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.”

City of Olean faces budget decisions as COVID-19 impacts local economy

photo: Molly Williams/The Intrepid

By Nic Gelyon

OLEAN, NY — William Aiello hates the idea of losing government jobs to Coronavirus.

“When you cut jobs, you affect families,” said Aiello, mayor of the City of Olean. “That would be the last option.” 

But whether COVID-19 reemerges in Cattaraugus County or not, job loss may be a reality for Aiello. According to the mayor, Olean will enter next year missing around 31% of expected sales tax revenues, and about 20% of state-provided infrastructure funds. 

Aiello knows, however, that job loss cannot be counted out. 

If the city finds its financial situation worsening as early budget discussions begin for next year, layoffs could become even more of a reality. Some layoffs could possibly happen within the field of public safety.  

“Right now… if things don’t get better, if we don’t get some stimulus money, we may be looking at layoffs,” Aiello said to the Olean City Police Department almost three months ago. Those talks were halted, because the city had virtually nothing financially to offer the police officers’ union. 

As for other city employees, Aiello has deemed most workers essential.

“Do we stop sweeping the streets? You have to do repairs,” he said. “People have become accustomed to the services we provide.”

It remains to be seen, however, how these services will be provided if yet another COVID-19 outbreak occurs. And as county health officials have stated recently, that is much more of a reality than was once thought. 

“Are we going to shut the building down again?” Aiello wondered, speaking on the prospect of another outbreak. “Or do we go limited hours? We did 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and you could only get to the city clerk’s office… it’s a juggling act a lot of times.” 

The city is prepared to take steps to make up for lost funds, so that, hopefully, layoffs don’t happen. The first step, Aiello said, would be to cut some of those programs that aren’t essential to survival, but that many Olean residents still rely upon. 

“The first thing to go would be some of our programs… your youth activities and that are some of the first things to go,” Aiello said. “And then you get into, do we pick up leaves? Do we shut down the parks, so we don’t have to maintain them?” 

Many services are also relied upon by what Aiello said are the 20,000-plus people that commute to Olean for work every day. That number would include both government workers and industrial workers at companies such as Dresser Rand and Cutco. 

In an economy, workers tend to spend a significant amount of money where they work, depending on how much time they spend there. 

If another coronavirus spike does impact Olean, and businesses are forced to shut down again, the city will be put in a difficult place: Not only could workers be laid off, but workers that remain could have limited options as to where they could spend their money. 

Not helping the situation, some projects in Olean geared towards boosting the economy have been either delayed or put on hold. For example, the Hilton hotel under construction on Buffalo Street is set to open by the new year, according to Aiello.  

The hotel project, which should have broken ground around the time of last year’s postponed St. Bonaventure graduation, was delayed by problems buying materials.  

‘The suppliers shut down, and now they’re back to trying to fill their back orders,” Aiello said.  

State-maintained construction going on by Main Street in Olean has also been delayed, because the state has had to wait weeks at a time for the proper cement to finish the project. Known colloquially as “Walkable Olean II,” the project at Main and Front streets aims to make the city more accessible, thus drawing more people in and further boosting the economy. 

These projects have the potential to boost both jobs and sales tax revenues. But right now, their effects are dormant. 

It will be difficult, according to the mayor, to make up for the lost ground caused by COVID-19 solely by cutting different community programs. The numbers are just too large. 

And with questions already arising about the ability for the federal and state government to provide aid, and with projects like the Hilton and Walkable Olean II being delayed, the city is put in a difficult position. 

The city also can’t afford to pay government employees to sit at home if there is no work to do.   

So, the state of Olean’s economy seems to rely upon the status of state and federal aid. Economic stimulus money helped Olean earlier this year, to the tune of a 12 to 15 percent jump in sales tax revenue. But the next round of state and federal aid is either, according to Aiello, a “political football”— or is altogether not realistic. 

“There’s been bills introduced to get some relief, but nothing has come forward yet,” Aiello said. “At the state level, our state is at a deficit right now… I’m not looking to get any relief from the state.” 

SBU student duo brings “Olean Yard Signs” to the Southern Tier

photo: Olean Yard Signs/Facebook

By Sean Casey

OLEAN, NY — In the wake of the Coronavirus harming many businesses, two St. Bonaventure University seniors managed to start a new one locally in Olean. 

Chandler Poczciwinski and Haley Sousa are the founders of the business, named “Olean Yard Signs,” which makes customizable lawn signs for people for special events.  

The business idea stemmed from the new business of Poczciwinski’s mother in Buffalo, called “Buffalo Yard Signs”.

