This message was sent to the Rockefeller community from the Office of the President on June 26, 2020 at 10:41 a.m.
Subject: Update from the President
It is officially the first week of summer. For those of you who have not yet been back to campus, I’d like to share the photo below of the spectacular Wang Gardens on the KRB rooftop. At this time last year, this landscape had just been planted and was still being established. Now that the plantings have had a full season to mature, and a warm, rainy spring to grow, they are truly spectacular.
This week, New York City entered the next phase of its reopening as the numbers of newly infected individuals in our area remains very low. Many businesses are now open for socially distanced shopping and services, and the roads and trains are seeing increased use. Thanks to our collective patience and sacrifice, New York has achieved a very low rate of transmission even as other states are seeing sharp spikes in case numbers. We will be keeping a close eye on the metrics, including the percentage of positive tests for NYC (currently 1.2%), as well as the rate of new hospitalizations for COVID-19.
We are continuing to address issues of equality in our community. Last week, we shared a list of actions we were planning to take to promote racial equity and justice at Rockefeller. I’m pleased to let you know that we are already implementing several of these commitments, and follow-through on each is in process. For example, the security department already engaged an anti-bias trainer, and nearly all members of our security staff have now completed interactive anti-bias training. Representatives from the student community were in attendance at these sessions. We are identifying other trainers who specialize in specific job functions in order to make courses as relevant as possible. I am also happy to report that we have retained an outside firm to develop a university-wide climate survey; more information on the coming survey will be shared next week. My continued thanks to the community—from graduate students and staff to faculty and department heads—for their contributions to these important issues.
In less positive news, President Trump’s executive order earlier this week suspending the issuing of temporary visas for skilled foreign workers, including H1-B and J-1 visas, was ill-conceived and deeply disheartening, and we have issued a statement strongly opposing it. The order will impact our ability to recruit the most talented scientists from around the globe who want to come to the United States for training or to work on collaborative projects. These programs are vital to our conduct of science for the benefit of humanity and affect myriad institutions and businesses across the U.S. Science is an international endeavor that thrives on diverse viewpoints and the free flow of ideas. We are immensely proud that 40% of our 25 Nobel laureates and current Heads of Laboratory were born outside the U.S. It is hard to imagine another national policy that is both so unnecessary and that has more potential to damage one of this country’s greatest sources of innovation and economic strength.
We are well into the planning stages for moving to Phase III of our reopening, which is currently on track to begin on July 6, with a final decision to be made in the days beforehand. In Phase III, all social distancing practices must continue, but additional personnel will be allowed in laboratories, and additional activities will be permitted. Although non-research activities that can be done remotely will continue to be done remotely, employees who need to be on campus to work effectively will be asked to return to campus. Please see the complete guidelines for Phase III here (VPN required). The goal is to enable as much research as possible—including by staffing resource centers as fully as we safely can—while continuing to minimize the risk of viral transmission in our community. Access will continue to be controlled and monitored with card swipes, and we expect the daily campus population to increase from the current figure of roughly 1,000 to approximately 1,500 (though many of these will be on campus for less than a full shift).
Finally, this week I want to recognize that June is Pride month, celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community. There will be a virtual Pride event Friday evening sponsored by PRISM along with members of the MSK community; details can be found in an e-mail sent from PRISM on Wednesday (from firstname.lastname@example.org). Please join me in supporting our friends and colleagues from the LGBTQIA+ community!
With all best wishes,
Richard P. Lifton, M.D., Ph.D.
Carson Family Professor
Laboratory of Human Genetics and Genomics
The Rockefeller University