October 22, 2021

SUNY Cortland facilities shut to outside community

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

A SUNY Cortland student enters the Dowd Fine Arts Center on Wednesday. Students, faculty and staff can access all the buildings on campus, but the general public cannot, under a policy the college enacted to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

You can still walk on the sidewalks and across campus at SUNY Cortland, but unless you’re a student, faculty or staff, you can’t go inside.

SUNY Cortland has closed its facilities to the outside community, President Erik Bitterbaum said Wednesday, to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

“We are trying to be as protective as we can” against the coronavirus, he said.

The decision was made late in the summer and students were notified before their arrival. No public notice had been made before today, but a statement will be made in the coming days, said Fred Pierce, director of communications at the college.

The only exceptions, Pierce said, would be for service or repair workers. And they would have to complete the same screening procedure that staff and students have to and follow campus protocols regarding mandatory face coverings and social distancing.

“It’s like everything else we do with trying to come up with policies that will ensure safety to the greatest extent possible while allowing operations to continue to the greatest extent possible,” Pierce said.

Reactions to the news were mixed.

“I think it’s probably safer that way so that the people that are in the buildings are more or less around each other every day,” said Emily Faulk, a sophomore from Watertown.

She said the faculty, staff and students spend the majority of their time on campus, as opposed to members of the public, who could be from places that have hotspots for the virus.

However, Jaroslava Prihodova, the director of the Dowd Gallery at the Dowd Fine Arts Center, said she understood the decision but questioned why students were allowed to be out in the community.

“It should go both ways if you want to prevent something from happening,” she said.

She also noted that at least one-third of the people who come to gallery exhibitions are members of the public.

Because of this change, which she was notified of on Monday, she had to revise an announcement of an exhibition starting today, which will now only the campus community can view in person.

Members of the public can view pieces from the exhibition online on the Dowd Gallery’s website, Facebook and Instagram pages.

Following this change, all guest speakers will hold the speeches or lectures virtually, Bitterbaum said.

Pierce said classes have only been in session for four days, but the college has not had issues of outsiders coming into campus buildings.

Those who do will first be asked to leave. If they do not, campus police will be called.

Bitterbaum said that if a vaccine is available by the end of the semester, allowing people back on campus may come as soon as then.

He said that a re-evaluation may take place in January.

“It’s a short-term sacrifice for a longterm gain to be here in person,” Bitterbaum said.