By Olivia Bousquet
It’s time to put down the red solo cups and put on a mask, SUNY Plattsburgh students.
President Alexander Enyedi cracked down on immediate suspensions after 43 students were caught partying at Sailor’s Beach Aug. 21. A police report said students were not following social distancing guidelines, and no face masks were worn. Students were required to leave campus Aug. 26, without any knowledge of a return date.
“I would’ve hoped it would get people to stop and be more self aware,” SUNY Plattsburgh junior Maddy Zophy said, “but we are in college and we can’t tell people what to do.”
Zophy had a normal college experience and doesn’t feel the need to party now, but she does feel bad for the freshmen. Fraternity parties were a weekly occurrence with hundreds of students wandering around downtown Plattsburgh. There was no need to socially distance from friends, or even wearing a mask for something as simple as going to brush her teeth down the hall.
“I understand the school is trying to protect the community and the campus,” Zophy said, regarding the suspensions, “I feel like this was a stunt to be used as an example for the rest of campus.”
The first-round of pool testing, a 10 to 15 second swabbing of the mouth, provided great success with zero positive cases of the 463 students tested. This is due to the diligence around campus, students wearing their masks and social distancing. Hawkins Pond has been quiet with few students soaking up the last days of summer on the benches. The campus halls feel barren. But the problems lie behind the view of administrative eyes.
“It’s frustrating to see people are going to parties without hesitation,” SUNY Plattsburgh freshman Colleen Edwards said. “It could potentially send everyone home; it affects everyone on campus.”
Freshman Michael Brockway lives on campus in a suite of five, ranging from freshmen to seniors. The suite agreed to avoid parties and people who haven’t been adhering to social distancing guidelines. Students are being smart and aware of the pandemic’s repercussions.
“I’ve been spending time by running a lot, fishing, exploring the local area and walking,” Brockway said. “I’ve been making good use of my time in other ways than partying and hanging out in large groups.”
SUNY Plattsburgh students were required to send health screening forms prior to campus arrival, along with a continual daily self-screening. The staggered move-in of students allowed for less contact with others, along with precautionary measures in the dorm buildings. Water fountains are closed off, and limitations on entrances and elevator occupancy all work to reduce potential contact.
SUNY Oneonta however, was in-class for one week before Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent in a SWAT team of 71 tracers and eight investigators. Aug. 30 SUNY Oneonta suspended classes for two weeks after large, off-campus parties caused over 100 positive COVID-19 cases. New York State guidance requires schools to return to remote learning for two weeks once cases reach 5% of the student population or 100 cases.
Unfortunately for SUNY Oneonta, students were sent home Sept. 3 indefinitely for the fall semester when 389 people tested positive. The 6,000-student college is the first of the SUNY schools to stop in-person classes.
College students are fortunate to be attending in-class courses. The student body actions should be held to the highest standard, in reflection of the school and of the individuals. Incoming students can be disheartened by the unusual circumstances, but it’s better than Zooming from bed at home. SUNY Plattsburgh’s serious protocols for students during the pandemic are saving the campus and community from an outbreak.
At the beginning of the semester, the Inter-fraternity Council met with each Greek organization to discuss rules and regulations during the pandemic. SUNY Plattsburgh fraternities/sororities are not allowed to have social events with alcohol, and social events without alcohol must be approved by a committee. Each event must be submitted with guidelines on how social distancing will be possible and masks are mandatory.
“Accountability is on the individual organizations,” IFC President Nicholas Avenia said.
Greek life members are responsible for paying high dues, regardless of residing on campus or not. They care about staying, and have been helping by volunteering at testing centers and outside of residence halls to enforce mask protocols through the community service app, Helper Helper.
No one wants to be sent home. Except for the nine Pi Kappa Phi brothers, who were recently suspended for violating campus conduct standards. Partying risks the fraternity’s future on-campus, along with serious repercussions such as a judicial review and enrollment status.
“We have to keep fraternities and sororities accountable, but we also have to keep the student body as a whole accountable,” Avenia said. “Housing and Residence Life seem to be doing a good job so far.”
Hand sanitizer is placed strategically around campus in high-traffic areas. Signs are posted across campus where to enter buildings and to wear a mask. Pool testing will continue. Students, faculty and staff are noticeably working to make campus safe.
The semester is still in the beginning stages. Students cannot slack on washing hands, social distancing and wearing masks. If students remain resilient throughout the year, students won’t face the agony of packing up early to go home, again.