Chancellor Malatras and Binghamton University President Stenger Announce Precautionary Pause on All In-Person Classes and Activities in Response to COVID Surge in Broome County and On Campus

October 7, 2020

Pursuant to State Department of Health Guidelines Residential Facilities Will Remain Open and Students Directed to Stay on Campus for Temporary Two-Week Shift to Remote Learning to Prevent Further Spread of Virus

University to Increase Testing and Safety Enforcement Efforts throughout Two-Week Pause in Effort to Contain COVID and Resume In-Person Learning

Chancellor Malatras: "I believe the Binghamton University community will rise to this pivotal moment, stay vigilant, protect one another, and do what needs to be done to bat back this vicious virus so that students can return to in-person learning in two weeks."

Binghamton, NY – State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras and Binghamton University President Harvey G. Stenger today announced the initiation of a precautionary pause on all in-person classes and activities following an increase in COVID-19 cases both in Broome County and on campus. With 89 active virus cases, Binghamton has not yet met the 100-case mark that triggers an automatic, New York State Department of Health-mandated transition to remote learning. Chancellor Malatras and President Stenger agreed to take action now out of an abundance of caution and after intense scrutiny of case data and daily trends available to everyone through SUNY's COVID-19 Case Tracker.

Pursuant to NYSDOH guidance, residential facilities will remain open and students will be directed to stay on campus for a temporary two-week shift to remote learning to prevent further spread of the virus. The two-week pause begins on Thursday, October 8.

As they enter this precautionary pause, Binghamton will accelerate its already-aggressive testing routine. They have completed nearly 12,000 campus-administered tests so far this semester and will increase daily testing from 200 to 800 to better monitor the virus.

They will also increase enforcement of evidence-based COVID-19 safety guidelines—particularly the prohibition of large gatherings. Students found to have violated those protocols will be subject to strict penalties under Chancellor Malatras' new emergency uniform safety standard, which took effect on October 1. Those in violation face immediate academic and housing suspension and possible dismissal, loss of athletic eligibility, and ineligibility for admission at every other SUNY college. Student groups in violation may be banned from campus permanently.

Finally, the university will boost academic support services to ensure a successful shift to temporary remote learning. If cases stabilize and students continue complying with safety measures, the university will resume in-person learning in two weeks.

"After closely examining the spike in cases in Broome County and the trajectory of the virus on campus, President Stenger and I believe a precautionary pause on all in-person learning and activities is the best course of action for containing COVID and protecting the community," said Chancellor Malatras. "With nearly 12,000 campus-administered tests completed so far, Binghamton will ramp up its already-robust testing regimen while continuing to enforce proven safety measures that slow the spread of the virus. I believe the Binghamton University community will rise to this pivotal moment, stay vigilant, protect one another, and do what needs to be done to bat back this virus so that students can return to in-person learning in two weeks. I also want to thank County Executive Garner for this support to manage the situation."

Binghamton University President Stenger said, "We remain committed to in-person instruction for the fall semester and will work to make our transition back to in-person activities as quickly as we can under Department of Health guidelines while ensuring the safety of students, faculty, staff, and the community. This is a bump in the road; however, it is part of the necessary new reality that we are living in and we will get through this by working together."

Broome County Executive Jason T. Garnar said, "Broome County has been working closely with Binghamton University and we are completely supportive of this decision. We need to get control of the spread of COVID-19 in our community and this will help do that. We will continue to work closely with the University and provide them support as they work to get back on track to finish the semester strong." 

Pursuant to NYSDOH guidance, if a campus reaches the 100 or five percent threshold within a two-week period the campus must implement the following:

  • Convert all campus dining and food service options to takeout/delivery.
  • Deliver all classes through remote learning, but may continue to conduct in-person activity such as clinical, laboratory, licensure, and research, in consultation with the local health department.
  • Suspend in-person athletics, extracurricular programs, and non-essential services. Medical services, counseling, and other services will continue.
  • Keep all residential facilities open.

Binghamton currently has 89 COVID-19 cases within its current two-week window, which began on Saturday, September 26, and runs through Friday, October 9.

SUNY leaders monitor both the virus case numbers that count toward the NYSDOH-issued threshold windows as well as rolling data, both of which are easily accessible and updated daily on SUNY's COVID-19 Case Tracker. With the rolling positivity rate ticking up over the last few days, Chancellor Malatras and President Stenger decided on their own accord to initiate this precautionary pause.

After consultation with the Broome County Health Department, clinical and internship experiences required for licensure as well as some teaching labs will continue in person and research labs will remain open.

Since the semester began, Binghamton has tested more than 11,800 students, with an overall positivity rate of 1.16 percent. The university required students to be tested before the start of classes.

To date, SUNY colleges and universities have conducted more than 158,000 COVID-19 tests, with a positivity rate of 0.64 percent. The system-wide case rate continues to trend downward. The rolling 14-day positivity rate is 0.44 percent. Thanks to major breakthroughs at SUNY Upstate Medical University, SUNY has the capacity to test 120,000 students each week.

SUNY Oswego resumed in-person classes Monday after a similar, two-week pause was initiated on September 18. With 82 cases on campus, the college acted quickly to increase testing, tracing, and safety enforcement, and gained widespread buy-in from students who acted diligently and responsibly to dramatically reduce virus cases over the course of 14 days, ensuring a safe return to in-person learning.

On September 25, Chancellor Malatras unveiled a comprehensive, uniform policy for disciplining students who violate COVID-19 safety guidelines. Drafted in consultation with campuses across the system, student violators now face immediate academic and housing suspension, as well as possible dismissal, and student organizations in non-compliance face a permanent campus ban. The new policy took effect on October 1.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. As of Fall 2019, more than 415,500 students were enrolled in a degree-granting program at a SUNY campus. In total, SUNY serves about 1.3 million students in credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide exceeded $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2019, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit suny.edu.


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