ONEONTA – Mayor Gary Herzig has a message if returning Hartwick College and SUNY Oneonta students go out on the town – follow the rules, or the fun stops.
“We will enforce the state regulations,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “If you’re not at a table, you need to have your mask on. You can’t be elbow-to-elbow at the bar. We will send the police, code enforcement or the state Liquor Authority in to respond to complaints.”
As the colleges announced reopening plans for this fall, Herzig plans to meet with the two college presidents, Hartwick’s Margaret Drugovich and SUNY Oneonta’s Barbara Jean Morris, to lay out the city’s new approach.
Margaret Drugovich’s latest Sunday YouTube video (linked on www.AllOTSEGO.com) was like clouds opening and the sun shining through. Watch it. You’ll feel a lot better about the near-term future.
As Drugovich has proved again and again in her 12-year tenure as Hartwick College president, she’s a gutsy lady. A leader. A tough one, and an inspirational one.
First, even though the COVID-19 threat is quickly diminishing – yes, it could rebound – it’s gutsy to decide this far out (mid-June) to move forward (late August), and to pair that decision with a tightly reasoned plan.
Drugovich will provide more particulars on her weekly video this coming Sunday, the 28th, but one provision that’s emerged so far is tough-minded and reassuring: As campus reopens Aug. 22, all members of the college community will have to read and sign “Our Social Compact: A Healthy Hartwick College,” requiring them to wear masks, social-distance and adhere to other safety-assuring (but not safety-ensuring) measures.
“We just don’t think individuals have the right to put other people at risk,” Drugovich asserted.
That’s leadership: Moving forward forcefully, reopening the campus, even while understanding the virus will still be with us. Mum SUNY Oneonta is a sad contrast.
President Drugovich is not alone. There are other examples of, yes, leaders. People who are not rash, but not frozen by fear or adversity, moving to reopen their enterprises sensibly, but with an understanding there will be setbacks.
There will be successes, but some failures are inevitable. And yet they act.
Governor Cuomo, of course, is a sterling national example of what people hope for in time of crisis. He didn’t choke, even when faced with hundreds of deaths and mass graves in the world’s greatest city, a challenge that would stagger most people.
He focused on data, and didn’t panic as the data worsened, even though his face became more ashen and the bags grew under his eyes. When the numbers didn’t drop as badly as predicted, then rebounded, he didn’t hesitate to reopen our Empire State, step by determined step.
He communicated, which Drugovich considers critical, too. And his daily briefings, he brags, attracted 59 million viewers. “There are only 18 million people in New York,” he exclaimed in awe and delight.
How good a governor is Andrew Cuomo? Mixed at best, his Buffalo Billion buffeted by corruption and imprisonment of close associates, his support for truly awful legislation – the Green Light Bill and “bail reform” come to mind – and choking off natural gas from energy-starved portions of the state.
But when he needed to step up, he did.
(Bill De Blasio’s dilly-dallying and erratic President Trump didn’t fare as well.)
Another example in a more limited sphere is Greg Harris, the CGP graduate who rose to president of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. From the day that Hall was forced to shut down, he sprang into action, focusing on what would be needed to reopen again, the no-touch doors, temperature checks, no dead-end exhibits and more, as our managing editor, Libby Cudmore, reported last week. The Rock Hall opened Monday, June 15.
You can even include restaurateurs Brian Wrubleski at Cooperstown’s Mel’s at 22, or Mike Joubert at Oneonta’s Wise Guys Sammy’s, the sandwich shop. They doubled-down on takeout and promotion, and no doubt got through the crisis better than many. Inspiring stuff.
People like Drugovich, Cuomo, Harris, Wrubleski and Joubert aren’t reckless or dismissive of troubles ahead.
Drugovich put it this way: “It would be magical thinking that we won’t have the virus in the fall. We WILL have the virus in the fall. We’re going to have to learn to cope with it.”
They’re just brave enough and bold enough – and sufficiently prudent – to move forward because they have to – as do the rest of us – despite expected pitfalls certain to come.
ONEONTA – Hartwick College is serious about reopening this fall – and serious about getting it right.
