EDITORIAL: Students, be safe and enjoy the community

·3 min read

Aug. 20—College students are returning. To students new to the area, welcome. To those who have been here before, welcome back.

Classes will begin Monday at SUNY Oneonta, with classes at our other three colleges — SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Delhi and Hartwick College — starting a week later.

The 2020-21 college year was certainly an odd one, with SUNY Oneonta going fully remote after having the largest COVID outbreak in a SUNY school at the start of the fall semester, followed by the resignation of the college president. The spring semester welcomed fewer students, but our four local colleges still saw hundreds of cases.

No one wants to see another year like that one. Colleges have plans in place to help keep COVID at bay, but we all must do our part to prevent another outbreak.

The most important step is to get vaccinated. The student and staff population is doing better than the surrounding area, according to SUNY Oneonta Chief of Staff Danielle MacMullen.

At the Common Council meeting earlier this week, she said as of Tuesday 74% of the incoming students are fully vaccinated and 85% of the staff, professors and students have received at least their first dose of the vaccine.

On Thursday, Otsego County, which hosts SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College, reported 56.9% of the population has gotten at least a first dose. Schoharie, home to SUNY Cobleskill, was at 51.4%, and SUNY Delhi's home county of Delaware was just below half of its population getting its first dose.

With a fourth wave of COVID hitting our area, spurred by low vaccination rates and a variant that spreads more easily than past versions, we need to be vigilant.

We are hopeful students don't contribute to the rise in active cases we are seeing locally. We want everyone to stay safe.

Like it or not, college life will be different. Masks will still be encouraged, if not required, and large gatherings will be discouraged. Now is not the time to have large parties and rush activities.

The new administration of Dr. Alberto Cardelle, who will take over as SUNY Oneonta president early next month, appears it will be proactive in the fight against COVID. Details of the college plan, developed in concert with the city of Oneonta, can be found in a guest commentary on Page C1 of this edition.

Although COVID tends to dominate the discussion, there is much more to college life than that.

We want college students to be part of the community. Whether it is working, volunteering, participating in activities or hosting events on or off campus, we hope students' time here is productive and remembered fondly.

We also want our community members to think highly of the students.

All of this will depend on the actions of those involved. Respect goes both ways. Students, don't disrupt neighborhoods with loud parties and trash. Community members, don't think that because college students may live next door that they will be problematic. Good town-gown relationships start on the streets.

And we want to see students' names in the paper, although we prefer it for the good things they do, not the bad.

We'd rather when students, or their potential employers, Google their names five years from now, what comes up on our website is in who's news items or Bright Side stories, not police blotter item about the underage possession of alcohol tickets they got their first year here. That will all depend on their actions.

We wish all students a happy, healthy and safe semester.

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