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.”

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.