The key to success is a safe campus. The tool to achieve it is “Our Social Compact: A Healthy Hartwick College,” which college President Margaret L. Drugovich announced in her latest weekly video to the campus community, Sunday, June 21, and is central to the reopening plan submitted to the State of New York.
All students returning to campus Aug. 22, as well as faculty, staff and anyone working on Oyaron Hill, will have to review the Compact and sign it. Classes are due to begin Aug. 31.
“We believe (the Compact) is enforceable, we believe that individuals who refuse to agree – whether a student, employee or individual who refuses to adhere – they can’t be on our campus,” Drugovich said in an interview. “We just don’t think individuals have the right to put other people at risk.”
The community is advised “that you will adhere – to markings on the floor, to daily screenings, to masks in the presence of others, to reduced density rules. You will be refused access to campus if you have symptoms. This is what we need to do to minimize the spread,” she said. “We feel we have a right to do so, and we’re going to exercise that right.”
Governor Cuomo’s Reopening New York website posted “Higher Education Guidelines” late Saturday, June 20, and Drugovich advised the campus community that Hartwick’s reopening plan has been submitted to Albany. She said more details will be forthcoming, perhaps as soon as her Sunday, June 28, video.
Hartwick and SUNY Oneonta’s 8,000 students are cornerstones of the local economy, so their plans are of intense local interest in some quarters. While Hartwick is sharing its reopening plans, SUNY Oneonta is apparently prohibited from doing so. “We are not at liberty to say what that is until we receive approval from SUNY,” said spokesperson Kim MacLeod.
Hartwick’s decision didn’t just happen, Drugovich said. It grew out of her creation of a “strategic response team,” convened March 3, 10 days before Cuomo’s emergency declaration.
Key administrators and faculty members, as well as vendors that operate the dining halls and provide other services, have been meeting twice a week since then, “making decisions on what we need to do. First, to close and go to remote instruction; and every significant decision we’ve made since then.”
Drugovich also convenes weekly Zoom conversations, open to all employees, and “145 people show up every week.” In them, “I bring people up to date with what is true,” but “we spend most of the time talking about people’s concerns. I keep people informed, so they can leave and think for themselves, and decide for themselves.”
In early May, Drugovich convened 15 “problem-set groups,” involving more than 100 people, “that came together on one of 15 problems.”
“One problem: how to be ready to deliver education, whether or not we’d be able to meet in person,” she said. “Another problem, how to reopen athletics. Another: how to support students who would not be able to return because of COVID but want to continue their educations.
“That ended up being the core of our plan.”
A key “problem” was how to keep people safe. In addition to individual actions contained in the Compact, “we’ve been making major changes in dining. There’s no more self-service. There will be kiosks to order; or students can order their food online.
“We’re going to be limiting foot traffic. We’re going to screen people as they come into buildings … We’ve been able to operate in a certain way for so long: But this has allowed – has required – us to think differently.”
While Hartwick’s plan is one of the early ones to surface, Drugovich said components will be contained in other institutions plans, because “we’ve all been talking to each other.” In her case, as vice chair of the national Council of Independent Colleges.
She declined to comment on what she’s learned about leadership from watching Governor Cuomo, President Trump and others, but observed, “Many leaders are trying to stay isolated and making decisions on their own. It’s making a terrible mistake. You need the insights of colleagues to solve these problems and solve them well.”
Insights obtained from the last few months? For one, the lack of dependable Internet within short distances from campus. One administrator kept going dark during a meeting.
Another, students have always gotten sick; now distance learning will let the college continue to serve them.
In a Sunday video, Hartwick College President Margaret L. Drugovich announced students will begin a phased-in return to campus Saturday, Aug. 22, with classes reopening Monday, Aug. 31. The state issued guidelines for college reopening on Saturday afternoon, she said, and plans are for Hartwick to release its full reopening plan in the next week, to be discussed in detail by the college president in next Sunday’s video. Part of the opening, she said yesterday, will involve every student signing “Our Social Compact: A Healthy Hartwick College.” She continued, “this compact will help each one of us to understand and hold one another accountable for our commitment to being an educational community. If we individually make this commitment, we will be able to return to our shared work – together. I know we can do this. I have confidence in you.”
