St. Bonaventure University mandates COVID-19 vaccine for on-campus students

By Anthony Goss

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — St. Bonaventure University will require all residential students returning to campus for the Fall 2021 semester to receive a COVID-19 vaccination and provide documentation when they return to campus this fall. This news comes days after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that virus restrictions would be lifted in the state.  

Noting similar action taken by other colleges and universities in New York, the school will require all residential, off-campus and commuter students to provide proof of vaccination. More information about uploading documentation will be released after July 4. 

In a statement released to students and parents, Acting President Dr. Joseph E. Zimmer stated, “We’ve carefully reviewed ways in which our community can return to delivering the unique and welcoming educational and residential experience that most returning Bonnies will recognize and new Bonnies will embrace.” 

Zimmer also mentioned the university’s choice to relax and/or discontinue many COVID-19-related measures from the 2020-21 academic year. The school notes a fully vaccinated campus was necessary to take this step. 

The statement also provides information for those seeking religious or medical exemptions and accommodations regarding vaccine requirements.  

This story will be updated as we receive more information. 

SBU community mourns death of late president

photo: St. Bonaventure University

By Dustyn Green

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Dr. Dennis DePerro, the 21st president of St. Bonaventure University, passed away Sunday evening after battling COVID-19. His passing was announced in an email sent to the SBU campus community Monday morning.

“Our hearts are broken, and we send all of our love, support, sympathies and condolences to the DePerro family on their loss, especially Dennis’ wife, Sherry, and his two sons, Andrew and Matthew,” said Dr. Joseph Zimmer, acting president of the university. “Please keep them in your prayers.”

Zimmer, SBU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, has served as acting president since mid-January. 

“What I’ll miss more than anything was his uncanny ability to make you feel better even on your worst days,” said Tom Missel, SBU’s chief communications officer. “He had a unique gift. I loved that man with all my heart. I know there are thousands of people who would say the same thing. His humanity, his insight, his ability to listen to all sides, his sense of humor – all of that made him a great leader.” 

John Sheehan, president of the university’s board of trustees, also expressed condolences to the DePerro family. Sheehan noted DePerro’s strong connection with SBU alumni.

“Our alumni adored (DePerro), and the relationships he forged at every college he’s worked run deep, especially at Le Moyne, where I know his loss will be deeply felt,” Sheehan said. “Please keep Sherry, Andrew, Matthew and the entire DePerro family in your prayers. The university will do everything it can to support them.”

The university’s flag will fly at half staff through March, according to Zimmer. 

DePerro tested positive for COVID-19 on Christmas Eve before being admitted to a Syracuse hospital Dec. 29. DePerro assumed the presidency on June 1, 2017, and led the university through the admission of its three largest freshman classes in 11 years. 

Funeral arrangements will be announced when they are available. Cards and letters can be sent to the president’s office. 

SBU president still hospitalized with COVID-19; Zimmer to serve as acting president

By Dustyn Green

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — St. Bonaventure University announced on Monday that Dr. Joseph Zimmer, the university’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, was named SBU’s acting president in place of Dr. Dennis DePerro. 

DePerro has been battling COVID-19 since being admitted to a Syracuse hospital on Dec. 29, where he was recently placed on a ventilator. In a release, the university said that DePerro is in serious but stable condition.

“It’s important that we have, during Dr. DePerro’s absence, a leader overseeing the business of the university,” said John Sheehan, chairman of the university’s board of trustees. “The (board) has complete confidence in Dr. Zimmer.” 

Zimmer told the campus community that his priority is to continue DePerro’s work until the president is healthy enough to return.

“My role now – in collaboration with our senior management team and faculty leaders – is simply to keep us moving forward in the positive direction we have been headed since [Dr. DePerro] came on board as president in 2017,” Zimmer said. 

Dr. Anne Foerst, chair of the university’s faculty senate, said that the senate will continue to work with Zimmer achieve this goal. 

“Dr. DePerro is in the thoughts and prayers of the entire university community, including the faculty, and we look forward to him making a full recovery,” Foerst said. “The faculty senate has and will continue to work constructively and productively with Dr. Zimmer, for the benefit of the university and its students.”  

Zimmer also conveyed a message to the campus community as it continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“With COVID-19 still consuming our thoughts and plans this semester, and the president working hard to recover, I’m asking every member of the Bonaventure community to support each other during this challenging time and to continue to keep our students’ needs at the forefront of everything we do – and, of course, to keep Dr. DePerro in your prayers,” Zimmer said. 

As of Tuesday, no further updates have been given on the president’s condition. Cards and well wishes for DePerro can be sent to the president’s office.  

SBU’s MERT faces new challenges amid pandemic

photo: SBU MERT/Twitter

By Dustyn Green

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Seventy calls. 

That is exactly what the St. Bonaventure University Medical Emergency Response Team juggled over the course of the fall semester.

