crediting association. Up to 15 of these credits may be applied to major core courses, with the remaining credits eligible for transfer towards general education, liberal arts electives and open electives. 

Schreiner and Abreu-Hornbostel again presented in order to give an update from OneManhattan, acknowledging that the biggest change has been the reintroduction of surveillance testing on campus, as previously reported by The Quadrangle

However, the pair also spoke upon concerns raised about quarantine protocols, as students at the meeting questioned how quarantined individuals were to maintain coursework throughout the now completely in-person semester. 

Ultimately, Schreiner explained that COVID quarantining will be treated just as other illnesses are, with the student responsible for getting notes and coursework from fellow classmates and communicating with the professor. 

Abreu-Hornbostel added that students who were forced to quarantine multiple times within short time periods would receive support from the OneManhattan Care Team in working with professors.