Editor’s Note: Hartwick College President Margaret L. Drugovich issued this letter to the college community to address concerns in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
By MARGARET DRUGOVICH • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Simply occupying the office of the college presidency does not give me the right to presume that I know how every member of our community thinks or feels. We do not all agree on politics, culture or even the meaning of words. The very nature of an academic community begs us to question and debate every thought, every statement, and every idea that takes flight.
But there are some ideas that stand clearly apart from all others. When it comes to human decency, justice, and fairness, there is no room for equivocation.
And so I write to every member of our Hartwick Community to say to all who will listen that we condemn the murder of George Floyd. There is no room for bias-fueled hatred at Hartwick. At Hartwick, we stand with all who seek justice for Mr. Floyd’s death.
It is our responsibility to eliminate the social, health and economic inequities that allow bias-fueled hate to continue. We must stare into the truth that these inequities result in pain for both individuals and our society as a whole. There is no benefit to any one of us if others are treated with less respect, care, compassion, or opportunity and more prejudice, mistrust, anger and cruelty. It is easy to say the words “Black Lives Matter.”
Each of us must act in a way that makes it clear that Black lives do matter. Each of us must act in a way that makes it clear that every life matters.
In my video message on May 31 I spoke to our students about how important it is to get an education that will open doors to spaces of influence so that we can make the change that is so overdue. I hope that my message planted the seed of hope that this madness does not need to continue. Education certainly is not the full answer, nor is it the only answer, but it is one path to a more just future.
I am a white woman who has worked hard to move to a place of relative privilege, but I have also been allowed the opportunity to do so. I cannot claim to fully appreciate the depth of rage and anguish of a woman of color who has been deprived of this same opportunity. I cannot know what it is like to be a black man who fears for his life when he leaves his home.
But I do understand the fear that comes with the inability to breath. If you are angry, hurt, frustrated and afraid, please know that you are not alone. We do care about you. And we will defend and protect your right to live without fear.
We will soon organize a forum for our community to discuss what we have learned from this tragedy and how we can turn that learning into meaningful action. I hope that you will participate.
On May 31, six days after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Hartwick College President Margaret L. Drugovich told students about how, through education, they are preparing to ensure justice in the world. She also shared Hartwick’s reopening plans for the fall and asserts, “When given permission, we will be ready.” And she again thanks those who are keeping us safe during this COVID-19 crisis.
ONEONTA – Hartwick College has every intention of reopening for the Fall 2020 semester.
“In March, we created a strategic task force, and we’ve been meeting weekly to take a pro-active approach to welcome our students back to campus this fall,” said Paula Lee Hobson, VP for advancement, Hartwick College. “Our enrollment is strong, and our students want to get out of their parents’ houses and back to campus.”
ONEONTA – Patricia L. (Patti) Delaney has been named the first director of Hartwick College’s Griffiths Center for Collaboration & Innovation, President Margaret L. Drugovich announced today.
Launched in 2018 with a $1.25 million gift from Sally Griffiths Herbert ’88, H’19 and Tim Herbert, the Center is an idea incubator and an instigator of innovative approaches and creative problem solving. It includes three Innovation Stations: the Makerspace, Fabrication Lab (Fab Lab), and entrepreneurship hub (E-Hub), where ideas, theory, and practice will support entrepreneurial models of thought and action across the curriculum.
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt of Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig’s letter, sent to Governor Cuomo this week, expressing concern about college students’ return to the City of the Hills.
Thank you for your effective leadership during these dangerous and unpredictable times.
The City of Oneonta is proud to be the home of two fine colleges – SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College. The 7,000 plus students who live and study with us are a vital part of our community culture and economy.
Our ability, along with those of all of New York’s college communities, to effectively recover from COVID-19 is dependent upon the re-opening of our college campuses and the return of their students.
Re-opening our college campuses, however, will require an aggressive program of testing for all students attending our residential colleges.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the City of Oneonta have consistently represented no more than 15 percent of all such cases in Otsego County despite Oneonta being the county’s clear center of population density.
This can only be attributed to the diligent way in which the people of this City have responded to the need to isolate.
