Hilbert Covid Protocols Prove Effective


In a time where the world is working to control a pandemic, Hilbert College staff, faculty and students have been persevering and thriving through the first 12 weeks of the semester.

At other colleges and universities across Western New York, the state and the country numbers have been substantially higher than the 14 positive cases that have been reported on the Hilbert campus. New York State alone has more than 10,000 cases at 181 schools, according to the Covid College Tracer Tracker put out by The New York Times.

Jennine Lukasik, the head of the Math department at Hilbert College, said the protocols had been followed well throughout in-person learning.

“I don’t have any problems with students not wearing their masks or wiping down their areas before and after class,” she said. 

Although Hilbert is a relatively small campus, almost everyone seems to be following the protocols, and those protocols have been working to protect community members, which shows in the small number of positive cases reported.

While some schools like SUNY Oneonta were forced to switch to remote learning just a few weeks into the semester – more than 700 positive cases were reported on the 6,500 student campus this semester – Hilbert was able to continue in-person learning through mid November, just 10 days short of the goal of making it to Thanksgiving break.

The school choose to switch to remote learning, not because of an outbreak on campus, but because of alarming positivity rates in the surrounding community.

Some students at bigger schools have described very different experiences.

Daniel Scully, a senior at the University at Buffalo, said he has seen some students not following protcols on campus.

“For the most part, faculty have been doing everything they can to get students to follow protocols,” Scully said. “I do see students sometimes hanging out in bigger groups without masks which is something that nobody wants to see”.

UB was able to continue in-person learning through the Thanksgiving break, despite crossing just over the state’s 100 active case threshold in the final week.

“I believe that the protocols that the school has put in place are working, but if students do not follow them, they could ruin it for everyone,” Scully said. “If we can just be smart and get through this semester, hopefully, things can start to get back to normal.”

One of the biggest differences between private colleges, such as Hilbert or Canisius College, and public schools such as UB, is that the state school has a much more accessible live update of the number of cases confirmed at all levels of the school.

Scully said he knew the exact amount of cases that had been confirmed to the minute and he  is notified every time there’s a new case through the State University of New York covid tracker website.

A Hilbert student must go on the state’s website check how many cases have been reported, which appear in weekly batches.

Amanda Whalen, a sophomore at Canisius College said her school uses an app called Campus Clear that is required to be used by all Canisius students while they are on campus. Whalen said the app is quite easy to use and makes the Covid-19 protocols clear for students.

“At first I thought it was going to be a pain having another thing to do while getting adjusted to the new ways on campus, but Campus Clear has made it easier because all the Covid information that you need is all right there,” Whalen said.

Now, the hope is that students will be able to return to school for in-person learning again next semester. Like other schools, Hilbert officials have pushed back the beginning of the semester and eliminated spring break in an effort to make things run smoothly.

Hilbert Professor Jenelle Lukasik said she thought students did everything they could to keep the community safe this semester.

“I think everything is going very well so far,” Lukasik said. “The seating in classrooms is spaced out enough. Everyone has been staying in their areas, and the cleaning procedures are being clearly followed. It’s as normal as it can be at this point in time and I believe we are on the right track.”

A Familiar Face Returns to Hilbert

There’s a familiar face back on the Hilbert campus after a brief hiatus: Jeff Papia.

Papia, who returned this year as Hilbert’s Vice President of Mission Integration and Campus Ministry, took a position with D’Youville College in 2018, where he had a similar job as their Chief Mission Officer. 

He said he is very happy to be back.

“It’s a Joy,” Papia said. “I’m seeing old friends and making new ones, and coming back to the Hilbert student community.”

Hilbert is an institution that is proud of its Franciscan heritage and values  and seeks to do good, as the founder of the college Mother Collete Hilbert envisioned.  At the heart of Hilbert the goal is to help make individuals who are empathetic and informed.  

