With students set to return to local colleges and universities for the fall semester, the City of Buffalo is announcing renewed partnerships with two of the larger learning institutions to protect those living off-campus.
These partnerships are not new but, this year, there are concerns for preventing new outbreaks of COVID-19. Mayor Byron Brown, speaking in City Hall Thursday, recalled incidents at some campuses in other parts of the country, including large parties, which have resulted in those colleges closing up their classrooms and sending students back home for online instruction.
"We have all seen those pictures of other colleges and universities across the country, with students engaging in behavior dangerous to themselves and others," Brown said. "We do not want that to occur here."
Mayor Brown announced inspections of off-campus housing will begin this weekend, starting in the city's University Heights neighborhood near the University at Buffalo's South Campus. Inspectors, joined by UB officials, will provide information to residents, check that the housing is safe and verify that only the allowable number of students are living in those locations.
UB interim vice president of student affairs Christina Hernandez says their outreach, Operation Door Hanger, will cover an estimated 1,500 off-campus apartments. They also have an aggressive health safety campaign underway on their campuses.
"We're providing masks to every student and employee and have set up mask distribution sites throughout all three of our campuses," Hernandez said. "We've installed new health signage on campus, reduced our classroom capacity with a modified in-person instruction format, reduced overall density on our campus, and have limited our residence halls to include no more than two residents per room."
Buffalo State vice president Timothy Gordon says an estimated 1,300 students are living off-campus, within a five-mail radius of the college.
"In addition to education, we plan to work with the city to support students living in off-campus addresses, and intervene as concerns are raised, related to any behaviors that would work against the city's and campus efforts to keep everyone safe," Gordon said.
Mayor Brown noted that students who violate city ordinances regarding large parties will face fines up to $1,500, in addition to whatever punishment their college or university sees fit.