ONEONTA, N.Y. — SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras on Thursday announced that Dennis Craig will serve as the new acting president of SUNY Oneonta.
The SUNY board of trustees approved the appointment today and is “effective immediately.”
Craig assumes the duties previously held by Barbara Jean Morris, who SUNY says has “transitioned from her position as president to pursue other opportunities,” per its Thursday news release. A search for a permanent president is expected to begin soon.
The website of WBNG-TV in Binghamton cites Malatras as saying Morris left on her own following an increase in COVID-19 cases on the SUNY Oneonta campus earlier in the semester.
Malatras made the announcement at SUNY Oneonta, joined by Craig, the SUNY Oneonta College Council, along with student, faculty, and local-government leaders.
Craig recently led SUNY Purchase College’s successful fall reopening and handled the campus’s response to the first wave of the pandemic last spring as interim president.
“SUNY Oneonta is at a critical juncture and Acting President Craig will bring steady, focused, and collaborative leadership to the campus. Dennis Craig was one of the first presidents I met after my appointment, and we spoke at length about the specific accommodations he put in place for SUNY Purchase students, faculty, and staff —especially for a campus located near New Rochelle, which was New York State’s first hot spot for COVID early on in the pandemic,” Malatras said. “For the SUNY Oneonta campus, Acting President Craig’s first priority is to ensure students have what they need to complete their fall semester, as well as a clear plan in place for the spring. And Dennis will do so with my support in collaboration and with guidance and feedback from the campus community — particularly our students, with [Oneonta] Mayor Gary Herzig and other local officials, and local health officials.”
While interim president for SUNY Purchase, Craig, along with Malatras, had announced the launch of pooled surveillance testing on Aug 27. To date, the campus has administered 2,787 tests for students, faculty, and staff, with only three positive cases, SUNY said.
Craig’s leadership at SUNY Purchase in managing the safe reopening of the campus has “served as a model” for other campuses across the SUNY system.
SUNY Purchase resumed classes on Aug. 31, with about 750 students returning to live on campus. A quarter of students are enrolled in classes with some in-person instruction. The campus has strict safety protocols for housing, face-coverings, density on campus, and social distancing.
As SUNY Oneonta’s new leader, he will apply this approach to develop a “comprehensive and coordinated” plan with SUNY, local officials, and state health departments with the goal of reopening the campus safely in the spring of 2021.
Malatras on Sept. 3 directed SUNY Oneonta to begin transitioning all students to 100 percent remote learning off campus for the duration of the fall semester following an increase of COVID-19 cases, which had totaled nearly 400 as of that date.
“I am truly honored to serve Oneonta during this transition and look forward to working closely with my new colleagues across the college as we continue to rise to the many challenges associated with the pandemic,” Craig said. “I thank the SUNY board, Chairman Tisch, and Chancellor Malatras for the trust they have bestowed in leading during this critical juncture. Success will require an effective partnership with our students and families, and I am committed to listening to them, as well as working closely with campus and local governance and all stakeholders in the weeks ahead.”