SUNY Oswego is nearing the end of the initial two-week remote learning period caused by a spike of COVID-19 cases on campus, and SUNY officials have imposed a number of restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. 

OSWEGO — Higher education leaders in the state are implementing a new set of measures of accountability for SUNY students who fail to comply with previous COVID-19 prevention directives ahead of next Monday, when the current period of pause to in-person instruction at the Oswego campus is set to expire. 

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras announced last week the set of policies to punish students who do not adhere to the state’s collection of COVID-19 precautions, including wearing a face cover and social distancing when required, prohibiting hosting and attending of on or off-campus gatherings of any size and failure to comply with contact tracing.

Violating such measures could result in academic and housing suspension, program dismissal and a ban for student organizations who fail to follow state regulations, according to a release issued by the state’s university system.

Malatras said in a statement the set of measures is going into effect Friday in order to try and keep in-person instruction consistent across the state, as state regulations imposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo require campuses to pivot to online learning if they report 100 positive cases of COVID-19 during a two-week period.

Last week, SUNY Oswego halted face-to-face learning after shortly before reaching the 100-case threshold in the span of 14 days. The SUNY Oswego pause period is set to expire the same day the wider SUNY regulations will go into effect, and university leaders are slated to convene and further discuss how to move forward with in-person education.

SUNY Oswego President Deborah Stanley said she remains confident in the methods of enforcement and trusts the student body.

“The majority of our campus community has been following the rules and guidelines in place, which has helped us bring our positive cases down the past week,” Stanley said in a statement. “During the pause, we have been intensely monitoring cases, conducting aggressive testing, engaging with our students via increased virtual offerings, and communicating with SUNY and the health department.”

A Tuesday update to the SUNY Oswego COVID-19 dashboard reports 26 positive cases within the current two-week period, which resets next week. There are 30 active cases overall and 277 cumulative cases out of 9,002 administered tests.

Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang struck a positive tone when discussing the downward trend in new COVID-19 cases connected to SUNY Oswego over the past week, and noted the actions taken to control the outbreak are having an impact. 

"We're seeing a slow downturn in positive cases from the campus, for both on-campus and the off-campus student," Huang said. "The college leaderships' decision is working."

An overwhelming majority of cases at the university show signs of a speedy recovery, with 247 cases marked as recovered.

While decision makers remain optimistic, SUNY Oswego students have felt the impacts of the pandemic and transitioning to new methods of learning. 

Sydney Havens, a Watertown native and Oswego sophomore majoring in broadcasting, told The Palladium-Times in a recent interview she prefers in-person instruction.

“I prefer face-to-face classes just because I really value my relationships with my professors and I feel like it’s harder to make connections with people over Zoom,” said Havens, whose class schedule included an in-person and a hybrid course. “You don’t have the benefit of casual conversation that you would in a classroom.” 

Adjusting to a new life on campus has also been difficult, Havens said.

“I’ve had to adjust the routine I’m used to having,” she continued. “For instance, I usually would get up early and walk to class, I would get coffee in between classes, study in a lounge while waiting for my next class to start, and meet up with friends. Now I just roll out of bed and open up my laptop.”

Being able to access study spaces is also Havens said she sorely misses.

“I can’t even go to a lounge if I want to because you can’t sit around on campus. This has impacted my motivation and the ways that I typically keep myself going throughout the day. It’s definitely easy to get bored when you’re just sitting in front of your laptop all day.”

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