The return of 7,000 college students, without a program of mandated testing, to a community with
very little immunity, places too many lives at risk – a risk supported by the recently released
Cornell University study ranking Otsego County as the third most vulnerable to an outbreak in
New York State.
…Having adequate testing materials available for returning students of both our public and private colleges must be a priority – along with effective protocols for testing and isolation.
August may feel like the distant future right now; however, one thing we have learned from this pandemic is that it is never too early to act, Our host communities look forward to working in partnership with your administration, SUNY, and our local college administrators in implementing a safe and full COVID-19 recovery.
Shelter-in-place is no excuse to be a couch potato.
“It feels good to get some exercise,” said Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig. “People are respecting the social distancing, but you can see people and wave hello across the street. And these days, seeing someone smile and wave means a lot!”
Herzig, along with many others, have made getting outside every day a priority under the COVID-19 quarantine.
“Exercising is critical for physical and mental health,” said Val Paige, Clark Sports Center director. “I’ve seen a lot of people using our trails and our field to get some exercise in.”
Paige recommends a half-hour walk, three times a week, as “a good starting point.”
“As long as everyone is social distancing, you ought to be able to get some exercise,” she said. “Get the kids out there too!”
It’s also a good way to pass the time, with many working from home or on furlough.
“We never did it that much, but there’s nothing else to do, so we walk,” said Gabrielle DeCepoli, Cooperstown, who was strolling down Chestnut Street Saturday, April 4, with her husband Owen Ellsworth and their dog, Gracie. “We walk three, four miles a day.”
“We’ve been taking our dog on a walk twice a day,” said Herzig. “Folks who have dogs must appreciate them even more than ever – it gives you a purpose to get outside.”
“We used to take our dog, Natasha, for one short walk in the morning and then a good walk later on,” said Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch. “Now we’re walking her four times a day.”
She even used a trip to Village Hall – officially closed for business – as a chance to get out herself and Natasha of the house. “Our standard walk was a little over a mile,” she said. “Now we’re doing at least two walks that are a mile, plus one that’s two miles or more.”
She even plans her walks around the village’s construction projects now underway – those that are still deemed “essential.” “I’ll walk through Doubleday and downtown to see the progress,” she said.
Like Herzig in Oneonta, she sees it not only a chance to get some exercise, but to see her neighbors. “It’s fun to stand across the street and see your friends out walking too,” she said. “Especially when they’re out with their dogs. It’s a way to stay connected, but still maintain that social distancing.”
“Without work and mass social interaction, people enjoy these interactions more,” said Ellsworth. “They’re happy to see you.”
Those who already walk for their health have added an extra stroll to the day. “We’re so cooped up and we can’t go anywhere,” said Barbara Busch, who lives at Oneonta’s Plains at Parish Homestead with her husband, Doc.
Hand in hand, they walk to the corner at Route 205 and Oneida Street, then return to do a loop around the nearby Peaceful Flats mobile home park. “We walk for half an hour,” she said. “It doesn’t matter the weather, there’s always some part of the day when it isn’t raining, and if there isn’t, we just take umbrellas.”
For those who want to see more than concrete, there are plenty of hiking trails open as well. “I’ve done a lot more hiking than I have in a while,” said Jonathan Visnosky, Oneonta. “SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick both have nice trails, and you’re out there alone.”
State parks, including Glimmerglass, Robert V. Riddell and Betty & Wilber Davis, are remaining open, although the state parks department does advise maintaining social distancing while hiking and not to take to the trails if you are feeling sick.
But people aren’t just walking. “I work 12-hour shifts at Springbrook,” said Jon Dykstra, Oneonta, who spent Saturday morning skateboarding around downtown. “I’ve been skating on and off for the past few years, but now I’m trying to get out for fresh air whenever I can.”
Working at a residence on Southside, he’s even considered skating to work. “I could if I wanted to,” he said. “Maybe when the weather is nicer.”
MARYLAND – Charles Harry Lewis, 84, a caretaker at Hartwick College and later, assistant caretaker at the Heyman Estate in Armonk, Westchester County, died peacefully at home surrounded by his family on March 25, 2020, according to his wishes.
Charlie was the son of Russell and Ethel Lewis of East Northport. Born on June 10, 1935, he was one of four children, along with Robert, Barbara and Donald.
