College president resigns after worst COVID-19 outbreak at a NY public university

The president of the State University of New York at Oneonta abruptly resigned after the school experienced the worst coronavirus outbreak at a public university in the state. 

SUNY- Oneonta on Thursday reported 712 coronavirus cases since the start of the fall semester in August, and it is currently conducting classes remotely. 

The school said in a statement that university President Barbara Jean Morris has resigned to “pursue other opportunities.” Dennis Craig, who had been acting president of SUNY-Purchase, will be temporarily stepping in until a permanent president is found. 

The Oneonta campus announced on Sept. 3  that it was transitioning to fully-remote learning after nearly 400 students tested positive for the coronavirus after several parties were thrown. The outbreak forced the state to send a virus control crew to the university to keep the spread from reaching the rest of the city, according to the New York Times

Students began posting on social media about being taken out of dorm rooms in the middle of the night by men in hazmat suits. The posts went viral, angering staff members, parents and town residents. 

Meanwhile, Craig led a successful reopening of the SUNY-Purchase campus, and handled its response to the first wave of the pandemic, according to SUNY-Oneonta. 

The Purchase campus began pooled surveillance testing on Aug. 27, and to date has administered 2,787 tests with only three positive cases. The school resumed classes on Aug. 31, and about a quarter of students are enrolled in classes with some in-person instruction. 

SUNY-Oneonta said Craig will “develop a comprehensive and coordinated plan with SUNY, local officials and state health departments with the goal of reopening the campus safely in the Spring of 2021.” 

The SUNY system has reported 1,167 positive coronavirus tests as of Aug. 1.

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