By Lisette Linares
2020 has been a very hectic academic year. Schools were shutting down, and students were adjusting to distance learning via virtual platforms such as Zoom amidst the coronavirus pandemic. In March, the New York State and SUNY system wound up in the dark with no contingency plan in place in regards to the upcoming fall 2020 semester. Forced to adapt to this new reality, the pandemic sparked confusion and left several people wondering if and when universities were going to reopen.
SUNY Plattsburgh President Alexander Enyedi said the SUNY system created the proper guidelines prioritizing both safety and education.
“By May 15, we wrote a preliminary summary that was submitted to the SUNY system for feedback. Once we got through that plan, we submitted it to SUNY, and SUNY worked with the State of New York to certify our plan. Our plan was certified July 3rd,” Enyedi said.
The college spent various weeks formulating a plan that was “COVID appropriate” as President Enyedi phrased. State and school leadership organizations prioritized the ability to social distance, the use of personal protection equipment, screening and testing, hygiene, cleaning and disinfection in order to secure academic continuity. The draft was thoroughly reviewed and composed through Enyedi’s cabinet and the Policy Management Group. This 15-person group is able to meet these requirements and pass them down to others to ensure all of them are met, as well as a smooth and safe transition is ensured for both the students and the faculty.
Enyedi, along with other faculty and officials, developed five separate working groups in the SUNY Plattsburgh Fall 2020 Restart Plan. These included:
Health, Safety and Continuity Operation This group ensures safety protocols are met such as social distancing and an optional aggressive COVID pooled testing
Academics and Instructional Continuity This group observes and records which particular classrooms would open this fall semester, like measuring and removing furniture to ensure social distancing capacity across campus
Housing and Campus Life This aspect of the reopening plan is includes no visitors, mandated masks and event restrictions
Student Support and Equity Faculty and staff will continue to run critical programs for students including, social events such as celebrations (online and otherwise), counseling and assisting with peer-to-peer networks. In addition to this, students will have the ability to access emergency grants through the Plattsburgh College Foundation if need be
Communications, Admissions, and Recruitment Through the use of a variety of groups and organizations such as but not limited to Student Recruitment Marketing, University Policy, Local Businesses as well as community leaders or influencers, communications between faculty and students will be prioritized.
The five separate working groups included all the possible situations and corresponding precedents to ensure any unanticipated events that may occur shall be covered in the restart plan.
Meeting all the New York State and SUNY requirements and receiving the proper certifications, the Communications working group rolled out the plan and its guidelines to all students and faculty through various means from emails to equally important subordinates.
The Community Advocates are responsible for keeping students safe every day. Xavier Merced is a seasoned third semester CA at SUNY Plattsburgh, and said the changes and the precautions taken by the administration have been very strict. Interpolated in the pandemic, people’s lives at risk and loosening protocols may prevent someone from going back to loved ones.
“At the end of the day, we just want to ensure all students have the fair chance to experience college for what it is but also stay safe,” Merced said. The guidelines proposed in the original plan are straightforward to ensure safety of one’s self and others, only requiring “higher responsibility” as well as constantly being aware to ensure safety on campus.
Enyedi mentioned what students should take away from the policies that were implemented with a specific metaphor.
“I think about seat belts,” he said. “Seat belts weren’t invented to save people who were involved with accidents in the past. Seat belts were created to protect people in the future. And so for me, my goal is to protect everyone on our campus.”