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.” 

SBU’s increased enrollment numbers continue amidst pandemic

photo: Molly Williams/The Intrepid

By Jonny Walker

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Earlier this month, a St. Bonaventure University press release announced that the total number of students in the 2020-2021 freshman class once again exceeded five hundred.

This marks the third consecutive year that feat was accomplished. 

The release also notes that the university’s overall enrollment—a statistic which includes students from all undergraduate, graduate and online programs—now sits at 2540. That figure has increased roughly 26% over the last five years. 

Bernard Valento, SBU’s vice president for enrollment, attributes the increases in overall enrollment to a shift in attitudes across the university towards the enrollment process. 

“I think one of the big differences is the culture change at the university,” said Valento, who has held his position since late 2015. “Enrollment is everyone’s responsibility. It’s not just [the responsibility of] admissions or marketing—it’s that of the entire university. We worked collaboratively across all divisions, as a united university, just really to promote and market the university with the attitude that everyone needs to contribute.” 

Another driving force behind enrollment trends, according to Valento, is the ongoing refreshment of the university’s academic offerings. 

For instance, the School of Health Professions is scheduled to open this spring, and the Jandoli School of Communication has introduced several new majors over the past few years alone.  

These moves are a part of a university-wide effort to tailor academic offerings to the unique circumstances of the modern world.

“All of our programs and our curriculums have been updated to really meet today’s students’ and today’s market’s demands,” Valento said. 

What may come as a surprise to some, however, is the trend of increasing class sizes continuing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when colleges and universities across the country are scrambling to navigate the recruitment and admissions processes.  

Valento, by contrast, says he has remained confident throughout the entire ordeal despite receiving word last March that he and his team would be working from home for the foreseeable future. 

Despite the circumstances, there was little reason for concern.

“By the time we enroll students, it’s like they’re our family,” Valento said. “We get to know these students, we care about them, and we felt like we have a really good relationship with them.” 

The other factor that plays into the pandemic’s inability to mitigate enrollment is the university’s commitment to its Franciscan values in everything it does. This principle, according to Valento, especially extends to the admissions process. 

“It’s about becoming part of a community that will care for you, work with you, and make a difference in your personal and professional life,” he said. “Pretty much the Franciscan values of community, charism, and appreciating all things.” 

That sentiment seems to be echoed by many students across campus. Trey Meyers, an adolescent education major from Cuba, New York, echoed a familiar sentiment among SBU students when asked why he chose the university.

“I came to Bonas because it felt like home,” Meyers said. “Working and visiting here over the summer, I couldn’t help but fall in love.”

Looking to the future, Valento sees no reason why the university would be unable to continue to grow its student population. 

In theory, Bonaventure has the capacity for up to 2000 undergraduate students. The number of enrolled undergraduates for this academic year currently sits just above 1800. That thought has the Valento feeling very optimistic.  

“It really is an exciting time,” he concluded. “It’s a joy to be overseeing enrollment when we have a quality product and a quality experience that we can deliver to students.” 

SBU professor Zhang discusses student responsibility with COVID-19

photo courtesy of St. Bonaventure University

By Nic Gelyon

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY – Dr. Xiao-Ning Zhang has her students undergo a repetitive process each time they enter her room. 

Cleaning and washing hands have become habits for her students. Something they don’t need to think about anymore. They just do it. 

“I think they are comfortable doing it right now, so it’s kind of a habit for them,” said Zhang, a biology professor at St. Bonaventure University. “I’m really happy to see students starting to have this habit.”  

Zhang has helped foster a level of comfortability among her students, and communication and understanding seem to be key in students taking safety precautions seriously.

“It’s expected, there will be cases on campus,” she said. “When it happens, how are we going to respond? That’s critical. This has to be a very timely response… contact tracing the right away because time is of the essence.”  

Response, according to Zhang, is used as a scientific and administrative code word that means “do the right thing.”

The university and the community have both announced their plans for response to a potential COVID-19 outbreak. Students now bear the responsibility of responding in the way that works for them.

But the slight look of worry on Zhang’s face captured her dissatisfaction with the way the university communicated with and educated its students, staff and faculty, as she began to speak about the difficult position in which resident assistants and residence directors have been placed. 

“I don’t know if they all have been educated enough to educate others,” Zhang said. “They don’t understand why. They can’t explain [COVID-19], they just say that’s what the university told us. But usually, that’s not very effective in communication.”  

Therein lies the dilemma. How much do students really know about COVID-19? How much does the public know? And how can students be expected to act if no one has ever showed them how? 

“If information goes up, response has to go up,” Zhang said. “Information can go up and people don’t do anything with it. That doesn’t mean anything. So, awareness is the first step, and response is the second step. And then you will see results.” 

From her point of view, imposing fines and judicial hearings simply cannot be the answer. Because if awareness is not first created among students who don’t know the first thing about coronavirus, a lackluster response is almost inevitable. 