Papia had been a member of the Hilbert Community loved by many when he left for D’Youville. Eileen Stack, the Administrative Assistant to President Michael Brophy, works closely with Papia. She said she is very excited to have him back on campus. 

“It’s an absolute pleasure because he is a genuine Franciscan person and lives his life as a Franciscan,” Stack said.

While some students may not be familiar with Papia, many on campus are familiar with his events. Agape Latte, a popular speaking series where students have an opportunity to get to know a side of professors and faculty on campus that they wouldn’t have learned about in a traditional class setting, is one of his hallmarks. 

Papia said that while D’Youville was a school of faith that he was “grateful to be back at a Franciscan College” as his heart is with the identity of Hilbert. 

Stack  said Papia fits right in with the administrative team.

“I’m very fortunate as the people I support are those who help to make decisions based on the values they hold in the college,” she said. 

While the entire world and Hilbert is currently going through what would be considered a new norm Papia’s office is not going to slow down, as he said he remains passionate for what he does and stands committed to his roll on campus despite challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

“No, nothing really has changed. The goal is to support our Franciscan heritage and students,” Papia said. “So how I do it may be different but the goal is the same.”         

Hilbert Moves to Virtual Classes

Last week, Hilbert College announced it’s moving to online class instruction after Friday, November 13 due to increased COVID-19 cases across Erie County. The move comes just a week before the original target date of transitioning to virtual learning, which was just before Thanksgiving.

Dr. Michael Brophy, the college’s president, said the decision to move earlier was a proactive one.

“This previous Sunday when the governor made it clear that Western New York was moving into what they call the yellow zone,” Brophy told HAWK Radio News on Thursday. “We just had to think about all the different logistics that would kick into gear if God forbid, the virus started moving quickly. And because Western New York is struggling right now with the virus, we thought it best to be able to send everyone home on Friday.”

The state’s yellow zone area includes Hamburg and much of Erie County. With that designation comes many new restrictions including limited dine-in seating at restaurants, gatherings are limited to 25 people or less, and certain businesses must close by 10pm.

Also included was a testing requirement for schools, mandating that they test at least 20 percent of students, faculty, and staff per week. While the requirement did not include private colleges like Hilbert, Brophy said the difficulty to meet that should the state mandate institutions like Hilbert to do so was also a factor in the early online transition.

“We determined through the governor’s office that we weren’t required to do that [testing],” he said. “But the fact is that if we needed to do testing, for better or worse, the local and federal governments just haven’t provided this infrastructure for lots of rapid testing for lots of people. So we realized that if we needed to test everyone, we were in a tough place. It wasn’t just financial, it was really just logistical with the tests to be there.”

When the coronavirus pandemic first hit the United States in March, many professors were caught somewhat off guard after Hilbert moved to teaching online. Dr. Brophy said this time, they’re prepared.

“The faculty worked all summer long on having their courses prepared to be taught online,” Brophy said. “They prepared to be online at Thanksgiving, so it’s not going to be a great hardship on the faculty. But obviously, we’re really, really sad about our students, especially our freshmen who are in their first year of college and having to deal with this. But we do think, as a Franciscan college, we have to be thinking about people’s whole lives, and welfare.”

As of November 15, Hilbert has reported 12 COVID-19 cases to the state from the beginning of the semester, including both commuter and residential students. Looking ahead to a return to having students in the classroom, Dr. Brophy is confident in the January 25 return date for the spring semester.

“I think our students know that we did a really good job this summer, we queued everything up, people came back, we started the fall semester,” Brophy said. “But it came down to a lot of planning and sacrifices. We’re gonna do the same thing for the spring. What we’re hearing from the medical community, of course, is that the next month will be very difficult for most of the country, but in a new year, the vaccines will be available to folks. So we are preparing to come to be back on the 25th for sure.”

Classes for this fall semester will continue on virtually until December 18.

Storylines: Bills vs. Cardinals

Editor’s note: This story was shared with The Scribe by Couch Guy Sports.

