Operation Doorhanger has health component this year

BUFFALO (WBEN) - University at Buffalo staff are adding a public health component to an annual tradition, as Wednesday marked the Operation Doorhanger initiative.

Typically, staff from the Community Relations Office drop off a doorhanger packet of information for off-campus students in the University Heights neighborhood regarding conduct policies.

"This year, with COVID-19, we're really focusing on letting our students and residents know about our health and safety guidelines, encouraging our students to follow UB's, state and county health and safety guidelines," said Community Relations Director Tess Morrissey. "That includes wearing a mask; that includes being socially distant, staying home of you're sick, washing your hands, so really just encouraging our students to follow all of our guidelines and reminding them how important it is."

Of course, much greater attention will be paid to the behavior of off-campus college students this year, as universities have more control over on-campus living and can sort of game plan for residence life. Off-campus students have more flexibility in what they're allowed to do, so the concern is that they'll use that flexibility, which is concerning during a pandemic.

Morrissey noted that just because a student may live off-campus, it does not mean they are free from discipline if they violate the code of conduct set forth by the school.

"We do have more control with our on-campus housing, but luckily, we have a very good relationship with the city and with the Buffalo Police Department," she began. "If there are ever major issues off-campus, we know about that, the police let us know about that, and then we put those students through the judicial conduct process at the university as well. So, usually when there's major issues, we are aware of it and work with the police on trying to handle that."

If students receive a ticket or citation from Buffalo Police for having too large a party, for example, Morrissey said they could receive a $1,500 fine, and she hopes that number will help prohibit some of those large gatherings that could be dangerous during a pandemic.

"I think a majority of our students are following the health restrictions and take it very seriously," Morrissey said. "When we went around on Saturday, we had masks that we were handing out to students, and pretty much all of the students that we talked to had a mask and were wearing them." 

Listen to Morrissey's full comments below: