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Student Leaders Hold Virtual Town Hall On Higher Education's Response To COVID

TOMPKINS COUNTY, NY (WSKG) - Students leaders from five universities in New York conducted an online town hall to discuss how their schools are managing the pandemic and the return to campus. For the most part, the students praised campus re-openings and the behavior of students.

Students on the call were from the University of Rochester, Stony Brook, Niagara University, Cornell and Syracuse University.

Syracuse Senior Josh Shub-Seltzer criticized school officials; saying they spent all summer making a COVID plan and should have responded better when freshmen broke quarantine. Dozens of students were suspended after an outlawed gathering on the school’s Quad.

"I don’t think it was a surprise to the university," Shub-Seltzer said. "I think they fully expected it to happen and they should have put more safeguards in place to prevent that. Not to say it’s not the students’ fault but they can’t be fully blamed here. The fact that it took 30 minutes to clear the Quad but it took 5 minutes to report to a student protest last year is another conversation as well."

Shub-Seltzer's last remark referred to the University’s response to a pre-pandemic, Black-student-led protest against racism.

The group also discussed their schools' relationships with surrounding communities. There were also suggestions on how neighbors can handle situations where they see students ignoring safety guidelines.

Catherine Huang, a Cornell senior, said some of the work of educating students on safe practices can be done on social media.

"We are seeing a lot of social messaging for instance on social media, from students that are like, ‘Be mindful of the fact that we are in Ithaca and people live here and it may feel like we’re in a Cornell bubble that people do live here, there’re families here.’ And we have to be extremely cautious when you are going out into the Ithaca areas."