Newly named SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras was at SUNY Plattsburgh today to tour the campus and review COVID-19 safety and screening protocols as students return to campus.
Colleges and universities across the country are being challenged by returning students who don’t follow COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Over the weekend a group of SUNY Plattsburgh freshmen were caught partying on a local beach, ignoring social distancing and mask guidelines. College President Alexander Enyedi said 43 students have been identified and are being interviewed. “At this point in time I’m expecting a reference back from the Student Conduct Office for charges against the students. Our students, our faculty, our staff, our community members they want to be assured that we take what’s happening very seriously. And I take what’s happening very seriously in all aspects of the campus. Within the Student Code of Conduct here for our campus sanctions can be up to and including dismissal and interim suspensions from the campus. And when I say the word aggressive I also mean the word rapid as well. I want to see a quick resolution to this issue as well.”
Jim Malatras, in his first week after being named Chancellor, added that while this was an isolated incident, it highlights that colleges across the SUNY system are prepared to sanction students to assure that campuses can remain open. “Most of our students are complying so that’s good news. But we’re going to be very aggressive on those students who don’t do the right thing. We have lived as a state probably with one of the most difficult moments in our history with COVID-19. We don’t want to go back. We want our students here having opportunities to learn. We want to talk about new things that we can do for our students in education, not COVID. We can do things in education. Let’s focus on that. But we have to contain the beast. And if we can contain the beast we can move forward. That’s why we’re going to move aggressively across the system.”
Malatras announced that Plattsburgh is one of the first SUNY campuses to join a pool testing surveillance protocol developed by SUNY Upstate Medical. Up to 25 saliva tests can be pooled for testing and a new procedure has been approved so that a positive individual within the batch can be identified within 36 hours. The United University Professions union applauds the move.
SUNY Plattsburgh will collect pool samples weekly from students living in high-risk areas like dormitories. “This is all SUNY based which I love. The technology was developed here. SUNY can produce and test and sample up to 75,000 of these tests a week. We want more campuses to be doing this. This will give assurances to the community that we have a protocol in place that people can be confident that we are surveilling our student body. We’re using technology that’s not invasive and we can process this much more quickly. All done at SUNY. We want to bring this to scale in more ways so more of our campuses have access to it. They have access to it now. So this testing protocol done in-house at SUNY, developed by SUNY and the results are done by SUNY is a huge step forward. It will give confidence to communities all over the state.”
Malatras is the first SUNY graduate to become Chancellor. His trip to Plattsburgh, which started fall classes on Monday, is his second campus on a SUNY-wide tour.