The following message was sent to students on behalf of President Erik J. Bitterbaum:
SUNY Cortland students,
Your choice is simple: Cover up, or pack up.
Make no mistake, SUNY Cortland will rigorously enforce all of its safeguards against the spread of COVID-19. We will take swift action against students who host gatherings in their residence halls or off campus, and those students will be facing suspension.
We are not being harsh. The reality is, students who don’t exhibit safe behavior are a threat to themselves, their 6,800 fellow students, faculty, staff, and residents in the Cortland region.
Only four days after freshman students began arriving, nearly 30 students have already been charged with disciplinary violations and at least one has tested positive for COVID-19. We have received reports of students gathering in large groups and not wearing masks. Although we believe education is more effective than punishment, blatant disregard for these rules could leave us no choice. SUNY Plattsburgh, for example, has already suspended 43 students for violating safeguards. Syracuse University recently suspended 23.
Please understand that the stakes are literally life and death. You do not want to be the person whose recklessness leads to an outbreak that sickens, or even kills, people who may be more vulnerable to the illness than you are. You do not want to be the person whose inability to sacrifice for 14 weeks forces the entire university to shut down and move to remote learning.
We understand that what colleges and universities are asking of students this fall is difficult. Masks are uncomfortable. You long for the social campus experience you’ve been imagining, and you are disappointed and bored. We need you to give it time. As more students move back, as classes and activities begin, as you learn new ways to meet and interact with people, things will get better. The key is cooperation.
If you feel you cannot abide by these rules, if you insist on challenging staff, faculty or fellow students who ask you to follow guidelines, then frankly, this may not be the right time for you to be a SUNY Cortland student. Please don’t force us to make that decision for you.
Act smart, be safe and stay strong.