After beating the Seattle Seahawks last week, the 7-2 Buffalo Bills will travel to Arizona for a battle with the 5-3 Cardinals. In this article, I will break down a couple of things that I will be keeping my eye on in this game.

Josh vs. Kyler

Week 10 fantasy football rankings: Kyler Murray vs. Josh Allen highlights matchups to prep for

Not only will we see two upcoming teams battle, but we will also see two young promising quarterbacks go head to head. Josh Allen and Kyler Murray will face off for the first time on Sunday and it will be an exciting matchup to watch. According to Pro Football Reference, Murray has 2,130 passing yards and 543 rushing yards. He has eight rushing touchdowns, 16 passing touchdowns and seven interceptions. For Allen, he has 241 rushing yards and rushed for five touchdowns. When it comes to passing, the Bills quarterback has 2,587 yards, 19 touchdowns and five interceptions. It will be interesting to see what happens on Sunday, but I am looking forward to see Allen and Murray duel.

Tre vs. D-Hop

DeAndre Hopkins passes Andre Johnson in playoff receptions

Whenever you get a chance to see a top cornerback and a top wide receiver battle it out, you know it’s going to be entertaining. However, Tre’Davious White vs. DeAndre Hopkins will be even more entertaining. The history behind these two stars go back to last year before the wild card game between the Bills and Texans. Before the game, Hopkins posted a picture on his social media showing Hopkins catching a ball while White was defending him. The caption said “2020 mood.” Below is the picture Hopkins used before he deleted it.

Texans' Deshaun Watson planning to go at Bills' Tre White, likes match up with DeAndre Hopkins - syracuse.com

We’re in for a great battle between two good teams and it will be a fun game to watch. You can catch the game on CBS @4:05 pm.

Covid Protocols Present Challenges, Opportunities

Last March the lives of Americans changed drastically as the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

Everyday routines were turned completely upside down, including jobs, shopping, even spending time outside. But education, in particular, saw significant disruptions. Most schools around the country were forced to change the way students attended classes, changing and adding rules and regulations that students are not accustomed to, such as wearing a mask when on campus, logging into zoom classes on time, and disinfecting everything in class rooms and campuses.

Hilbert College is no exception.

Alesia Hamm is taking all classes in person and said that it is much easier and more efficient when it comes to understanding her material. She believes that human interaction and face to face learning is crucial, especially during these stressful times.

However, having online options has helped Hamm keep up on her schoolwork, she said.

“Due to having an online option for classes and office hours, I am able to keep my grades up more compared to last year,” she said.

Sarah Kobler takes a few classes online and the rest are in person, even though she, and most other students, are not too fond of remote learning. She believes that grades and mental health are both impacted when not being face to face for classes.

When it comes to being at home, and maybe even in your own bedroom, it is easy to get distracted and maybe miss an important part of your class. “Sometimes I notice my classmates walking away from their computer screens for long periods of time,” Kobler said.

Professor Megan Witzleben, who teaches English at Hilbert, only taught one online class over the summer, but agrees that in-person classes are much easier to teach and feels her students learn more efficiently.   

“Preparation for teaching (online) becomes much more complicated and time consuming,” she said. “I am unable to know how well the students are retaining the information I teach, especially if I have to present a pre-recorded video or PowerPoint.”

It is harder for teachers to keep track of attendance when teaching through a computer screen and to know if a student is falling behind, Witleben added.

“It seems that students usually only pay attention over zoom when it is a one on one meeting.” she said.

However, the students and professor have said that one positive thing about online schooling is not having to take time away from extracurricular activities or hobbies.

“Because of the restrictions of staying on campus for events and other activities, I have more time to play basketball outside of school,” Hamm said.

Another positive attribution of online class is the increase in grades, Hamm and Kobler agreed. This is most likely due to being able to review courses and classes as much as needed, versus a once over in an in-person class.  

And for some students, the independence and free time available in quarantine can be beneficial in some ways, Hamm said.

