Kaitlyn Tambasco, Managing News Editor
For as long as I’ve been a part of the Tangerine, there have been a series of “challenges” that have occurred in the month of March.
In the 2017 spring semester, as a staff writer for the online team, I remember writing about the sports dome collapsing and asking staff and students for their reactions.
The following March the UC community experienced the campus-wide lockdown where members of our staff did what they could to get the most information possible in order to update the campus community as events unfolded. That day, March 5, 2018, led to more security measures being put in place on campus, after students, faculty and staff worried about their safety.
Last March, a group of students and Campus Safety were involved in a controversial incident and, this March, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed all classes online for the rest of the semester.
I think it’s safe to say that the month of March hasn’t been the easiest for Utica College in recent years.
Dave Fontaine, director of Athletics, said he still remembers the day he found out that UC’s dome had collapsed, as he had received many messages and a neighbor told him in person. He said prior to the dome collapsing the weather had been beautiful. However, on that particular day, Central New York received a significant amount of snow which piled up on top of the dome.
“To see the dome on the ground – after the anticipation to get that up – was sad,” Fontaine said. “The good thing was that it happened during spring break so nobody was in there at the time it collapsed.”
Fontaine said since the collapsing of the dome, there was a different company that was hired to work on the structure of the dome. There was also a system that was created where heat is blown up into the ceiling to help snow and ice melt and implode.
“We had to go back to what it was like before the dome,” Fontaine said.
Students practiced in the Athletic Center, while the track and field team used the hallways in the center for practice.
“Although not ideal, you never want to go backwards if you can help it,” Fontaine said. “It wasn’t a great situation but the student athletes understood.”
Fontaine said that this event was more of an inconvenience versus a tragedy because nobody was in the dome when it collapsed.
When it comes to the lockdown, Director of Campus Safety Musco Millner said additional safety measures have been taken since, including the proximity identification cards and the card readers on the academic quad. These additions have enhanced site security as well as the ability to manage site visitors through electronic data collection.
“It should also be noted that Campus Safety personnel attended two diversity and cultural sensitivity/awareness trainings and workshops,” Millner said. “Also, it should be noted, that we continue to embrace diversity when hiring new staff.”
Utica College President Laura Casamento called March “a month of challenges for the UC Community,” and said the college prepares as well as possible for the unknown.
“We have a Campus Emergency Management Plan that includes protocols and procedures involved with a wide range of emergency scenarios, including pandemics, and we regularly test these plans,” Casamento said. “Having said that, I think it is fair to say that nobody could have imagined, even as recently as a couple of weeks ago, that this crisis would unhold how it has. There’s no question this is uncharted territory.”
Casamento added that the health and safety of students, faculty and staff is the college’s highest priority and the mental wellbeing of individuals is a critical component of that. She said she understands that this is a time of heightened anxiety and concern.
“We don’t know precisely what’s to come, but whatever it is, I know we will get through it together, and we’ll be a stronger community for it,” Casamento said. “And throughout these unsettling times, what has stood out most to me is the degree to which members of the UC community have supported one another – in ways large and small. If we maintain that sense of support, community, and caring, which I have no doubt that we will, I know we will be fine.”