News of Otsego County

SUNY Oneonta

Go STEM! To Make Hands-On, Remote Learning Possible

Go STEM! Makes Hands-On,

Remote Learning Possible


ONEONTA –  The Go STEM! Institute at SUNY Oneonta will presents a one-week STEM experience, focusing in electronics and sound production for kids in 7-12th grade this February.

Gavin Vital, SUNY Oneonta Instructional Support Technician and Adjunct Lecturer of the Music Department will teach the virtual program, with the hands-on kit delivered directly to participants. The program will focus on electronics and sound production and take place from 9 a.m. to noon from Feb. 15 through Feb. 19, 2021.

SUNY Over Hurdle On Reopening Plan
Reprinted From This Week’s
Hometown Oneonta, Freeman’s Journal

SUNY Over Hurdle

On Reopening Plan

Enough Agree On 20% In-Person Classes

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

David Lincoln
Dennis Craig

The stumbling block is gone, it seems.

Enough faculty members have volunteered to teach 20 percent of the in-person, “dual modality” classes called for in SUNY Oneonta’s plan to reopen on Feb. 1, 2021, according to David Lincoln, president of the local chapter of the United University Professions (UUP).

“That’s correct,” said SUNY Oneonta President Dennis Craig when asked about Lincoln’s statement.

SUNY Over Hurdle On Reopening Plan

Reprinted From This Week’s
Hometown Oneonta, Freeman’s Journal

SUNY Over Hurdle

On Reopening Plan

Enough Agree On 20% In-Person Classes

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

David Lincoln
Dennis Craig

The stumbling block is gone, it seems.

Enough faculty members have volunteered to teach 20 percent of the in-person, “dual modality” classes called for in SUNY Oneonta’s plan to reopen on Feb. 1, 2021, according to David Lincoln, president of the local chapter of the United University Professions (UUP).

“That’s correct,” said SUNY Oneonta President Dennis Craig when asked about Lincoln’s statement.

SUNY Professors Protest Reopening Plan

SUNY Professors Protest

In-Person Reopening Plan

A SUNY Oneonta professor lights a candle lanterns on the main campus quad to represent the nearly 1,200 COVID-19 cases to date in Otsego County as part of a protest against the college’s proposed in-person reopening plan this evening. “The plan is not about preventing an outbreak, just about detecting it before it gets too big. The core problem is that this is insane, if the college is going to have 20 percent in-person classes, it won’t work,” says biology professor Keith Schillo, who has been outspoken about the faculty’s concerns. “Numbers don’t mean anything after awhile. This event is a way to visualize all the cases we’ve had in the county.” (Michael Forster Rothbart/
Mini-Editorial: SUNY Oneonta Preparing Sensible Reopening Plan MINI EDITORIAL

SUNY Oneonta Preparing

Sensible Reopening Plan

Some commentary to the contrary, SUNY Oneonta is preparing a thorough, detailed, sensible reopening plan.

Don’t take our word for it.

One, look at the draft plan yourself.  It’s evolving – the final draft isn’t due in Albany until Dec. 10.  But it reflects thoughtful deliberation, fact-finding and discussion.

Two, look at the video posted above, of a “town hall meeting” for employees – faculty and staff – last week.  Pointed questions are answered directly, and hypothetical situations are calmly weighed.

Reviewing both will give you a sense of confidence, on issues ranging from in-person teaching, to bringing off-campus students under the same protocols as everyone else, to the once-weekly testing regimen.

75 Faculty Sign Petition Asking Leadership: Stop

75 Faculty Sign Petition

Asking Leadership: Stop

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

ONEONTA – The evening before SUNY Oneonta issued its Draft Reopening Plan, some faculty members posted a 25-point manifesto and petition online: They’re against it.

Addressed to “Dear Acting President Dennis Craig and Provost Leamor Kahanov,” it declares, “To regain our trust and confidence in your decision-making processes, shared governance at SUNY Oneonta must be restored.”

Each of the 25 points begin with the word “stop,” and accuses the administrators of “the pretense
of care, when your actions speak otherwise.” And “providing vague data/information about the economic/financial factors driving your decision-making.”

By Tuesday evening, Nov. 17, 567 people had signed the petition. The signatures included 71 faculty – out of a total 500 faculty members; the remaining signatures were students, alumni and Oneonta residents.

The petition identifies its source as the SUNY Oneonta COVID-19 Safety Coalition and exhorts, “Be Smart, SUNY Oneonta.”

In an interview and videos to the campus community, SUNY Oneonta President Dennis Craig said some differences arose as the Reopening Plan was being developed.

• One, there is some faculty resistance to the campus goal of offering face-to-face – or “mask-to-mask” (M2M) – instruction in 20 percent of classes. “If you look at the consolidated campuses within SUNY, 40, 50 up to 60 percent” of classes have a M2M option, he said, adding, “Currently, we are far below this benchmark.”

