The two colleges in the town of Alfred have taken varying approaches to reopen during a global pandemic. Alfred University began classes on August 24th, with the first two weeks online, while Alfred State College started the semester with regular in-person classes. Some students from ASC expressed their concerns about not having the option to take classes remotely.
Alfred State College Administration stated that, “the college evaluated each curriculum with the goal of providing in-person instruction. There are exceptions for medical conditions that prevent in-person attendance.” However, SUNY reopening guidelines requires that each campus must take into account vulnerable populations, which includes individuals who may not feel comfortable returning to campus. Plans must outline ways for them to safely and comfortably participate in educational activities.
Within the first two weeks of classes, Alfred State had its first positive test for COVID-19 from a student living on campus.
On August 18, the ASC Faculty Senate Executive Committee held a Resolution of No Confidence in the Alfred State Administration. The Faculty Senate Executive Committee stated the following: The Alfred State College Reopening Plan was approved by SUNY despite problems, not least of which included the lack of testing ability…the approval by SUNY was understood by Alfred State College administration as an endorsement of the plan of discontinuing the Telecommuting Agreement as well as an endorsement of opening without full testing capability, contact tracing, and other methods that control the spread of COVID-19.
The administration’s response stated that, “the state and SUNY approved our reopening plan without a single question or request for adjustments.”
Every college in the state of New York was required to propose a reopening plan which required approval before bringing students back to campus.
While Alfred University got its reopening plan approved by the New York Department of Health, Alfred State had to get its reopening plan approved by the SUNY system. According to the AU president, Mark Zupan, “It was basically an honor system because the state did not have sufficient resources to do a detailed review of the plans, but by having [each school] be very public about their plan, if you did not take due care it would come back to haunt you.”
This meant that even though a school’s plan was approved by the SUNY system, it might not have been safe when students actually returned to campus. This could be the reason that other SUNY campuses, such as Oswego and Oneonta had large case numbers breakout once classes started.
The Alfred community put together a task force with the intention of keeping the community of Alfred safe. This task force was assembled in April, by Michael Kozlowski, the Alfred University Director of Communications, and Alfred State’s Greg Sammons, Vice President of Student Affairs. It included members from both colleges as well as representatives from the town, and the Allegany Department of Health.
In an interview with Kozlowski he was asked, “ Did you feel like each school was equally prepared for reopening?” Kozlowski answered, “yes… the nature of COVID-19 and the evolving regulatory perspective of COVID-19, especially in New York, was changing rapidly… I believe we were both equally prepared. We certainly put the time, effort, and work into it.”
As of September 25, there’s been just one positive case on Alfred University’s campus. Both colleges have adjusted testing plans to increase the population on campus who have been tested. This comes after other colleges in New York State announced extensive testing plans. Alfred State has tested 1,657 students, while Alfred University has tested 1,418 students. ASC has a larger population than AU.
By Miriam Radwan