Gordon: Buffalo State will be an ‘open’ campus in the coming weeks

Francis Boeck, Executive Editor

An email and an accompanying form sent to resident students Thursday morning from SUNY Buffalo State left many confused about what life would be like if they remained on campus or returned before March 30.

The message was prompted by Wednesday’s news that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement that all SUNY and CUNY schools would shift to ‘distance learning’, meaning all classes would go online for the rest of the semester due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A few hours later, the school told students that spring break would be extended to two weeks, starting Saturday.

In an interview with The Record late Thursday afternoon, VP of Student Affairs, Dr. Timothy Gordon explained the campus will remain “open”.

“Right now, students are free to move around the campus,” Gordon said. “It’s a fluid situation but right now that’s our plan.”

Gordon went on to clarify that the form students received asking them to say whether or not they plan to stay on campus is merely a survey and should not be seen as any kind of contract.

“Resident halls are open so students can choose to tell us if they plan to stay, plan to go home for spring break and come back or if they are more comfortable moving out,” Gordon said.

Gordon says school officials will be using those results to determine the staffing and food needs of the campus for the rest of the semester.

The school is giving students until next Thursday at 5 p.m. to fill out the form, and plan to come to rooms to meet with students in person if they do not fill it out before then.

Gordon says many of the same services will be available to students, but warn some things might have to be done on a smaller scale. He says the school is working on having smaller events and keep from 50 or more students from gathering in an area at a time.

“There may be some modifications we need to make based on guidance were are getting from the Center for Disease Control to help with ways to control any situation where there might be any transfer of the virus or anything like that,” Gordon said.

He said the school’s effort to avoid large gatherings may impact when and how students get food, but no plans for how that could work have been made.

Gordon affirmed the part of the email which said “guests” were not allowed in dorms. He confirmed that right now “guests” are being defined as anyone not living in the building. But he said that could be subject to change.

“The goal is to keep students safe,” Gordon said. “That’s a guide mark we are using as we are looking across the rest of the system. It may change.”

Gordon also said there has been no decision made on whether any refunds will be issued to students who choose to leave campus.

“That is guidance we have not gotten from anybody external to the campus yet,” Gordon said. “That’s not a situation we have any clarity on.”

As of now, the Campbell Student Union will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. during spring break and will go back to normal hours on March 30.

Gordon says commuter students will also have access to campus. Staff and faculty will be required to be on campus for the rest of the semester.

But Gordon is asking everyone to be mindful and try to avoid large gatherings on campus.

He is also reminding students that this is a fluid situation and says to students should check their emails and encourages them to go to the school’s coronavirus information page.

He says if students have any more questions that they can ask him, Dean of Students Sarah Young or anyone from Residence Life.

In his 20 years of a college administrator, Gordon says he’s never dealt with anything quite like this.

“As an administrator, I’ve managed many crises,” Gordon says. “But this is pretty unprecedented in terms of the way this is unfolding for our country.”