• Two, what’s called “dual modality,” where faculty must teach in-class students, and address students as home via a camera and microphone at the back of the room. “Dual modality is important to serve both segments of our student community” – those who want in-person instruction and those who prefer distance learning, he said.

“Our goal is to work with faculty and make sure our students have the in-person classes they need,” the president said.

Faculty Senate President Jim Wilkerson and UUP President Dave Lincoln didn’t return several calls, but Keith Schillo, a veteran biology professor, agreed to speak on behalf of the petitioners.

Some faculty members feel a collegial discussion “turned into a mandate – 20 percent live instruction, face to face,” he said. “And we were told how we could teach it: dual modality.”

He continued, “It seemed like a threat: that ‘if you didn’t want to do it we would make you do it’.”
Some faculty members have health concerns, not necessarily about themselves, but of parents or children living with them who have pre-existing conditions, he said.

“When people were raising these concerns,” he said, “we were accused of not caring about the community or students. We felt completely disrespected.”

In dual modality, it’s complicated to address two audiences, he said, the live students and a stationery camera. Masks can muffle transmissions. Classrooms aren’t always clean.

A perceived impersonality bothered some, Schillo said. For instance, medical exemptions require faculty to fill out a standard ADA form, which is then processed in the HR department.

“Last week, we learned they were going to offer a $1,000 stipend for a three-credit course,” he said. “Instead of enticing people, it made them more angry.”

The conclusions of the COVID Response Task Force are being shared by the deans with the department chairs, who then share findings with faculty.

There is not unanimity among departments, Schillo said. He’s heard biology, chemistry and elementary ed made a “unanimous” decision not to provide volunteers for dual-modality courses. On the other hand, he said, psychology and history have agreed to participate.

For their part, students “want to come back,” according to Student Asso-ciation President Gabriella Cesaria. An association survey of 1,500 students found 50 percent want on-campus classes to resume.

“To students, we are their rock, we are their home,” said Craig.

EDITORIAL: Unite In Making Plan Work

Unite In Making Plan Work

Doesn’t it remind you of what happened to Hartwick College President Margaret L. Drugovich?

No sooner had she arrived in 2008 on Oyaron Hill, when the Great Recession hit.

Within a few months, the fledgling president, with no chance to build a reputation or support among staff and faculty, had to begin laying people off.

The faculty balked. Criticism abounded.

Dennis Craig
Margaret Drugovich

Drugovich did what she had to do. Things settled down. The economy eventually rebounded, and Drugovich built the sterling reputation she has today.

Fast forward to 2020 and, across the valley, SUNY Oneonta President Dennis Craig.

It’s even moreso. Drugovich had a short honeymoon. Craig parachuted into the middle of a 700-plus COVID-19 infestation, one of the worst per-capita among U.S. campuses. His predecessor had departed precipitously. The New York Times’ front page was trumpeting our woes worldwide.

Craig immediately formed a COVID-19 Rapid Response Team. In a month – almost to the day – the team reported out a 22-page, single-space,
detailed-packed plan to take on the menace.

Pretty good.

So far, some of the faculty balked. But otherwise, criticism hasn’t abounded.

Just the opposite. Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig likes the plan’s focus on the safety of his constituents. Student Association President Gabby Cesaria likes the focus on a Feb. 1 reopening; she surveyed students, and 50 percent want to return to classes.

In recent decades, SUNY Oneonta has been on the make.

President Alan Donovan, now retired and an Oneonta community leader, began the drive to push up the quality of students and scholarship.

During his successor Nancy Kleniewski’s tenure, Oneonta was often mentioned, along with Geneseo and New Paltz, as one of “SUNY’s Ivies,” if you will.

During that period, the SUNY System invested heavily in the hilltop. Tom Rathbun, the level-headed assistant vice president/facilities, was spending $30-40 million a year upgrading the campus, and it looks great. (His successor, Lachlan Squair, appears to be quite an innovator, making SUNY Oneonta an innovator in Upstate Medical’s novel “pool testing.”)

And alumnus Bill Pullman starred in “Independence Day.” You can’t get much better than that.

SUNY Oneonta dropped the ball when COVID-19 arrived. That was then; recent, but then.

This is now.

The SUNY Oneonta community must want to return to what it was, a campus on the make. With its particular COVID mess behind it, the SUNY Oneonta community should strive, as one, to be a Model of the Reopening.

With two anti-COVID vaccines coming online, with the wide local acceptance of masks and social distancing, with the high-level of community sensitivity to COVID, it can be done.

The online petition – only a fraction of the faculty, some 71 out of 500 professors and instructors, have signed it – takes on Craig and Provost Leamor Kahanov personally.

