One-On-One with SU’s Vice Chancellor
By John Perik
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – On Monday, CitrusTV spoke with SU Vice Chancellor J. Michael Haynie to learn why the University’s Covid level remains in Code Red.
On August 13, 2021, Syracuse University issued a new four-tier color-coded mask policy that outlines different mask requirements depending on vaccination status and Covid-19 transmission levels on campus and in Onondaga County.
Syracuse University entered a state of the “Code Red” on August 28, 2021. The change went into effect two days before the start of in-person academic classes and came fifteen days after SU first implemented the four-tier color code system.
The tier shift came a day after Onondaga County reported 226 new cases in a twenty-four-hour span. Marking the county’s largest uptick in cases over a one-day period since January 24.
The University has not changed its masking status since it first entered “Code Red” in late August.
Since September 27, Syracuse University has not exceeded 57 active cases on campus. SU reported a 0.4 percent positivity rate on Tuesday, the lowest since the semester began. These statistics contribute to students’ frustration with the University’s decision to remain in a “Code Red” status.
Vice Chancellor Haynie said he believes students have a right to be frustrated as changing the mast status is out of their control. “We have done our part,” Vice Chancellor Haynie said. “The other part of this equation is our community. As per the CDC, Onondaga County is still a high transmission rate geography.”
SU Sophomore Ryan Molta, 20, does not believe the community should play a role in determining the campus-wide mask status. “If Onondaga county was going to be affecting us then we would have a lot more cases than we do,” Molta said. “I am so exhausted of hearing the University blame Onondaga county.”
David Bruen, the President of the Student Association, believes the University should continue to follow the science when it comes to masking. “We need to stay as vigilant as we have in the past year and a half,” Bruen said.
Despite continuing to enforce campus-wide masking, both Vice Chancellor Haynie and students want the same outcome. “There are few people on this campus more anxious to be rid of masks than me,” Haynie said.
SU sophomore Rhea Srivastava, 19, believes Haynie’s statement sounds ironic. “That sounds ironic to me, considering he’s the one who gets to decide it, and he’s not doing anything about it,” Srivastava said.
During the interview, the Vice Chancellor also addressed other issues involving masking and Covid-19, including dining halls. Haynie said limiting Covid transmission has created a middle ground where students can only eat in designated eating areas. “Everyone knows if you go in, you’re going to be around people with a mask down, but you have that choice,” Haynie said.
Haynie also addressed the lack of masking compliance in the Carrier Dome this year. “The very first football game at the Dome was a mildly traumatic experience for me,” Haynie said. “I think, however, after that first game, we learned some lessons, we messaged differently, we had a different approach to compliance, and things have gotten a lot better.”
The semester is nearing a close, and many students wonder when the University will move from Code Red to Code Blue.
Last week, Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon recommended that the Vice Chancellor waits until December before reevaluating the masking status. This is due to Halloween having just passed and Thanksgiving approaching; both holidays could result in high Covid-19 transmission. “We’re going to continue to work with the county,” Haynie said. “We are also going to make decisions that are in the best interest of our students, faculty, and staff at Syracuse University.”
Today, it remains unclear whether or not masks will be coming off in the near future.