“Because I have the extra time to do more of what I really enjoy, such as basketball and enjoying being outside,” she said. “I feel my mental health is much better.”

Still, remote learning can be difficult psychologically. When students and teachers spend more time at home and most of their days on a computer, their mental health and even physical health may be affected.

Witzleban said that she and anyone with children need a strong support system. Without this support, it can be easy to get stuck in a rut both physically and mentally.  

“Being stuck inside all day everyday has a negative impact on mental health,” she said. “Especially since I have young children at home.”

Hilbert Students Have Mixed Emotions About Being on Campus

With the fall 2020 semester halfway complete, students are in the swing of their routines.

From arriving to campus, sitting in their lecture halls, or meeting a fellow Hawk for coffee, things look different this semester at Hilbert. As many new precautions have been put in place to keep students, faculty, and staff safe, some students feel that some of these precautions are beneficial and others are trying to find a balance.

Sisters Haley and Toriann Wipperman,have different views on the way that things are going when asked about the sanitation in classrooms

Sophomore Toriann Wipperman said she is still adjusting to the new protocols.

“I’m somewhere in the middle,” Toriann Wipperman said. “It’s like decent. The one classroom I was in ran out of wipes to wipe down the desks and we kept asking for them to get refilled and it took a few days. It took a while.”

Based off the CDC’s recommendation, a face covering over both the nose and mouth should be worn in public spaces when a six-foot distance cannot be met. According to Toriann, everyone wears a mask properly throughout the duration of her in-person classes on campus. Professor Don Vincent said that the classrooms are sanitized well and students consistently wear their masks properly throughout the duration of his lectures.

Some colleges decided to pull the plug months ago on both in-person classes and re-opening dorm halls for the fall 2020 semester. However, Hilbert made the decision to have students live in dorms and continue with in person instruction.

Toriann Wipperman said she understands why it is difficult for schools to decide whether to continue with in person classes, but that she feels they should have went completely remote when asked if she thought Hilbert administrators made the right decision.

“Thats controversial,” Toriann Wipperman said. “I’m gonna say no. It makes sense that Hilbert’s back. I just don’t think any of these schools should be. I think we should have just been in lockdown completely and just got rid of it completely, instead of trying to normalize it while the pandemic is still happening.”

Senior Haley Wipperman is currently completing all classes remotely from home, as she broke her foot in July. She feels a bit different about the topic.

“We are all college students and this is our school,” Haley Wipperman said. “It is up to us to follow the rules and keep everyone healthy. If we weren’t on campus, it would be another semester of our college experience taken away from us.”

Hilbert Women’s Soccer Players Adjust To New Protocols

The Hilbert Women’s Soccer team is having to adapt to many new changes and precautions this upcoming spring season. 

The team had to adapt many new protocols because of COVID-19, including the delay of the season, new practice times and a different schedule.  There were many new restrictions added this year because of the pandemic. 

Sophomore Amber Stuck said this season had many new changes, but she is looking forward to the spring.

“We will have probably around eight games which would be playing each team in the conference once,” Stuck said. “I think we start around March/April and it will probably be a month and a half to two months long.”

This means that the team will have a few less games than usual but will still be able to play each team at least once. 

Freshman Paige Wagner said she is happy to be seeing her teammates at all, given the circumstances.

“I expected to not even begin practicing yet this year because of COVID, so I’m glad we are able to practice,” Wagner said. “I really enjoy being on the team so far and I am excited for if and when we get to play games.”

The team is still able to practice.  They have a special sanitizing crew that sanitizes all equipment after every practice.  They practice twice a week in separate groups. 

Sophomore Macy Kisner said everyone is still getting used to the new protocols.

“Every practice, my team and I have to wear masks walking over to the field, where our temperatures are taken before every practice,” Kisner said. “We practice in groups of ten, so we stay separate from each other.”

The season does have lots of minor changes like taking temperatures before practice, creation of the sanitation crew and a different game schedule than last year. 