While no doubt well meaning, the petition drive seems to be the wrong instrument at this point.

That’s misguided.

Of the many issues raised, the one about sensitivity to relatives of faculty who may have pre-existing conditions resonates most. But it’s hard to believe the administration would not seek to ensure what protection it can to people under particular threat of COVID.

No doubt the key players in the campus hierarchy are as imperfect as the rest of us, but – at this critical point in SUNY Oneonta’s history – let’s all pull together behind the people who, more than ever, need wide support.

And that includes the campus community and the rest of us, the public at large.

Plan: Catch Virus Before It Can Spread

Plan: Catch Virus

Before It Can Spread

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Dr. Dennis Craig

ONEONTA – A draft plan on reopening SUNY Oneonta on Feb. 1 was released Monday, Nov. 16, that – among many points in the single-spaced, 22-page document – addresses a particular community concern.

That is, preventing this fall’s outbreak of 700-plus on-campus cases from happening again.

In an interview, SUNY Oneonta President Dennis Craig called it “a strong plan” that includes a five-point prevention protocol he had outlined Nov. 9 in a video message to the campus:

• One, all students will be tested on arrival.

• Two, all students coming in from “hotspots” will be quarantined.

• Three, students, faculty and staff will undergo surveillance testing every two weeks.

• Four, a “pause” if the infection rate rises.

• And, five, Craig said, “what I would call a zero-tolerance code of conduct.”

“What gives the Oneonta plan an edge is: the campus went through something very difficult and learned lessons very quickly,” said Craig. “That makes it safer going forward.”

Under the plan, which is due in SUNY’s Albany headquarters by Dec. 10, students would begin returning Jan. 1, and classes – 20 percent of which would by M2M (mask-to-mask) – will begin Feb. 1.

The plan also limits the number of students taking classes on-campus to 1,100; it is usually 5,000. And only one person will be assigned to each dorm room; no more than four students will use each dorm bathroom, which will be cleaned twice daily.

Mayor Gary Herzig previewed the plan over the weekend and said Monday, “I found it to be very encouraging.”

“There was a significant increased focus on what happened off-campus, building stronger community relations, and eliminating unsafe behaviors,” he said. “That was something we did not see in the plan for opening in the fall.”

Craig bolstered that initiative Monday, he announced the appointment of Franklin D. Chambers to a new position, vice president/external affairs. In Oneonta since 2015, Chambers, who has been VP/student development, “will build and attend to the connections that make SUNY Oneonta among our region’s most unique assets,” the president said.

“I’m also encouraged by the open communications and sense of partnerships I’ve had with President Craig over the past several weeks, which is critical to a safe opening,” the mayor said. “We all want the campus to open. I think the plan does a good job of addressing risks while allowing the college to return to some semblance of normalcy.”

The plan was developed over the past month by a COVID Response Team co-chaired by Provost Leamor Kahanov and Vice President/Finance & Administration Julie Piscitello, and may be viewed in full by Googling “SUNY Oneonta 2021 reopening.”

Kahanov agreed tighter testing is the hallmark of the document. First, requiring students to get tested before arriving on campus.

Also, that off-campus students not only have to undergo daily checks – temperatures and the like – before coming on campus, and will have to carry a card that records those checks.

Council Member Drnek: Students Can Help Decorate Downtown

Students Invited To

Decorate Downtown

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – Following the success of the downtown Halloween events, where SUNY and Hartwick students decorated scarecrows and handed out candy to trick-or-treaters, Council Member Mark Drnek, Eighth Ward and chair of the Survive, Then Thrive committee, has invited students to help decorate downtown for Christmas.

“If you or your friends are artistically inclined, we would love it if you would help decorate our windows for Christmas,” he said during the final meeting of the SUNY COVID Control Room this semester. “We think it’s something people would want to see when they’re shopping downtown.”

SUNY Oneonta  Posts Plan Aimed At Feb. 1 Opening


SUNY Oneonta 

Posts Plan Aimed

At Feb. 1 Opening

Goal: Serve 20% Of Students

On Campus, Expand Testing

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Dr. Craig addresses campus community on arrival.

ONEONTA – SUNY Oneonta today posted its draft plan to bring, if not face-to-face, mask-to-mask (M-2-M) instruction back to campus, offering an in-person option in 20 percent of its courses to the 1,100 students who, for now, may return to class as of Feb. 1.

Revisions to the draft are planned, with a Dec. 10 goal set for its final completion.

“What gives the Oneonta plan an edge is: the campus went through something very difficult, and learned lessons very quickly,” Interim President Dennis Craig said in an interview this morning.  “That makes it safer going forward.”



