SUNY Cortland, Tompkins Cortland Community College and every campus in the SUNY system will move to online classes for the rest of the semester to reduce coronavirus spread. That leaves students concerned about the money they’re spending to not be at college, and businesses concerned about the money the 6,300 customers won’t be spending in Cortland.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the plan Wednesday afternoon.
“That would be a way to reduce density, and that’s a good thing,” Cuomo said. By reducing large gatherings of people, state officials hope they will be able to control the spread of the virus.
Earlier in the day, the World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic.
SUNY Cortland administrators met Wednesday afternoon to discuss the implications for the campus, which has about 6,300 students and 900 employees, said Jennifer Wilson, associate director of communications.
Together, those people generated more than $135 million in spending per year in 2012, the latest figures available, and nearly $250 million in total economic effect in the greater Cortland area.
SUNY Cortland was already scheduled to close for spring break on Friday. Classes were to resume March 23, but the campus will not reopen this semester.
‘Going to hurt a lot of businesses’
Leslie and Steve Wineburg, co-owners of Bernard’s at 107 Main St., said they were less concerned about the immediate effect of temporarily losing students as customers and more concerned with the overall effect on other businesses.
“Our business is not just the college,” Leslie Wineburg said. “I think it’s going to affect all the businesses — the pizza parlors, the restaurants — and those are my customers too.”
“It’s going to hurt a lot of businesses,” Steve Wineburg said, adding he was worried about the the trickle-down effect from other businesses.
“This is going to be a big problem for the entire world,” he said.
Red Jug Pub owner Tom Terwilliger said he needed more information before saying how the semi-closed campus will affect his businesses — he has bars in Cortland, Oneonta and Brockport.
“I think there’s a lot of details that need to be worked out before a decision,” he said.
SUNY students 21 and older make up a good percentage of his clientele, he said, and also work as bartenders, security workers and managers.
Terwilliger said he hopes students who live in off-campus housing stay around.
“That’s my hope,” he said.
The closing won’t affect Cort- Lanes bowling alley much, said owner John Partigianoni.
“We do a little bit of college business but not that much,” he said.
SUNY Cortland has a class that meets twice a week at the alley and students come during open bowling but the majority of the business’s clientele is not college students.
“Hopefully, they are making the right decision,” Partigianoni said.
Not quite a closure
The SUNY Cortland campus will not close down, but after spring break most classes will be conducted through distance learning, according to a statement from SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum.
Bitterbaum said that on-campus students do not have to take all of their belongings home. However, they should bring home:
n Additional clothing or supplies, including medications.
n Any personal documentation, including health insurance cards.
n All coursework materials.
n Laptops or tablets and their chargers, plus other electronics.
He also warned that students who plan to travel during spring break that they may be subject to quarantine.
‘We paid for a service’
Some students said they were concerned about how the changes in programs would affect them.
Thomas Ryan, a senior communications major from Long Beach on Long Island, agreed with the decision to use caution, but he was disappointed that he might lose the end of his senior year on campus.
“It’s surrreal,” he said.
Ryan, a member of the college men’s swim team, said he was not worried about his own health but for vulnerable populations.
“Personally, I’m not really worried,” he said. “I’m a strapping young man. I’ll be all right.”
Dylan Salisbury, a junior sociology major from Binghamton, said he thought the college should have remained operating as normal while testing for the virus when necessary.
“We’re all here and we’re all all right,” Salisbury said.
He said he prefers interaction with professors and does not like online courses. Students should receive a rebate if programs and services are curtailed, Salisbury said.
“We paid for a service,” he said.
TC3 moving online, too
TC3 will also go to online learning, said Bryan Chambala, the college’s director of communications.
The school’s administration plans to speak with SUNY’s chancellor’s office to work out details.
“Obviously, it’s going to impact our students in some way,” Chambala said, but did not have numbers about how many students or faculty.
The campus will be open in some capacity after March 19 but the details still need to be worked out.
Additionally, the school will look at ways of communicating with students who don’t have a good internet connection, he said.
New York had 216 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including 43 new ones Wednesday, all in the New York City area, except for a few cases in Saratoga and Ulster counties.
SUNY has about 416,000 students on 64 campuses, while CUNY serves about 275,000 students per year, according to their websites.
“With more than 100,000 SUNY students currently taking one or more of their courses online with us, we believe we are prepared and well-positioned to take advantage of remote instruction to further our student’s education during this crisis,” SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson said in a prepared statement.
Staff reporters Travis Dunn and Colin Spencer and City Editor Kevin Conlon contributed to this report.