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Essential Workers Holding Down the Fort at York


While the rest of the York College community “shelters in place” working, teaching, and learning from home, there are certain employees who continue working on-site to keep the campus and other matters on target.

Essential workers such as some members of Buildings & Grounds, Public Safety, Custodial Services, Information Technology (IT) and others, are still on the job in the main building. The engineers from Buildings and Grounds keep the boilers, coolers, and other essential equipment in running order.

Custodial staffers are maintaining a clean campus, Public Safety staffers are keeping the campus safe in our absence; IT is ensuring our technology working and distributing devices to students; and even the areas not normally on our radar such as the lab animals, are being taken care of while most of us are away.

Asked what the most important thing his team is doing for the college during the coronavirus shut down, Chief Rufus Massiah responded, “They are making personal sacrifice to leave their families and come to work every day to ensure that the college remains safe and protected.”

He added that “while others are safe at home, they answer the call to duty and report to work despite the personal risk involved to their and their families’ wellbeing. Without their selfless service, the college could not be a better place for students, faculty and staff to thrive,” said Massiah. “[They] are the gatekeeper of this college.”

Massiah said he would like the campus community to know that these colleagues “deserve their utmost respect.”

“Whenever we return to normal operations and the community is back on campus, it is my hope that members of the college community would acknowledge these officers’ personal commitment to keep this campus safe at all cost,” he said.

Chief Massiah also mentioned the following members of his team, who are on the frontlines at York: Latoya Whitehead, William White, Tamikka Raymond, Glenis Forbes, Edgar Marrero, and Manuel Sogoni.

CSA Campus Security Assistant ) Raymond responded that “Being essential personnel, I have an obligation to protect and serve the college community even in bad times,” she said. “Even though it is very dangerous to be working under these conditions. I would like the college community to know that as long as we have supplies like PPE, Public Safety Department is here to protect and serve you. My daughter doesn’t understand ‘essential.’ But I want the York College community to stay motivated and remain productive.”

Officer Manuel Sogoni also reaffirmed his commitment. “I would like the college community to know that as long as we have supplies like PPE, Public Safety Department is here to protect and serve them,” he said.

CSA Glenis Forbes is taking it all in stride.

“It gives us time to think,” said Forbes. “We don’t have the human traffic so it gives us time to think. “And I really appreciate Chief Massiah and our supervisors. They really look out for us. We just need more face shields.”

Sergeant William White has a two-fold loyalty to York’s safety and health.

“Working at the York College during the crisis has been an honor and a privilege to serve my college at this time,” said Sgt. White. “As a graduate from York 20 years ago [this has] brought back memories. As a student in the ‘90s, I experienced the school being shut down because the students were protesting the college tuition hike. During that time I missed my professors and fellow students. Now I feel that same feeling I miss seeing the faculty, staff and students. It’s like a ghost town at the college. Every day I thank God that I am able to work and serve at York College. I feel I am a part of something much bigger than myself. Overall, the impact has left me in a state of appreciation for my colleagues and the York College community.”

White says his family also understands his risk to go to work.

“As far as my family being impacted, they understand that as a Peace Officer I took an oath to protect and serve the York College community. They have been very supportive and they have been praying for me.”

Asked what he would like the college to know about their service in the time of coronavirus, the Psychology graduate of York’s Class of 2002 expressed optimism.

“I would like the York College Community to know that the college is in good hands,” said White. “The Public Safety staff has been working very hard to ensure the college remains safe and. All this is done by putting in cleaning protocols for all officers during frequent patrols of all buildings and limiting people’s access to the college. Only essential personnel are allowed on campus. [But] the York College Community has always been a strong and resilient community we will get through this. Also please keep the essential works who are at the college in [your prayers].

Alejandro (Alex) Rodriquez, Administrative Superintendent of Campus Buildings and Grounds Custodial Services is happy to be of service along with his team too.

“I could not be more proud of the custodial staff that I supervise and the community, in our darkest time,” said Rodriquez. “We find the courage to get up and say goodbye to our families and come to work, by train, bus or car.”

But according to Rodriquez, there is some comfort in being together at work too.

“We try to find comfort and support in our team as we work together for a common goal,” he said. “We lost one of our team members, Luis Diaz and had a few in quarantine.

We had all the buildings disinfected by a professional company, from the offices to classrooms, bathrooms and walls and I must commend two custodians, Trina Pegues and Sheena Starkey, who took the roles of supervisors and helped me complete the task. Without them I could not have finished. I am proud of the team I have and the efforts they put in every day to get the job done.”

But these are not all the essential workers by any stretch. The Information Technology (IT) crew has always been on-site and on call; and the lab animals also have to be cared for.

Dr. Donna Chirico, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, is thankful to those in her school who have taken on the task of caring for the animals.

“The star of the show is Francisco Villegas for the rats/mice; and Dina Lipkind for the songbirds,” said Dean Chirico. “He (Dr. Villegas) is the one who has been coming in to take care of the animals. Right now, CUNY is only permitting research related to COVID-19; hence, all other projects are on hold; but faculty and CLTs have to come in from time to time for equipment maintenance. The big challenge is the birds.”

Interim Chief Information Officer (CIO) Claudio Garcia Lindo and Greg Vega, Director of Service Delivery, have also had their team on the job.

“Essential personnel such as Network Engineers, Server and Data Center Engineers, PC Support Technicians, and all IT Managers are onsite on an as-needed basis,” said Lindo. “The Chief Information Officer and the IT Managers have deemed as essential, a minimum number of IT Staff members needed to support and maintain the York College systems and network infrastructure.”

They added that since this crisis began, “York College’s IT has understood that technology plays a crucial role for York’s successful digital transformation. IT has led to the use of digital technology to create new or modified existing business processes, working culture, and customer experiences to meet the needed changes that the COVID-19 presented to us so we could continue serving our students at a time when they needed us the most.”

The IT leadership team extends thanks to all their members.

“Thank you for your bravely and unyielding and strength in the face of adversity for overcoming not only professional difficulties during the worst time in our history, but also personal challenges unimagined, said Lindo and Vega. “You are truly the epitome of commitment and dedication in service well beyond anything we could have ever asked for. From the bottom of our hearts we thank you, forever.”

Interim President Berenecea Johnson Eanes has added her own thanks to the entire team of essential staffers.

“I extend my thanks to our essential workers who are making the sacrifice to leave home and go to work to keep the campus safe and clean and technologically sound,” said Dr. Johnson Eanes. “Your commitment to your jobs and to York is highly appreciated and I want you to know that you are very much appreciated.”

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