But, even with all these new changes put in place this year, the team seems excited and ready to play in the spring, Paige Wagner, a team captain said.

“I can’t wait see what the future holds for this team and this coming season,” Wagner said.

Professor John Culhane Began his Career in Service

Fifty years ago last month, Professor John Cullhane took a step in a series of many on a journey of service throughout his career. He joined the United States Army.

The decision for him was easy, Culhane said.

“It was the mid-sixties and I had taken a break from delivering newspapers,” Culhane said. “I read an article about the Vietcong. Afterwards, I went home and told my mom I wanted to join the Army and go to Vietnam”.

It was a calling rooted in his family history. His father served in the illustrious 82nd Airborne Division that parachuted behind enemy lines as the beaches of Normandy were being stormed, Culhane said.

America was ensnared in a “cold war” against communism. U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower said that the spread of communism was like a row of dominoes: when one falls, they all fall, only the “dominoes” were real countries.  During his inaugural speech, President John Kennedy pledged American support to any country that wanted help in fighting communism. It also meant that millions of young Americans would be faced with the likelihood of military service either voluntary or involuntary.

The mid-sixties was a time when public support for the fight against communism in Vietnam was at its highest. In 1968, that support dwindled as Americans began to question what progress was being made all while daily television news footage showed disturbing images of U.S. and Vietnamese casualties. Footage of casualties in subsequent conflicts after Vietnam were mostly censored. 

 In late 1969, President Nixon announced combat troops would begin withdrawing from Vietnam and that the South Vietnamese would assume a larger role in fighting the communists. Despite the reduction in troop levels, the war effort still needed helicopter pilots.

“I had a nagging desire to fly,” Culhane said.

After nearly one year of flight training, Cullhane earned his army wings and deployed to Vietnam.

Cullhane explained that when he arrived in Vietnam, he was assigned to the First Air Cavalry “Air Cav” Division and flew on utility helicopters nicknamed Hueys.  The life of a helicopter pilot in Vietnam was dangerous and the pilots who flew them simply ran on adrenaline. Cullhane spent his days flying troops and supplies.

Culhane in Vietnam

Off duty, his evenings were filled with poker games and warm beer amongst his fellow flyers- all happy that they were one day closer to going home. When flying, his lunch usually consisted of canned ham slices and bread. Occasionally, a surprise in the form of a larger can would await him: a coffee tin packed full of cookies from home. Since the beginning of time, soldiers have always cherished mail and care packages from home.

“A lot of soldiers…me included, would get “Dear John” letters,” Culhane said.

They were break up letters from their girlfriends.

“Dating someone in the military was very unpopular at the time,” he said. “We didn’t have the support that we have now”.

Humor was one coping mechanism the flyers used which is why those letters were often posted in a common area for others to read, Culhane added.

 The high point during his combat experience occurred when Cullhane’s unit was tasked with flying South Vietnamese troops into Cambodia, he said.

Kept secret from the public, American strategists knew the enemy had been stockpiling weapons and supplies in the neighboring country but were not allowed to pursue them. When South Vietnamese soldiers were given the order to advance into the neighboring country, they needed a ride.

Cullhane described the first landing as “intense” and that “gunfire erupted from all over the bamboo covered jungle…so intense that one helicopter next to us turned onto its side and crashed.”

He and his unit would spend the next two months flying troops and supplies into Cambodia, Culhane said.

A few days after the missions into Cambodia started, the Kent State shooting took place in which Ohio National Guard soldiers shot into a group of protesters on campus. Four protesters were killed. College campuses across the country experienced intense anti-war demonstrations.

 Cullhane said it was the best and worst year of his life. Memories of Vietnam continue to this day, yet his most important lesson was learning to overcome the fear of death. It is a deep and personal experience which many veterans and others in dangerous professions have had to accept in order to carry out their duties, he said.

