East Coast Colleges Open With Students, Caution
• COVID-19 and Syracuse University open classes for students from all over the world.
Syracuse University in New York made the decision over the summer to resume campus instruction for the this Fall semester. It is proving to be a semester unlike anything the students have experienced before.
Students coming from “hot states,” as designated by the state of New York, had to quarantine themselves for two weeks prior to arrival on campus. Some stayed in dorms while others stayed in hotels, with relatives, or in their own off-campus apartment or house. All students were required to provide proof of a negative test prior to starting classes on August 24. The weekend before classes began students were tested again by the University.
Candice Bina, a student from Santa Monica, quarantined herself in a Marriott hotel in downtown Syracuse for two weeks. She said, “Time in quarantine moved differently. I felt like I was only there for a few days and for a month at the same time. I didn’t leave my room except once to get ice.”
Campus life in general is much stricter than in the past. All rooms have occupancy limits, the quad has circles everywhere marking 6 feet of space, and students are only allowed in the dorms they live in. Even the dining halls have dramatically changed, with food only being offered in to-go boxes for the time being.
The Barnes Center at the Arch, the school’s new gym, is operating under a reservation schedule. Students can reserve a spot on one of the floors of the gym up to 6 hours in advance. The time slots are all for 1.5 hours, and then the gym staff deep-cleans everything before the next group of people come to work out. An outdoor weight room has been added, offering a new experience of working out under a huge tent.
Chris Harvey, a student employee at the gym, said, “The job has changed quite a bit from last year. We patrol the gym, make sure everyone is wearing their mask, and now we designate 30-minute shifts for cleaning.”
While some classes are completely in person, many are either hybrid or entirely online. For hybrid classes, students, typically are assigned a day they are allowed to come into the classroom. When it’s not a classroom day, those students join class over Zoom.
One complaint among students is that it’s not even worth it to go to the classroom on the classroom day because you just end up signing in on Zoom anyway in order to see everyone or participate in group work.
Professors are figuring out what works and what doesn’t, but like developing any new format, it takes some time.
Taking classes through Zoom has posed some challenges. People have trouble connecting, screen-sharing capabilities don’t work properly, and audio issues occur. In some classrooms, those using Zoom cannot hear those in the room when they speak, which results in a professor having to relay that information to the students over Zoom.
Finally, timing can be a bit tight when a student is going from an online class to one in person, and then to another online. Finding a quiet socially distant spot can be difficult at times.
Zoom also has some benefits -- the obvious one being that the platform allows Syracuse to operate as it is this Fall semester. Some professors have chosen to post course material asynchronously, so students can watch lectures on their own.
The social scene is much more laid back than in past years. With no tailgates or Greek life, most people are staying safe and only gathering in small groups. When people are in bigger gatherings, they are quickly split up or receive a lot of negative feedback via social media relatively quickly.
The weekend before school began, a large crowd of 100 or so freshman was gathered on the main quad on campus, and there was a lot of outrage from other students about how unsafe this was and how the crowd wasn’t dispersed sooner by the campus police.
Since that incident, nothing of that nature has occurred again. The university is prompt in communicating what’s going on to all students. Recently, there was traces of COVID-19 in the wastewater in one of the dorms on campus. All students were told to report back to the dorm immediately where they were tested and told to self-quarantine until results were back, about 24 hours later. Everyone ended up testing negative and the dorm was lifted from quarantine.
Syracuse University requires any student that plans to be physically on campus to complete a Daily Health Screening Form. The school also created a COVID dashboard detailing the amount of student and employee cases within Central New York. The information is updated every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Despite skepticism about resuming in-person learning, everything is going smoothly thus far. Syracuse University has been prompt in handling possible COVID cases and although there is still ample time before Thanksgiving Break, most people on and off campus are hopeful about the rest of the semester.
The week of September 7 marked the third week of classes and another wave of testing will be required for all students.