Large parties causing concern for SUNY Cortland officials

Photo courtesy of @sunycortland
SUNY Chancellor James Malatras visits the SUNY Cortland campus in the fall of 2020.

As COVID-19 precautions ramp up all across college campuses in New York State, some are still facing challenges with controlling the spread

In recent weeks, police have arrested several SUNY Cortland students for their involvement in large parties. At least one of those parties had up to 100 people packed in a house, which goes against current COVID-19 protocols. 

In a statement released Monday, SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said SUNY Cortland’s Administration “must take control of this situation and they have begun taking disciplinary actions.” 

Following the recent parties, Malatras has asked SUNY Cortland to implement twice weekly testing for all students — on or off campus—for at least the next two weeks. 

Malatras thanked the city of Cortland and Cortland Police Departments for their work.

“While I understand the fatigue and frustration of dealing with COVID, this is reckless and unacceptable behavior. Let us not forget that SUNY Cortland ended its fall semester on a state-mandated pause,” said Malatras. “If the actions of a small minority of students aren’t reversed immediately, the college will be put on a path toward a similar fate for the spring semester.”

The most recent occurrence happened this past weekend when police broke up a large party of college students. Police responded to a noise complaint Saturday morning just after midnight. When officers arrived, they could hear loud music and screaming coming from the residence. As they approached, people from inside could be heard motioning for the music to be turned off and everyone to be silent.

After investigating the scene, police estimated that about 75 people were crammed in the house without masks. Four SUNY Cortland students were charged with a noise complaint and could face penalties for violating COVID-19 protocols. 

Coincidentally, this occurred hours after SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum released a warning about a rising number of COVID-19 cases across the university system. 

In response to the events that took place Saturday morning, Bitterbaum released a statement condemning the actions by the students. 

“To say that I am disappointed and frustrated would be an understatement. The party was held just hours after I reached out to give you an update on the rising number of COVID-19 cases at SUNY Cortland,” said Bitterbaum. “The selfishness and lack of judgement illustrated by Saturday’s party is appalling.” 

As Malatras stated, this isn’t the first time that SUNY Cortland has had problems with their COVID-19 response efforts. Back in the fall semester, the college had to shut down in person classes in early November due to a surge in cases. This came after the college announced a pause on October 7 after reporting more than 100 cases in a two week period. 

Currently, SUNY Cortland’s COVID positivity rate is the highest of all SUNY campuses in the Central New York region at 1.69%. Although low, the number along with the actions in the last few weeks has to be a cause for concern. 

“As a system SUNY has done extraordinarily well, with nearly one million tests and a statewide COVID positivity rate of just 0.52%,” Malatras said. “However, we cannot let a handful of selfish individuals ruin the semester and shutdown in-person learning for everyone else. We’ve come too far and we cannot go back. There is light at the end of the tunnel only if we stick together and respect the rules and one another.”