“Her company was a huge success, so we decided to bring yard signs to the Southern Tier,” Poczciwinski said.

He said his mother started her business in Buffalo because she thought it was great way to celebrate a birthday or special event while being in quarantine.  

“It has been a slow start, however, we expected that because Olean is a much different market than Buffalo,” said Poczciwinski and Sousa.

Although starting slow, the duo hopes that their business starts to grow, not necessarily for them, but for their plans with it in the future. 

“Our goal for this company is to build a profitable business that we could leave to the next generation of SBU student entrepreneurs,” they said.

Both Sousa and Poczciwinski are moving to California and have no plans to bring the business with them, so they would like for this to become a legacy of theirs at SBU.

“We are hoping to find some eager students to keep Olean Yard Signs going,” they said. 

Bona’s suspends more “irresponsible” students after weekend parties

photo: Molly Williams/The Intrepid

By Dustyn Green

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — After an investigation that included viewing social media videos and gathering information from students, St. Bonaventure University suspended 21 students who took part in large, off-campus gatherings last weekend. 

This is the second round of suspensions issued by the university since Sept. 6, when 28 students were suspended for attending a party at the university’s Garden Apartments.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” said Dr. Dennis R. DePerro, university president, in a release from the university after the first round of suspensions. “I know, because I see it with my eyes as I walk around campus every day, that the vast majority of our students are complying with the safety standards we need to abide by to allow us to finish the in-person portion of the semester on Nov. 24.”

SBU officials have had a hard time wrapping their heads around why some students are continuing to jeopardize the health of the community, according to Tom Missel, the university’s chief communications officer. 

“Of course, we knew it might happen again, but for the life of me, why would anyone be this irresponsible,” Missel said. “Knowing what’s happening at other colleges that are experiencing outbreaks because of large parties, and knowing how we handled it the first time is beyond me.”

The university utilized its student affairs staff when trying to get their message across before school started. 

“We’re not naive,” Missel said. “We realize that parties are going to happen off-campus.” 

Missel said SBU does not want to put a halt on social gatherings altogether, but prefers that students hold smaller gatherings instead.

According to the university, the students have been suspended on an “interim basis” pending their judicial hearings, which will commence this week. 

Each student must submit a negative COVID-19 test before returning to campus. 

Missel reiterated that as part of the suspensions, students are able to stay enrolled in their classes and attend class via Zoom.  However, their professors “are not obligated to do that.” 

“Over these first six weeks of the semester, we have received advance information in large parties before the weekend and worked with the students to make sure they didn’t happen,” Missel said. “This time, we didn’t know these large parties were going on.” 

Despite the suspensions, there have been reports of additional students attending the parties.

“We continue to investigate and if we receive information that others were involved, we will have to deal with them,” Missel said. “We need everyone to be rowing in the same direction if we are going to make it.” 

Olean City School District reports two positive cases of COVID-19; begins week with remote learning

photo: Molly Williams/The Intrepid

By Nic Gelyon

OLEAN, NY — Saturday morning, the Olean City School District released a statement on its website announcing that a student had tested positive for Coronavirus at Olean High School.

The district also sent robocalls to parents, confirmed by multiple accounts on Facebook. 

In the district’s initial statement, OCSD told parents to “make preparations to move to remote learning should events require the district to close schools.” 

The district also canceled this past weekend’s after-school activities. 

Sunday afternoon, it was announced that the district had been notified of another positive COVID-19 case. This time, the person infected was a district faculty member. 

Both cases were confirmed positive, meaning that they had come back positive after going through CDC laboratories. 

The district then announced it would switch to full virtual learning for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

According to Cattaraugus County public health director Dr. Kevin Watkins, this was to further accommodate the district’s cleaning process. 

“They have hired a cleaning crew that came out on Saturday and Sunday, and have been paying close attention to the rules in which the positives have been exhibited,” Watkins said, referring to the district. “We have also talked about them airing out the facility.”  

According to Watkins, the district has had a high level of communication with the county health department over the weekend. He said the district was especially helpful in having all information that the health department requested from them, which allowed contact tracing to happen in a timely matter.

However, Watkins does believe that there is a “high likelihood” of additional positive cases arising within the district. 

“You’ve had a case at two particular schools, there have been direct contact with individuals of those schools,” he said. 

The health department believes that its contact tracing process will be completed Monday night. Watkins did acknowledge that one case required more extensive contact tracing than the other.  

The county is still trying to get in touch with seven people to complete this process. If these individuals do not respond to the county’s requests, the health department may visit their homes. 

Should contact tracing be successful, and should no other issues arise, in-person activity should return to OCSD on Thursday.