By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Hartwick College Margaret Drugovich has a message for students unhappy with the school’s stringent COVID-19 code of conduct.
“We’re asking the students who don’t want to follow our rules to volunteer to leave campus,” said Drugovich during a meeting of Mayor Gary Herzig’s Oneonta Control Room on Monday, Sept. 7. “As hard as it is to say, if you violate our rules, you have to be gone.”
The crackdown was in high contrast to SUNY Oneonta, where, with 701 COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday, Sept. 8, two weeks after asymptomatic students transmitted the virus at “several large parties” off campus, a photo of students partying last weekend in Tobey Hall, reserved for students who have tested positive for COVID-19, made the rounds on social media.
Currently, 43 students are quarantined on the campus, with 139 in isolation after testing positive for the virus.
In contrast to Drugovich’s hard line, SUNY Oneonta President Barbara Jean Morris told the Control Room RAs check students during the day, University Police drive by, but in the evening, there is no adult in the building. “No one is inside,” she admitted.
Council member David Rissberger, Third Ward, voicing concern at the photo, said, “There’s no supervision, and the community needs reassurances that moving forward, something like this is not going to happen again.”
In a statement posted on the SUNY website, Morris also wrote that additional resources would be put in place to monitor the activity in the dorms.
“It is deeply disappointing that following the severe action SUNY Oneonta took just days ago to shift to remote learning for all students,” Morris wrote, “we are still faced with the reckless and irresponsible behavior of a few that are damaging the reputation of our campus and our dedicated students who followed the safety rules every day and were looking forward to a great semester on campus.”
When the students in the photo are identified, she said, they could face judicial review and possible suspension.
“Just because residence halls are closed, it’s still the fall semester and students are still accountable for their behavior,” said Franklin Chambers, vice president/student development. “The student code of conduct is still applicable.”
Following 11 positive cases at Hartwick, including a cluster of four in the Smith dorm, classes have been moved to online only and the dining hall has switched to take-out, effectively putting the campus on lockdown.
“We observed students moving dining furniture to be with one and other,” she said. “We couldn’t find an effective way to socially distance, so we moved to take-out as a precaution.”
Additionally, all residents of Smith Hall are on “precautionary quarantine,” as per a recommendation from the Otsego County Department of Health.
This week, five students were put on academic leave – in addition to the three sent home last week –after they were found with guests in their rooms, and a ticket was issued to such guests for trespassing.
“It’s very clear our campus is closed,” she said. “These individuals were not eligible to be on our campus.”
Academic leave withdraws the student from classes for the semester.
“Safety officers are now asking students to show ID,” she said. “It’s not a very Hartwick thing to do, and never in my 12 years as president did I think this would happen, but too many have tried to defy our boundaries.”
She continued, “Our success depends on the good judgment of everyone in the community,” she said. “And we will take swift action against those who do not comply.”