“It’s not like if weekends are off, Coronavirus is off,” Zhang said. “No, they are never off. So, we need to understand that coronavirus doesn’t go by weekend or weekday.” 

Zhang made two things abundantly clear. The first: COVID-19 is not over.

Society can’t claim it did its job, then just go back to normal life. For Zhang, the response must continue for as long as people are dying from the virus.  

The second? There is no better time than the present for everyone to improve their response to the disease. 

VIDEO: Uveino and Hogan discuss COVID-19 at SBU, possibility of basketball season

By Jeff Uveino and Mike Hogan

ALLEGANY, NY — A month in to St. Bonaventure University’s fall semester, Jeff Uveino and Mike Hogan sat down to look back at the university’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic so far, and look ahead to what the rest of the semester may look like.

As of Friday, the university had only reported seven cases of COVID-19. What has the school done to keep the virus mostly in control? As college basketball season quickly approaches, what can Bonnies fans expect to see come winter?

Check out the video on The Intrepid’s Youtube channel, or by clicking here.

Firefighters respond to smoke at Falconio Hall

photo: Connor Raine/The Intrepid

By Peter Byrne

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — A malfunction in an air handler caused smoke at St. Bonaventure University’s Falconio Hall on Thursday.

The building’s fire alarm was triggered by the smoke around noon, causing the Allegany Fire Dept. to respond to the situation.

According to a university spokesman, the smoke resulted from a seized-up belt on the motor of the air handler, which was located on the roof of Falconio Hall. The university made it clear that there was no fire.

Students were forced to evacuate the building when the fire alarms went off, before being able to return at approximately 12:43 p.m.

Greg Jubulis, a freshman at SBU and resident of the building, was doing homework in his dorm room when the fire alarm went off.

Jubulis recalled a weird smell coming from the building before he left.

“We evacuated the building and stood outside for about 10 minutes before the fire trucks came,” Jubulis said.

When the trucks finally came, Jubulis counted at least four of them at the scene. One truck brought a ladder to get onto the roof.

“After they got there, we were probably out there for another 30 minutes,” Jubulis said. “They brought out the ladder and hose but didn’t use it. The firefighters looked lost.”  

Maddie Wiles, another Falconio Hall resident, also talked about the evacuation.

“The fire alarm went off and we all stood outside,” she said. “They kept telling us to get farther and farther away from the building.”

Wiles also recalled seeing at least four fire trucks, in addition to two police cars and an ambulance.

“After about an hour, we could back in, but it still smells bad inside the building,” Wiles said.

She hopes the smell goes away soon.   

Adam O’Donoghue watched the entire thing unfold from his dorm in nearby Robinson Hall.

“We didn’t have to evacuate, but we all watched it happen,” he said. “It was crazy.”

O’Donoghue said there was no panic from the students in his building, but uncertainty about the situation across from them.  

There is no plan for alternate arrangements for the students in Falconio Hall, as firefighters left the scene after getting the situation under control.

The university said that its facilities department is working to repair the handler as we speak.

GELYON: Return of SBU athletics will be result of a team effort

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Nic Gelyon

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — As I spoke to student-athletes, coaches and representatives from the St. Bonaventure University athletic department about their effort to curb COVID-19 and return to action, I found that I wasn’t finding what I expected.

 I was looking for the moral dilemma. The internecine fight. 

Everybody felt too optimistic when I was talking to them. It was all too happy. 

But then I realized that St. Bonaventure has only had three positive coronavirus cases. The whole semester. All positive cases have since recovered. 

There is nothing to criticize. There is nothing to pick apart. There are no battles between coaches and presidents – ahem, Big 10 conference. There is absolutely nothing to be mad at. Nothing to punch the wall about.  

The fact of the matter is that it worked. The communication, the mindset, the plan. It all worked. 

And so, I leave you with this: we cannot become complacent, as a school community and as a society. Vigilance is the only way that the plan will continue to work.

It will take an effort from all. 

  • The NCAA has made November 25 the date when men’s and women’s college basketball will be allowed to begin. As of Friday, no schedule had been released for either season. Teams will not be allowed to play exhibitions or hold scrimmages prior to their first game. 
  • SBU’s COVID-19 return to action plan is, again, currently in its third and final phase. The plan was last updated on Sept. 14. The athletic department has treated athletes as if they had been “sedentary” throughout quarantine, attempting to prevent nagging injuries by getting athletes in the best condition possible. SBU athletic director Tim Kenney, in a statement to The Intrepid, said that the strength and conditioning department plans to ramp up activity in two-week increments, culminating in, hopefully, the playing of games. 
  • Speaking of which- it does not appear that fall sports are going to happen- not with any sort of normalcy anyway. As Oduro told me, teams are more likely to play against teams in the same region, as to avoid the COVID-19 restrictions and risks involved in cross-regional travel. Oduro mentioned the possibility of weekend tournaments involving four or so teams, with all teams – as he emphasized several times – staying in similar environments. 
  • It seems the athletic department is making fan engagement a priority during a time when not only are no sports happening, but college basketball is delayed. “We have stayed in constant communication with our fan base the past several months… to keep Bona Nation updated and entertained,” said Seth Johnson, assistant athletic director for marketing, licensing and fan engagement at SBU. He went on to say that the university is working on plans to keep the fans involved throughout the season, though there likely will be no fans in the stands. 