ONEONTA – Both local college presidents – SUNY Oneonta’s Barbara Jean Morris and Hartwick’s Margaret L. Drugovich – this evening announced they will be shifting to online instruction, beginning Monday, March 23.
In sending the students home, both are acting out of concern about the unknown dimension of the coronavirus outbreak, which has emerged downstate and in Saratoga County.
In a statement issued at 7:50 p.m., SUNY Oneonta President Barbara Jean Morris said she was following Governor Cuomo’s directive, issued this afternoon, that “instruction across SUNY will move to other modalities.”
ONEONTA – With Coronavirus cases increasing daily, SUNY Oneonta students who hoped to study abroad will have to wait until the fall semester.
“We have cancelled all study abroad programs for the rest of the semester,” said Kim MacLeod, SUNY Oneonta associate director of communications. “And we called back 33 students and faculty members who were already abroad, including four students in Italy and two in Japan.”
None of the students or faculty are in quarantine, but the recall is part of an increasing response to the rise of Coronavirus cases and precautionary measures aimed at reducing the rate of infection in the states.
Hartwick College, Bassett Healthcare, Cooperstown Center and Springbrook are also among the institutions that have issued travel bans, cancelled events and limited visitations to their campuses.
SUNY-wide, Chancellor Kristina Johnson has also issued a prohibition on any travel to countries that the CDC has issued a Level 2 or Level 3 Travel Health Notice on – China, Iran, South Korea, Italy and Japan.
“We may not use state money to pay for professional travel to these countries,” she said in a statement. “Nor may we use Faculty Development Grant money or department OTPS funding to pay for travel to them or reimbursements for travel to them.”
Hartwick College put similar travel bans in place for students, faculty and staff, banning any “non-essential” group or individual travel, and that all college-sponsored personal travel must be approved in advance by the vice president of the relevant school.
On-campus events will still be held; however, the college is not participating in men’s and women’s lacrosse games last week and the next week.
Bassett Hospital has also issued travel prohibitions for their employees, banning business travel to the Level 2 and 3 countries, as well as to any conference where there will be more than 100 participants, throughout the month of March.
They also encouraged that anyone traveling for personal reasons to refer to the CDC recommendations and to let team leaders know about travel so a potential quarantine may be put in place.
With the elderly as the most vulnerable to COVID-19 complications, Cooperstown Center (the former Focus) at Index has also cancelled travel. “We had to cancel our trips to Walmart,” said Lacey Rinker, director of nursing. “The residents are not happy, but it’s too much of a risk.”
All visitors, staff or vendors are screened at the reception area to determine whether or not they are healthy enough to enter the building. “We’ve increased our number of hand-sanitizer dispensers throughout the building, and enforce ‘gel in, gel out,” she said. “You use hand sanitizer when you come in the building and when you leave.”
Similarly, Springbrook has limited visits to emergency and essential visits only, switching instead to phone and video calls or teleconferencing, as well as suspending community visits and postponing our Special Olympics Basketball Tournament, which had been scheduled for Saturday, March 21.
Barbara Ann Heegan, Otsego County Chamber of Commerce president, has reached out to her members with links to the Center for Disease Control, the county Health Department and Bassett. “I think everyone is taking this very seriously,” she said.
She is looking at putting together a program for employers who may be dealing with impacts from Coronavirus on their businesses. “We’re waiting to hear some more direction, but we’re seeing what we can do over email, rather than gathering.”
But with the Chamber’s annual Spring Gala planned for Thursday, May 7, Heegan is hoping that the risk will be significantly reduced enough to host the event.
“I don’t know how realistic that is,” she admitted. “It changes every day.”
At SUNY, the administration is using spring break to begin putting a contingency plan in place. “It’s great that we have a week to work on what we would do if we had an individual who exhibited symptoms,” said MacLeod.
Ahead of the break, SUNY posted a series of health tips for travelers – including hand-washing, cleaning frequently-touched surfaces and carrying a first aid kit.
They also asked students to volunteer to “self-identify” where they were traveling. “Not the entire population told us, but more of them told us than I thought,” she said. “It will give us a better feel for how to handle.”