By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
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
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.”