SUNY Oneonta Faculty Petition To Be Allowed To Remain Out Of Class


SUNY Oneonta Faculty

Petition To Be Allowed

To Remain Out Of Class

ONEONTA – A petition signed by 75 SUNY Oneonta faculty members is issuing a “demand” that no faculty member be “mandated” to return to the classroom if the campus reopens on Feb. 1.

A waiver should be allowed “if the faculty member deems this to be unsafe, based on their own mental, emotional, and/or physical health, caregiving responsibilities, or other personal factors which may increase their risk,” said the petition

Under New Plan, SUNY Students Return Feb. 1

Under New SUNY Plan,

Students Return Feb. 1

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA –  For the last two weeks, SUNY Oneonta Interim President Dennis Craig has been listening – to staff, to community members, to students.

“We have identified that 50 percent of the students desire on-campus courses,” he said in an address sent to the campus community on Monday, Nov. 9.

As such, Craig plans to re-open the campus as a “low-density” model, with approximately 900 of the school’s 2,738 students living on campus, with another group living in the city and commuting to campus, and others learning entirely remotely.

The full plan, put together with his COVID Response Team, is being finalized and will be presented to the campus and the public on Monday, Nov. 16.

The local plan is tailored along guidelines issued Sunday, Nov. 8, by SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras, which include pushing the semester start date back to Feb. 1, cancelling spring break to make up for the
late start.

To return to campus, Malatras said, all students will have to complete a seven-day precautionary quarantine before their arrival, where they will be tested for COVID, as well as being tested throughout the semester.

To be a “dual-modality,” campus, 20 percent of courses need to be delivered both online and in-person, up from 7 percent.

“That number is not enough to achieve our goals of working with students in optimal learning environments,” said Craig. “If we teach approximately 20 percent of our course sections with an on-campus dual modality, we will be able to provide our students on campus an in-person academic experience.”

And although students will have to wear masks on campus, he said the staff is working to offer “a robust mix” of events, lectures and activities to provide students with social opportunities on campus, rather than restrict students to their rooms when not in class.

Still, there will be a “zero tolerance” policy in place for infractions, such as the off-campus party that caused the outbreak in September, he said.

“The students I have spoken to take that to heart,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “This is an issue that requires every one of us to look out for each other.”

Craig also hosted students in his “office hours,” where he fielded questions from RA’s requesting single rooms during the pandemic – a demand during the threatened strike this fall – as well as increased access to mental health services.

“Not having a spring break will be a real obstacle for us,” one student told him. “We need that week
to take the stress out of our lives.”

Malatras said campuses can build in a “reading day” as a way to help students decompress while remaining on campus.

But the return of students is a welcome one, said Herzig. “Students are a big part of our community,
both economically and culturally,” he said. “Reopening the college will improve the economic crisis that businesses and taxpayers are experiencing.”

He has also reinstituted bus service to the campus for the students who remained on campus for
the fall semester.

“Our transportation director has been meeting with the student association,” he said. “We want
to provide students with the transportation they need without facilitating late-night parties.”






All Students Will Be Tested

Before Returning To SUNY-O

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras Aug. 30 on his first trip to the SUNY Oneonta campus at the height of the local outbreak. ( photo)

ONEONTA – In Albany Sunday, SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras released a plan he said will allow campuses like SUNY Oneonta to safely return to in-person instruction in the spring semester.

The  main components are:

  • The students’ return will be pushed  back to Feb. 1 from Jan. 22.
  • All returning students will complete seven-day precautionary quarantines before arriving on campus.
  • On arriving, all students will be tested for COVID-19 on return to campus, and will be tested through the semester.
  • Masks must be worn at all times, even with social distancing.
  • In “plain language,” a “What Students Should Know” message will go to all students, so there are  no misunderstandings.
  • Students will work through spring break to make up for late start.



MAN of THE HOUR Can Hero Of Purchase Save SUNY Oneonta?


Can Hero Of Purchase

Save SUNY Oneonta?

Dennis Craig, SUNY Oneonta’s new interim president, had an instinct for readiness, forming a disaster preparedness committee on arriving at SUNY Purchase as a vice president in 2006. He discusses lessons learned and how to apply them to the Oneonta campus in an exclusive interview. (Ian Austin/


SUNY Oneonta’s interim President Dennis Craig with “my ambassador” – Beckett.

ONEONTA – For SUNY Oneonta’s interim President Dennis Craig, 55, it’s all about how you react to a crisis.

“In tough incidents, sometimes you’re more defined by your response than by the incident itself,” he said, whether cheating, an instance of bias, a suicide, even a murder.

When that happens, “I’m all about transparency and giving people more information, and letting them decide what they need to know,” he said in his first local interview since arriving on campus Thursday, Oct. 15.

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras picked Craig to succeed Barbara Jean Morris, who resigned after COVID-19 raged out of control at the local campus, infecting more than 700 students, more than on any campus in the nation.

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