ONEONTA OUTBREAK WORST IN STATE
Plans To Meet With Herzig, Morris
On ‘How Things Have Been Going’
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – SUNY’s new chancellor, Jim Malatras, will be in Oneonta Monday, meeting with the mayor and the local college president to ensure everything is being done to stem the worst outbreak of COVID-19 – 29 cases – among the system’s 64 institutions.
“We’re one SUNY family,” Malatras told WAMC Radio’s reporter Ian Pickus on Friday’s Midday Magazine in an interview that centered largely on SUNY Oneonta. “We’re going to harness all the firepower of SUNY.”
Mayor Gary Herzig said he, the new chancellor and SUNY Oneonta President Barbara Jean Morris will “sit down and talk about how things have been going.” Herzig, who’s been “disappointed” with Morris’ interface with City Hall, said of Malatras, “He’s been great. He’s been very, very cooperative, very hands-on.”
On WAMC, the new chancellor said that, in cooperation with Upstate Medical, all 3,000 students living on the Oneonta campus are being tested over the weekend, with testing expanded as necessary to the 3,000 off-campus students.
“When there are emerging problems,” he said, in the context of what’s happening in Oneonta, “we’re going to be very aggressive in handling them. We’re not going to wait.”
Malatras, who was promoted from the Empire State College presidency a week ago to succeed Kristina Johnson, who resigned in June to lead Ohio State University, said, overall, “our campus plans are being implemented very well. Our campus presidents are on top of this, their staffs are on top of this.
“…If there are issues, though, like parties in Oneonta…”
He went on to praise the reaction of SUNY Plattsburgh President Alexander Enyedi, appointed in June, who, faced with “a similar issue, “acted immediately, and …”
“Yes, 43 students were suspended,” Pickus chimed in.
Malatras continued, “It was a very difficult action he had to take. But he was there to protect the greater community. I think we have to take these actions aggressively right out of the gate. I think you can tame the beast, control the beast – which is COVID-19 – and I think you don’t have to play whack-a-mole.”
He said, “If it does (turn into whack-a-mole,) we’re going to have to take more broad-scale actions,” adding that he has no data indicating any campus is approaching the 5 percent infection threshold Governor Cuomo has set, which would force campuses to move to 100 percent remote instruction.
“It’s not us-versus-them,” he said of nervousness in campus host communities like Oneonta, and he praised Herzig as “an extraordinary partner in this process.”
Because of the long history of many colleges in local communities – in Oneonta’s case, a 131-year town-gown history – “my job,” Malatras said, “is to reinforce we ARE the community.”