According to MERT chief and SBU senior Maggie Cole, the club is made up of 50 volunteers, and approximately 25 are New York State certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certified. Although the number of calls was the highest call volume since 2014, Cole said that only about 10 of them were potentially related to COVID-19.

 For Cole, the craziness began behind the scenes, long before students returned to campus in August.

“It was absolutely chaotic by the time Bona’s had us go home for the semester (in the spring),” Cole said. “We did not even have the new officer coming in.”

In a typical year, the new officer crew will accompany the outgoing officers on Spring Weekend in late April, or until the new officer is cleared. However, that was unable to happen, and the outgoing officers set up individual meetings with the incoming officers. Despite that challenge, Cole gave credit to Gary Segrue, the club’s advisor and SBU’s associate dean for campus safety, for preparing the team with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to enter a potential COVID-19 call and care for a patient.

“Mr. Segrue and safety and security were able to help us out a lot, they were able to get us the PPE we needed and were able to supply us for the whole semester,” Cole said.

Each year, MERT offers the EMT certification course to those who are interested. Despite the aforementioned challenges, 30 new members were able to become trained in stopping blood and administering CPR, as well as completing any necessary paperwork on the scene and taking vitals. 

According to Cole, things were “pretty regular” until the middle of the semester. She said the biggest difference was the number of intoxication calls, which drew the number of calls higher than normal.

The higher call volume brought Cole fear of burning out her fellow MERT members.

“Working with the same 20 to 25 EMTs for the whole semester, especially in a semester like this where we had no fall break,” she said.

Despite being shorthanded, and even losing a majority of their members near the end of the semester due to quarantine protocols, Cole believes the team held itself together quite well.

“I can’t believe we actually did this,” she said.

Since fall semester has come to an end, Cole and her fellow officers have began to secure PPE and complete any other preparations that are needed for next semester.

UPDATE: SBU to remain open until Nov. 24 as planned

photo: Molly Williams/The Intrepid

By Dustyn Green

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Despite 24 new cases of Coronavirus reported on Monday, St. Bonaventure University has elected to remain open until Nov. 24, according to a press release sent to students on Monday.

In-person activities, including the university’s gaming room and open swim at the Reilly Center, have been canceled due to the uptick in cases. The Richter Center will be closed to all athletic activities, but will remain open to host classes. Dining services will continue as normal.

The university also halted all men’s and women’s Division I athletic practices other than men’s and women’s basketball, which begin play next week.

“Students with concerns about instructional delivery over the next week may contact their instructors,” the release said. “Students asked to isolate here or quarantine at home should inform their instructors of their situations.”

DEVELOPING: University officials to meet regarding COVID-19 concerns

photo: Molly Williams/The Intrepid

By Dustyn Green

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — St. Bonaventure University saw its number of active COVID-19 cases double on Monday afternoon, as Cattaraugus County and Western New York also see increases in active cases of the virus.

According to the university’s COVID-19 tracker, SBU currently has 10 active cases of the virus, and 45 students are currently in quarantine. In response to the virus’ increased presence, multiple SBU professors have begun to change the layout of their instruction.

According to Tom Missel, chief communications officer for the university, the issue of increased COVID-19 cases will be discussed at a meeting on Monday evening. Missel also reminds students that the university’s COVID-19 tracker can provide them with the latest virus numbers, and is updated each morning.

This story is developing.

SBU professors, students prepare for Election Day

photo: Connor Raine & Molly Williams/The Intrepid

By Nic Gelyon & Peter Byrne

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The 2020 election process will arguably be the most unique in American history. The country is in the throes of a pandemic, and voter advocacy messages have become a regular part of American lives, as has the election in general.

But Dr. Bart Lambert, political science professor at St. Bonaventure University, still sees the positives that arise in such an unusual year: 

“This year, with all of the early voting and with the mail-in ballots, I don’t think students have any excuses,” Lambert said. 

He’s speaking to and about students who aren’t voting this year. Though, as Lambert suggests, they’re likely abstaining because of poor planning, not disillusionment. 

“It’s not that they decide not to vote, it’s that they fail to vote,” Lambert said. “They forget to make arrangements.” 

The record books can be thrown out with this election cycle. And as Coronavirus restrictions have changed the way politicians engage voters, and vice versa, it’s also changed the way citizens view the voting process.  

For example, Lambert doesn’t think having a sole “Election Tuesday” makes sense for anyone, let alone college students. Tuesday is a weekday. College students and working adults alike are busy in their daily lives.  

“It’s not real conducive to student participation, because it’s a Tuesday, you’ve got classes… and with people standing in line now upwards of an hour or two, it gets to be a burden,” he said. “So if students don’t make arrangements, they might miss their opportunity to vote.” 

But, as many understand now, election day is no longer the end-all be-all day to cast a ballot. Lambert thinks this year’s voting system makes more sense going forward.  

