By Our Staff
Universities across the country have begun their Fall semesters, with mixed results. There have already been full shutdowns, partial shutdowns, and threats of shutdowns if rules are not adhered to more strictly. What does this mean for Binghamton University? Will our school face a similar fate? Here are some predictions regarding how long the semester will last from five of our staff members.
Will Anderson – Three weeks. If you fully believe that other students will follow all of the safety procedures for the next four months then I really have to commend your ability to trust others. My first semester of college wasn’t spent at Binghamton, but in a dormitory. About once per week, the fire alarm would go off because some student in my building thought it would be a great idea to smoke weed in their dorm, cover their smoke detector, or light a bunch of candles before going to bed. This continued right through finals week for the entirety of my freshman year. Following that experience, I can no longer trust other students not to light matches under smoke detectors, and I similarly don’t trust students to not go to crowded college bars on State Street, let alone stand six feet apart. That being said, I do trust the administration’s judgement. There’s no way they would keep classes in person if there was a massive spike in active cases on campus. They know there are several students on campus with pre-existing health conditions, and that keeping classes in-person for too long could become an existential threat to their lives. My guess is that they’re just keeping us here until we’re all financially responsible for the entirety of the semester, then they’re going to send us home.
Harold Rook – Four Weeks. If I had to guess how long we truly have before campus becomes a barren wasteland again, I figure four weeks tops. Obviously, I don’t think that as soon as school starts we’ll suddenly be bombarded with cases of coronavirus; the virus itself has an incubation period of, at most, 14 days, meaning that the probability of immediate school closure is slim, at best. There is also the fact that New York was, for a time, the epicenter of coronavirus cases in the United States, which doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence. Then there are the rather…smart decisions by some individuals to eschew guidelines entirely in favor of partying. If you need a clearer picture for what I’m talking about, check out the BU subreddit. Basically, students are packed together like sardines waiting outside to enter a bar or frat house, with not a single mask in sight. My belief is that you can never underestimate the power of human stupidity, and, put frankly, the people who are still partying are likely going to be the source of a new outbreak, if there ever is one. Compound this with the possibility of a second wave coming to the United States, and you have a recipe for disaster. Of course, I really hope I am proven wrong, and that the administration can properly address these issues. Until then, if there is a large enough influx of students contracting COVID-19, four weeks is the maximum timeframe we have until everything closes again.
Dillon O’Toole – Five Weeks. I predict that Binghamton will return to fully online classes in roughly five weeks, but more specifically by October 1st. My reasoning comes from several different factors concerning the student body and the virus itself. Initially, I feel most students will follow the protocols laid out by the administration as students settle into the new semester. After a week or two, I think many students will start to relax and begin to follow these safety measures less carefully. Since the virus has an incubation period of up to two weeks, cases in Binghamton may not be seen until the middle of, or late September. If the cases spike enough the administration will likely be forced to send the student body home before October.
Joe Badalamenti – Six weeks. If campus were to shut down again, it would likely happen in one of two ways. There’s the possibility that an outside force (such as the New York State government) could shut down the university like they did last semester. The second way would be a voluntary university shutdown due to a spike in cases in diagnostic testing. As time passes, I would assume that students (specifically freshmen) will adhere less to the guidelines. This could eventually become grounds to close BU.
Tommy Gagliano – Full semester. I just spent my summer working at a summer camp in Suffolk County, Long Island. The camp ran for nine full weeks. The regulations we had in place were far less restrictive than the ones students are expected to adhere to at BU. Staff wore masks, but none of the campers did. In theory groups were supposed to be isolated from one another, but in practice they came into contact fairly frequently, such as when passing each other in the hallway, or when a ball from one activity ended up in the space of another. Social distancing within groups was virtually non-existent. During those nine weeks, there was not a single positive COVID-19 case among the staff or campers. The student population at BU is obviously much higher than the camper population where I work, but I am optimistic that universities in New York State can operate without causing an outbreak, much like we were able to. While it was an epicenter early on, the virus is no longer prevalent in New York. As of August 23rd (when I am writing this), Broome County saw only 33 new positive cases per 100,000 over the past week. Suffolk, Nassau, New York City, and Westchester counties, where a large portion of BU’s student body are from, each registered between 22 and 23 new cases per 100,000 over that same seven-day period. Statewide, the seven-day average for new cases is 609; on April 10th that number was 9,877. Binghamton University also has the advantage of having very few out of state students, which may allow them to succeed in operating during the pandemic when other colleges, such as UNC, were unable to do so.