Professor Cullhane returned home to a country that distanced itself from these heroes yet he stayed on course to complete law school, become a Monroe County Assistant District Attorney, work high profile cases as an FBI agent, and finally to Hibbert.

Hamburg Budget Holds the Line

The COVID-19 pandemic caused many governments to raise, or consider raising taxes to account for deficits. That includes places like Nashville, Chicago, and California, but not in Hamburg according to Town Supervisor Jim Shaw.

“0.0%, no tax increase, taxes stay constant to what they were in 2020,” said Shaw

Shaw said the town took a hard look at reducing unneeded spending, and capitalizing on low interest rates to even update some of its facilities and services.

“We cut back on overtime, we cut back on out of town travel for seminars, we put a cap on new equipment or vehicle purchases,” Shaw said. “We also established a hiring freeze for part-time summer employees and full time employees.”

There’s no layoffs planned, but one position would be eliminated in the police department.

“We anticipate four retirements in the first few months of 2021,” said Shaw “one of those positions will remain vacant, so we’re not laying anyone off, one will be vacant, it’s eliminated by attrition.”

One welcomed decision is the state’s reversal on not sharing revenue from the Hamburg Casino and racetrack with the town. Shaw said while it was reduced, the funds will be much needed help to Hamburg’s pocketbook.

“Given the state’s financial difficulties, which are profound, we are relived to get 80% of the funding.”

Shaw said local governments can’t operate like the federal government and run a deficit. It needs to work and take account for the needs of the community.

“The fact of the matter of it is there are a lot of people in our township, not to mention other areas throughout Erie County and Western New York, there are a lot of people who are really suffering. And what we can do in this time of suffering, is tighten our belts and hold the line. It’s what we owe people morally, we can’t be excessive spenders when everyone else is struggling.”

The $47.7 million dollar budget is a decrease from the previous year’s $48.7 million budget. It’ll go for a vote in front of the Town Board on November 16th for approval. 

Memorable Blue Jays’ Stay in Buffalo

There were a few surprise teams that made the MLB playoffs in this shortened season, including the Toronto Blue Jays. Because of Covid-19, the season got cut down from 162 games to 60 games and the playoff format was expanded. With the season being shorter, every game was a must win. The Blue Jays have some young players who have promising futures in the league. Despite getting swept by the Tampa Bay Rays in the wild card round, the future is bright for the Jays.

With the Canadian government not allowing the Blue Jays to play in Toronto, the team played their home games in Buffalo, home of their Triple A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons. The play-by-play announcer for the Bisons, Pat Malacaro, had the opportunity to be the PA announcer for the games in Buffalo. I was able to talk to him about the Blue Jays season.

When asked about the expectations for the team, Malacaro said, “Expectations in March were finishing third place in the division (AL East) and hoping to contend for a wild card spot.”

Once the season was shortened to 60 games, then making the playoffs was actually a possibility. In order to make the playoffs, every single player would have a to contribute and they did, he said.

“A lot of guys contributed they were figuring out who they were” Malacaro added.

Some of the MVP candidates for the team were infielder Cavan Biggio and Teoscar Hernandez. A couple of acquisitions from the trade deadline that could help the team not spend big money in free agency are two pitchers, Robbie Ray and Taijuan Walker. “If the Jays hang on to these players, it will help the development of the pitchers in the minor leagues” said Malacaro.

Looking to next season, Pat thinks shortstop Bo Bichette will take a big step. “If he’s consistent with his offense, he can be the lead-off hitter” said Malacaro. One player who struggled was Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is considered one of the best prospects in the entire league. He’s known for his power so you think he would be hitting a lot of home runs. Well he didn’t do a lot of that this during the regular season.

“His biggest issue is getting into baseball shape” Malacaro said. “Covid-19 didn’t help because routine is a big thing for baseball players. Going forward, if he can get into good shape going forward, then he will be successful.”

The future is bright for the Blue Jays. It’s a possibility they will be a powerhouse in the few years.