SUNY Cortland shifts to temporary study-in-place operation

SUNY Cortland shifts to temporary study-in-place operation

10/05/2020 

The following announcement of a temporary, 14-day study-in-place period to contain rising COVID case numbers among SUNY Cortland students was sent to students, faculty and staff on behalf of President Erik J. Bitterbaum:

Members of the SUNY Cortland community,

Due to rising numbers of COVID-19 infections among SUNY Cortland students, the university has decided to temporarily shift from face-to-face instruction to a remote study-in-place model aimed at containing the spread of the virus to a safer, more manageable level.

Starting Wednesday, Oct. 7, all students who are currently living on-campus or off-campus in the Cortland area shall remain in their current housing locations and do classwork remotely for a temporary two-week period. 

If  COVID infections among SUNY Cortland students have fallen to levels acceptable under state and local health department guidelines, the university will resume in-person and hybrid classes. 

The SUNY Cortland campus is not closing. All fundamental operations of the college will continue, with employees continuing in their current work arrangements. We truly believe that if all students  cooperate and sacrifice for those two weeks, we will be able to return to the less restrictive conditions we have operated under since the semester started.

As I have previously shared, SUNY requires all institutions within its system to move to remote delivery of education if they record 100 positive tests in their community within a particular two-week period. By Monday evening, SUNY Cortland had 101 positive tests within  the current 14-day period.

The health and safety of our community has always been our top priority, and making this shift in our operation prior to reaching the official 100-case threshold is the best action to take given our circumstances.  

I will not try to sugarcoat it: The next two weeks will be challenging.  But it’s what we need to do in order to continue functioning as a campus and a concerned member of the Cortland community.

Luckily, most SUNY Cortland students with the infection have suffered only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Feeling healthy, however, can also lead COVID-positive students to be frustrated by mandated restrictions. We are all feeling fatigued after months of following guidelines and living altered lifestyles. But we can’t let up. That’s not what members of the SUNY Cortland family do. We will work to strengthen our digital connections with one another, and make the best of the situation, understanding that the sacrifice will be temporary.

This is what the 14-day remote Study-in-Place period means for the SUNY Cortland community:

  • Limited movement outside residence
    • No student should go home or travel to another community during this period in order to eliminate the possibility of infected students carrying the virus to their families and potentially igniting an outbreak in their hometowns. By limiting travel, we also reduce the risk of students bringing an infection back to campus from another community.
    • If a residential student chooses to go home during this time, their card access will be removed and they will not be allowed  to return to campus housing. They will not be eligible for a refund of housing or meal plan charges. The only exception to this policy will be students with a medical condition documented through the university’s Disability Resources Office or the Counseling Center.
    • All students, both on campus and off campus, are required to limit their movements outside their residences to essential needs only, such as working jobs, or attending medical appointments or accessing food.
    • On-campus students should not visit off-campus student apartments or housing of any kind. This has been a common cause of virus transmission among SUNY Cortland students.
    • Off-campus students should not come to campus unless they have a meal plan, are scheduled to work an on-campus job or have been scheduled for surveillance testing.
    • Students are expected to diligently follow all rules regarding face coverings, physical distancing, gathering in groups and other safety measures while they are in the community. They should limit their time in local establishments, getting restaurant meals to go, for example, rather than sitting at tables.
  • Academics
    • All in-person instruction will be suspended and delivered in a remote learning format for at least two weeks. 
    • This suspension includes fine arts and other classes that require extensive hands-on instruction. In these situations, instructors will provide alternative assignments during the 14-day study-in-place period.
    • If the study-in-place order is lifted after two weeks, faculty members who previously taught face-to-face classes have the discretion to either return to the classroom or keep the entire class online for the rest of the semester.
    • For classes that return to in-person delivery, no option for online-only classes will be provided to individual students who request them.
  • Dining
    • Campus dining will shift to grab-and-go, with no options for indoor seating except for students that have an accommodation established through the Disability Resources Office.
    • The residential dining halls, Bistro and Neubig, will remain open normal business hours for grab and go meals.
    • Retail dining units in Corey Union and Hilltop in Brockway Hall will be open for take-out only.
    • All Cortland Dining student employees will continue to work as scheduled.
    • The College Store will be available for online orders only. Package services will continue normal operations.
    • Students may eat outdoors as long as physical distancing, face covering and all other Covid-related guidelines are followed.
  • University Life
    • Students should not gather together in groups of more than six people, whether on-campus or off-campus. This includes walking together, engaging in an activity outdoors or similar groupings. At all times, students must follow physical distancing, face covering and other anti-virus guidelines.
    • All existing COVID-related rules and restrictions will be strictly enforced at all times under the strengthened, SUNY-wide sanctions imposed by the SUNY Chancellor on Sept. 25. These guidelines apply to off-campus activities as well as on-campus activities and require penalties that include permanent dismissal, suspension and loss of campus housing.
    • Health services will continue to be provided to all students. All students, whether on-campus or off-campus, should feel free to contact the Student Health Center to make an appointment if they are ill. The contact number is: 607-753-4811.  Information on Counseling services can be found at edu/counseling.
    • The Student Life Center will be closed for the duration of the study-in-place period
    • All in-person extracurricular programs and other non-essential student activities will be suspended, including club sport activities and intramurals.
    • All in-person activity by athletic teams will be halted during the study-in-place period.
    • Dedicated student services will continue to be provided with enhanced virtual programming to keep all members of the community connected and engaged.
    • Library operations will continue in a limited capacity throughout the study-in-place period pause and will make more of its services available online.
  • Quarantine and Isolation
    • Off-campus students in quarantine and isolation by order of the Cortland County Health Department will be monitored and remain in their current locations until they are released by the Health Department.
    • On-campus students in quarantine and isolation by order of the Cortland County Health Department will be moved to campus quarantine and isolation housing and cared for and monitored by SUNY Cortland.
  • Testing
    • Mandatory surveillance testing of students, faculty and staff will increase in frequency during the study-in-place period.
    • All students will be held responsible for reporting to their assigned surveillance-testing appointments. Failure to respond will result in interim suspension until the student reports.
    • Students who have already tested should expect to receive additional scheduled appointments. That is intentional. A test is only good for the snapshot of time that it reflects, and we are trying to prevent the spread of infections.

I want to thank every member of the SUNY Cortland community for their focused and continued dedication to practicing safe behaviors. The majority of our students have done their best to fight the pandemic. Staying out of this fight is no longer an option for any of us.

All the best,

Erik J. Bitterbaum

 


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