ONEONTA, NY (WUTR-TV) — On Tuesday, SUNY Oneonta announced several new measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The college is:
- discouraging students living in residence halls from returning to campus following spring break, which will end this weekend, except to move out;
- directing non-essential employees not to work on campus, and substantially curtailing services as a result;
- closing most buildings, except to those who need access to them; and
- canceling or postponing nearly all spring semester events.
After sharing a growing list of cancellations, postponements, closures and curtailments with students and employees last night, the college announced today the postponement of commencement. The event, which had been scheduled for May 9, will take place this fall on a date yet to be determined.
“We know this is absolutely heartbreaking for our seniors,” said SUNY Oneonta President Barbara Jean Morris. “Unfortunately, there is just no way to safely move forward with commencement, our largest gathering of the year.”
An earlier message yesterday afternoon from the Office of the President to students affirmed that classes would resume in remote-learning modalities beginning March 23 and suggested that students “not return to campus after spring break if at all possible.” Consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for social distancing, the college has developed a staggered move-out process that will limit the number of people entering residence halls at any one time.
A telecommuting pilot program that began yesterday will keep many college employees away from campus for several weeks. Through May 14, only those who are essential to the operation of the institution or involved in the COVID-19 emergency response will continue reporting to work.
With fewer workers on campus, there will be much less face-to-face interaction at college offices. While there are alternative means to deliver some services, such as counseling, which can be provided remotely, the college has suspended non-essential services that require employees to be present to perform. The college has already begun locking many public spaces within several buildings, such as all indoor recreation facilities. The Hunt Union is closed, except for Starbucks, which will continue to serve on a carry-out basis only.
“All of these are painstaking decisions. Everyone at the college recognizes the tremendous sense of disappointment that comes with them,” said Morris. “We must act in our students’ and employees’ best interest. We also have an obligation to safeguard the broader Oneonta community. What we do now may save lives later.”