Sports at SBU are back… kind of

photo: Nic Gelyon/The Intrepid

By Nic Gelyon

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — It’s unlikely that there will be a fall sports season at St. Bonaventure, at least in the traditional sense.

But that hasn’t deterred student-athletes from working diligently over the last six months, preparing as if there will be.  

University athletics have come a long, long way since March. When St. Bonaventure sent students home last semester due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, the athletic department faced the same cloud of uncertainty that has shrouded society for the better part of the last six months.  

The university did not, however, use this uncertainty as a mask for dormancy, or to wait for all the answers to appear out of nowhere.

Coaches and administrators decided, wisely, to get a head start. They immediately began to gather as much information about COVID-19 as possible. 

 “Before school shut down, me and my assistant coach sat down and started doing more research on COVID,” said Kwame Oduro, head men’s soccer coach at SBU.

Oduro was referring to the time in between when his team returned from their winter trip to England and when school went remote. 

“This is a pandemic, man, this is no joke,” he said. “There’s no way we can keep coming to school. That’s when it hit me.” 

The information gathered was relayed quickly to student-athletes to keep them updated, especially as new layers were added weekly to the university’s COVID-19 return to action plan.

“When [Coach Oduro] would get any news from the A-10 or the NCAA, he would just tell us immediately, like schedule a meeting or a Zoom call,” said Cuneyt Vardar, a  junior midfielder on the men’s soccer team. “It would be pretty immediate.” 

In addition to effective communication, realism became a priority for the St. Bonaventure athletic department. 

The department’s actions would display practicality, not perfection- a mindset that is a necessity in 2020. 

“We could have the best laid plans,” St. Bonaventure athletic director Tim Kenney said in a video statement provided to The Intrepid. “But we can’t be naive to think it’s not going to sneak onto campus.” 

The university’s protocol was split into three phases, according to Kenney. 

Phases one and two included activities such as off-campus quarantines, on-campus quarantines, coronavirus education and the gradual progression of strength and conditioning work. 

It might as well have been known as St. Bonaventure’s Coronavirus training camp. 

But training camp is over now. The third phase is pregame. 

In a perfect world, game time for fall sports would be right around the corner, and phase three would involve the actual playing of games. 

For now, though, it is simply an exercise in keeping the athletes fit, gradually increasing intensity in practices. That, of course, is also dependent on the impact that COVID-19 is having on the university. 

Same-sport athletes have been deliberately placed in dorms with each other for this reason. In theory, if athletes surround each other with other athletes, they will, for the most part, stay within similar environments.

Many student-athletes know they will face strange challenges in this new world. Vardar told me that athletes probably will not be allowed to use locker rooms – at least not all at once – or to share towels. 

This does fall in line with the current coronavirus guidelines in the school’s return to action plan. Oduro told me that if fall sports do get off the ground, it will probably only be among teams similar regions, or at the very least teams that are not in restricted states. 

Kenney wants kids to step up in a time of need and take this opportunity to become great leaders. 

“It’s going to take everybody on this campus – not just athletics – in order for us to make this semester a success,” he said. “We can’t let up, and so our kids will have to keep that leadership role and lead by example.” 

Oduro wants the campus community, and especially his athletes, to take this opportunity to reacquaint themselves with SBU and remember how special an experience it is to be on its campus. 

“For all that college experience to still be around, we need to do our part,” Oduro said. “There are going to be some kids that feel like COVID-19 is not going to affect them because they’re young… we have to be a little selfless.” 

Vardar wants to someday become a physical therapist, and the best soccer player he can be. He is going to take the life-changing hand he has been dealt this year and, with hope, make the best of it. 

“I love the anatomy of the body, and I just love to work with people,” Vardar said. “I want to finish my soccer career here at St. Bonaventure.”

Vardar wants to play professional soccer, either in the United States or possibly in Turkey. He has played in Turkey previously, and his uncle has connections to the country. 

“Because of the Coronavirus, (the NCAA) gave us an extra year of eligibility, so for my graduate school at Daeman College,” Vardar said. “I want to play at year of Division II soccer (at Daeman), and that would finish up my college soccer eligibility.”

Fall sports at SBU will continue to practice using safety protocols and COVID-19 testing to ensure the safety of student-athletes and coaches.

And, spoiler alert: According to the NCAA, men’s and women’s basketball can return on Nov. 25.