Four critical elements − sound strategic planning, regular testing and reporting, a pledge to uphold defined safety protocols, and a diligence focused on the wellbeing of fellow campus community members − have allowed Cazenovia College to avoid an outbreak of COVID-19 and conduct a full, 14-week fall semester with in-person, on-campus instruction.
“We’re very proud of that record and of the commitment it took from our entire community – students, staff, and faculty – to reach such a positive outcome,” said Ron Chesbrough, Cazenovia College president. “This is an extraordinary achievement during the pandemic.”
Cazenovia has been one of only a few colleges in upstate New York to be able to keep students on campus and to continue in-person instruction for the whole fall semester. Throughout New York State and around the country, outbreaks of COVID-19 have caused colleges to pause in-person instruction, cancel on-campus activities, and in some cases, require students to leave campus entirely to continue instruction remotely from their homes.
Note of Appreciation
As students were taking final exams last week and readying their residence hall rooms for end-of-semester move-out, President Chesbrough sent students a note expressing his appreciation and citing how their actions, behaviors, and concerns for the community were essential to this success. He wrote:
“I want to take a moment…to acknowledge your hard work to make this a successful semester
in the midst of a pandemic. I know that this was a very different semester. We have made it
thanks to your persistence and diligence in keeping one another safe and making the very best
of a difficult time.”
Chesbrough cited the ability of leadership and staff to plan well and to adhere to strict operational guidelines, and how students, faculty, and staff on campus consistently adhered to those guidelines as the reasons leading to success. He noted how:
- Senior leadership (in conjunction with local health officials) dedicated significant time over the summer to develop policies and operational plans that would implement stringent safety measures to avoid an outbreak
- The College required pre-arrival COVID testing for all students and employees · The College also asked students and staff to adhere to a healthy-practices “Caz Strong” pledge that established stringent safety guidelines
- Students were willing to forgo typical college experiences in order to avoid the spread of COVID-19 and keep the campus community and the local community safe
- The campus community followed strict adherence to safety practices − including mask-wearing at all times, physical distancing in classrooms, common areas, athletic facilities, and outdoor spaces, plus a “no visitors” policy for residence halls
- Students and staff cooperated with regular health screening, testing and contact tracing efforts.
- COVID-19 testing of at least 5% of students and staff was done bi-weekly.
(There were no positive cases from the 397 tests conducted on campus over a 12-week period. In the days prior to departing for the winter break, students were given the option of receiving a rapid test. 300 tests were conducted, with two positive results from non- residential students.)
Communicating thoroughly, frequently, and transparently about COVID conditions at the college was also helpful in keeping the protocols top-of-mind, Chesbrough said. Ongoing inter-departmental and leadership team communication was held, campus health center staff communicated with area health departments continually, and a dashboard on the College website allowed full transparency as to the status of COVID cases.
Caz Connection Matters
Chesbrough said that, while Cazenovia is a small college, it still faced challenges similar to those at larger institutions. It has a condensed campus footprint, a large number of students living in residence halls that are often conjoined with academic offices and classroom spaces, and upwards of 600 students being served in dining facilities on campus each day throughout the semester.
He attributes Cazenovia’s success to a component he believes is core to the Cazenovia experience: a sincere and overarching concern for, and connection to, one another’s best interests.
“I have felt in my time here that personal connection is everything to the Wildcat experience. We have had our challenges thanks to COVID, but I have faith that we can and will return to a full Caz College experience. I look forward to that day. In the meantime, be safe, be well. Stay CazStrong,” he concluded in his message to students.
Our Campus: A Leader
Student Government Association President Roshawn Kershaw, a Human Services major, reiterated Chesbrough’s views regarding campus cooperation and College leadership.
“Seeing all the staff and faculty working hard to prepare for a good year really motivated me to try my hardest to stay safe,” she said. “Everyone on campus worked together by wearing their mask, holding each other accountable and keeping their distance when needed. I know that many were skeptical about us lasting the full semester, but we worked together to make it happen! Watching as other schools closed, we got a greater sense of pride for our campus to be the leader in how to do this the right way! We made the most out of this semester, even when it would have been easier to do less. I’m proud of Cazenovia College and the work we put in.”
Freezing Costs, Boosting Merit Aid
In recognition of the financial impacts COVID-19 is having for families, the Cazenovia College Board of Trustees recently announced a freeze on tuition, room and board costs at the College for the 2021-2022 academic year. The College is also increasing the level of scholarships available to accepted students, now up to $31,000. The moves were announced in October to help assure that the College’s community-based style of liberal arts and professional studies education is accessible to all students who want to come to College here, Chesbrough added.
The College is making plans for students’ return to campus when the spring semester begins January 19, 2021. Updates will be provided on the College website.