“Why not give people two weeks to vote?,” he said. “It makes it much easier because you can plan it around your life better… some people have two jobs and a family to care for. If you can do it on the weekend, or any other day of the week, that should help.” 

So, according to Lambert, voting in this year’s elections will take some planning, but the election process has been made more convenient than ever. Did, or will, students at St. Bonaventure take advantage?  

The Intrepid’s Peter Byrne asked several out-of-state freshmen if they voted, and what method they used. 

Byrne, who is from Bernardsville, New Jersey, has already filled out an absentee ballot. Ryan Surmay, who hails from Cranford, New Jersey, won’t be filling out an absentee ballot this year, but it’s because he planned ahead. His mother gave him a mail-in ballot when his parents visited campus in September.  

Freshman Isabelle Gaffney, from Morristown, New Jersey, was also proactive. Gaffney went back to Morristown last month, filled out her, and dropped if off on her way back to SBU. 

Freshman Maddie Gilbert, who hails from Ringwood, New Jersey, will do the same.

Byrne asked two other people if they were planning to vote. Both said no. 

To recap:of the six people Byrne asked (including himself), four said they have already voted- either by mail-in ballot or absentee ballot.  

But Dr. Pauline Hoffmann, internship coordinator at St. Bonaventure, thinks there may be a bit more disillusionment in voters than Lambert lets on. However, she feels students should use this as fuel to create change. 

Hoffmann essentially reaffirms what Lambert said: there is no excuse not to vote.

“If you want things to happen in your democracy… there are people representing you,” she said. “You have to participate in democracy, it’s critical.” 

Hoffmann, along with other students and a few faculty members, staffed a voter registration table outside the Swan Business Center in late September.

Students who came to the table for advice tended to ask not who they should vote for, but rather how to vote. The table was meant for this purpose.

Having other students so involved helped in answering these questions, according to Hoffmann.  

“I had someone who said they didn’t register before, because they didn’t think it mattered,” she said. “It was better, I think, coming a student than me. Hearing it from someone your own age makes more sense. This is why this matters in this particular election.

Some students still believe, however, that their voice doesn’t matter. They think voting is for ‘grown-ups’, involving issues that aren’t relevant to them.  

But Hoffmann encourages students to have more of an open mind.

“When guys are younger, you feel like you’re invincible, and the things that bother us old people don’t matter to you guys” she said. “And the reality is, eventually it will.” 

Hoffmann’s message to student’s who simply don’t view voting as necessary?

“What’s the difference?,” she said. “Imagine if everybody said that.”

Channing-Brown addresses SBU community as “ABR” author

photo: Austin Channing-Brown/Twitter

By Dustyn Green

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — St. Bonaventure University held its annual “All Bonaventure Reads” keynote address on Tuesday night, as author Austin Channing-Brown virtually spoke to students about her book.

First-year students were asked to read “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity In a World Made for Whiteness” as part of their first-year experiences. Channing-Brown held a “fireside chat-style” question and answer session after her address.

“Each year, the All Bonaventure Reads committee selects a book for the community to read and discuss,” said Dr. Joseph Zimmer, vice president for academic affairs and provost at SBU. “These books usually deal with controversial subjects, so our students can learn to participate in respectful dialogue with others.”

Despite becoming a popular speaker, it is not without a sense of surprise that Brown accepted the honor of speaking to a campus-wide community.

“There are a handful of colleges and universities that (do something similar) and every time I am blown away,” she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic halted Channing-Brown from visiting the campus in Cattaraugus County, so instead, she visited from a room in her three-bedroom apartment with a rack of her “favorite books about racial justice.”

Channing-Brown has one ideology in her job that she gets excited about seeing in action, no matter how many times she can do so.

“The idea that the experiences of some Black students are going to be affirmed is really exciting to me.”

Although the topics she discusses as part of her career are difficult, she goes back to her days as a college student sitting in an African-American history class to find a strategy on how to educate her audience and that is using the word “friends” when she addresses the issues of race.

That thought comes from this professor, as she said, “being very involved in the lives of Black students.”

“It was a class that if you were a Black student, you had to take it,” Channing-Brown said.

Channing-Brown was pregnant when she was writing the book, and said that there was a “new  layer of emotion knowing she was going to bring a little boy into the world.”

Even with the emotional layer there, the power of this turn of events was more powerful than what the words above describe.

“I was writing about an America that I could not protect my son from,” Channing-Brown said. “It made me write with a fierceness that I do not know I would have had if I was not pregnant.”

Channing-Brown’s underlying message was something much deeper than the need to fix racial issues in the United States. She made a case for what it means to be against racism and condemn the actions of those around you.

“If you choose not to do anything for the cause of racial injustice, I am not here to judge you,” Channing-Brown said. “You just do not get to call yourself anti-racist.”