SUNY Oneonta's leadership changed quickly.
"Just about an hour ago, upon my recommendation, the SUNY board of trustees have named Dennis Craig acting president of SUNY Oneonta," said Chancellor, Jim Malatras, Ph.D, from the SUNY Oneonta campus, Thursday.
"Barbara Morris, the former president here, informed me that she was pursuing other opportunities," said Malatras. "Her decision to resign was of her own volition."
Morris lead the college during its Covid outbreak, which resulted in more than 700 cases, and remote learning for the remainder of the fall semester. Craig has war-time experience dealing with Covid at the college level.
"I was in Westchester in February and March in the height of this," says Craig.
Craig was interim president of SUNY Purchase when Covid struck.
"I think that dealing with knowledge, science, taking a pause and not making decisions that are based on fear, but on conversation, information sharing and weighing the pros and risks. Every situation ahead of us will have some level of risk," said the acting SUNY Oneonta president.
Malatras couldn't yet say what spring will look like SUNY-wide. He says while some baselines, such as testing, transparency and compliance, will be system-wide, a return to in-person learning would be decided separately, by SUNY's 64 diverse campuses.
"How many people do you bring back? How safe is it to bring certain numbers of people back? How do you implement the program? Do you have enough space to isolate? All those things have to be worked through on a campus by campus basis."
The communities in which the campuses rest will be a factor; good news, to Oneonta Mayor, Gary Herzig, who says the city suffers when students are scarce.
"We lose over a million dollars a semester in revenue just from things like providing fresh water, providing sewer services, providing transportation. Loss in sales tax revenue. It adds up quickly," says Mayor Herzig.
SUNY will undertake a search for a permanent president.