Students assuage friends with Hartwick wall message

Julie Lewis | The Daily Star From left, Hartwick College students Mary Schoenherr and Rhiannon Groll, Hartwick College employees Aimee Boyd Hall and Jeff Barker, paint the wall at the corner of Center and West streets in Oneonta on Thursday. Boyd Hall and Barker are area coordinators of residence life.

Though the Hartwick College campus is largely vacated of its students as a safety measure in response to COVID-19, some of those that linger wanted to spread the message of community for all to see.

A handful of Hartwick students and staff gathered on a sunny Thursday afternoon to paint “We (heart) Wick Students” on the wall at West and Center streets. Students that are still around either live off campus or have extenuating circumstances allowing them to stay in the college's housing. Hartwick has about 20 students still on campus, College Editorial and Creative Director Beth Steele said.

Steele made sure students and staff practiced social distancing, keeping a six-foot distance from each another as they painted white letters onto a deep blue background. She said students who left are missing the college, and the feeling is mutual.

"We really miss them and we know that they miss being here," she said. "We've been thinking about ways that we can continue to be community which is so much a part of Hartwick, and this is one gesture."

The wall, which Steele said is iconic to Hartwick, will also be featured in the college's virtual open house for accepted students April 4.

Though the wall is directly in front of Hartwick's campus, any community group is allowed to paint on it, Steele said. There's an informal agreement between Hartwick and SUNY Oneonta to honor for 48 hours what another organization has painted on the wall, she said. Typically on the far right, artists will paint a date and time stamp to show when they finished.

Rhiannon Groll, a senior biology major, and Mary Schoenherr, a junior business and economics major, were driving by the wall when Hartwick Area Coordinator Aimee Boyd Hall called out to them to join.

"We're not really doing much as is, so it was nice to have something to do," Schoenherr said. "We saw our fellow faculty out here and thought we'd help out."

Chesachi Chisomaga, a freshman theater and art double major, said he and fellow freshman Philip Ojebor, a global studies major, heard about the opportunity through a college email. Chisomaga said he was excited to be involved in the wall's new look; he said he's seen it change twice since the first time he came to Hartwick.

"I just wonder what it would have been like if all our friends were here, how that would have been different," Chisomaga said. "But right now it's alright too."

The freshmen said they have been coping well with the unforeseen twist to their first year of college, and working out, online classes and Netflix have been keeping them occupied.

"It's alright, the school has a big part to play in helping us settle down really easily," Chisomaga said. "The only reason most of us are here is because we don't have places to go so them letting us stay in the dorms, giving us the meal packets every week, that helps too. Even though we have to be six feet apart, it's like a support system of people who are in the same situation."

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at skarikehalli@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.

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