This weekend, despite the serious threat that COVID-19 poses to us all, dozens of SUNY Cortland students attended an illegal off-campus house party. The party’s hosts were charged by the Cortland Police Department and have been placed on interim suspension. All identified students will face disciplinary action under the SUNY system’s uniform sanctioning policy that could include dismissal or suspension.
To say that I am disappointed and frustrated would be an understatement. The party was held just hours after I reached out to give you an update on the rising number of COVID-19 cases at SUNY Cortland. The selfishness and lack of judgement illustrated by Saturday’s party is appalling.
All students who attended the party should be aware that, given the widespread presence of COVID-19 in the community, it is likely they were exposed to the virus and may be unintentionally spreading it to others. It is imperative that these students participate in campus surveillance testing this week and I urge all of them to voluntarily quarantine until they have a result.
The Cortland Police and University Police departments will continue working together to locate and stop reckless and dangerous parties. Any resident of a home hosting such a party will be suspended. Students and parents should also note that suspension means the loss of tuition payment, room, board and fees for the semester. All students are aware of what is required to protect the health and safety of themselves and their community. The only plausible explanation for violating guidelines is that you simply cared more about your own fleeting fun than the harm you might cause by spreading a potentially fatal disease.
When I praised the majority of SUNY Cortland students for consistently wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding groups larger than 10 people, I meant it. And I still believe it is true: most students are doing what is needed to get us through the pandemic safely and prevent the campus from moving into a study-in-place model.
We are in the middle of a devastating pandemic that has killed nearly half a million Americans in just one year. Life simply cannot go on as though this danger does not exist. All of us are sacrificing today to have a better tomorrow. I understand that your college experience this year is different than what you might have imagined it would be. Still, I cannot stress enough how much we need each of you to follow all health and safety guidelines so that we can stop the spread of the virus, safeguard our community and preserve our semester.
All the best,
Erik J. Bitterbaum