Students remain hopeful, excited for fall semester

Students remain hopeful, excited for fall semester

For the first time in over 17 months, SU students returned to fully in-person classes amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Published: August 30, 2021
Dennis Murphy, a first year undecided student from Albany, NY, talks to his friend through FaceTime after class outside of S.I. Newshouse School of Public Communications on August 30, 2021. Dennis Murphy, a first year undecided student from Albany, NY, talks to his friend through FaceTime after class outside of S.I. Newshouse School of Public Communications on August 30, 2021.
Dennis Murphy, a first-year undecided student from Albany, talks to his friend through FaceTime after class outside the Newhouse School on Monday.

Syracuse University students returned to start the fall semester Monday, and while masks were required, classes were held fully in-person for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. 

For Raquell Carpenter, a mathematics and mathematics education junior, she said her first day reminded her of college life pre-covid.

“I feel the difference [being in person],” she said. “It feels like freshman year again. I went a whole year of virtual learning, and my first day back already has me feeling like this is going to be a good semester.”

While masks are currently required for all students, faculty, and visitors on campus, many felt happy to simply be back, enjoying in-person classes and meeting new people. 

Wyatt Dennis, television, radio, and film senior, said he prefers in-person learning over virtual classes, saying, “it’s a lot harder to be online.”

“I’m just glad to be back in a more social environment, and go to more social events,” he said.

For some sophomores, this year has been their first real taste of the college experience, since the pandemic pushed everything online last year. Biology sophomore Michaela Genty said she is looking forward to meeting people outside of her dorm, something she couldn’t do as readily last year. 

“I’m looking forward to being able to just be on the quad more often and just meeting new people,” Genty said.

Forensic science sophomore Sydney Melnick said she is unsure of what to expect from this year, but expressed optimism with more in-person classes.

On Aug. 28, two days before the beginning of the fall semester, Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation J. Michael Haynie announced in an email to the University that SU would be changing its masking guidelines to Level Red. Under the new guidelines, all individuals on campus must wear masks indoors at all times, and outdoors when in the presence of others.

According to Haynie, SU decided to take this step as a precautionary measure given a notable increase in COVID-19 cases in Onondaga County. 

“The University’s public health experts, in consultation with federal, state and local public health officials, will continue daily monitoring of COVID data on campus and in the community, and make recommendations related to future adjustments to our campus masking policy as dictated by data and science,” Haynie said in the email.

Despite the change in masking status, Carpenter said she felt comfortable going to her in-person classes and wants to remain in-person. She said she felt protected with the enhanced safeguards in the classroom such as being able to wipe down shared spaces and having extra masks on hand.

“I felt comfortable because I feel like things are moving to being 100% in person, so if the mask is the only thing that we need to do in close spaces or with more than five people, I say that it doesn’t really impact me much. I was just excited to get back to in-person classes and take notes and interact with my peers.”

While many students, like Carpenter, remain hopeful about remaining in-person, some have also voiced concerns about individuals’ varying levels of comfort with attending classes. On Sunday, #NotAgainSU shared a statement on Instagram calling on students and faculty to strike attending in-person classes until the University provides an option for those wishing to remain virtual. 

We would like to reiterate that we’re asking @syracuseu to allow students and teachers the OPTION of attending/teaching classes virtually for everyone’s safety and comfort,” the post said. 

Biology freshman Mari Matthews said she sees the value in allowing students to have the option to choose how to attend classes, particularly during periods of high transmission. 

“I think it would be a nice cushion, like say over time COVID rises and you start to feel uncomfortable with the situation, then you do have the option to stay home,” Matthews said. “Or say if you’re sick but you still have the energy to go [to class], it would be a good option because it’s like ‘Oh, I’m sick but I can still learn and not get behind.’”

Regardless of how the semester unfolds, illustration senior Harlow Arcaro said he is going to make the most out of his final year at SU. As a transfer student, Arcaro said he has only ever attended one class in person, and he hopes to have a fairly normal senior year.

“I’m hoping we can stick it out and not get shut down because people are partying and getting sick,” he said. “If it does happen, it’s not the end of the world, but I’m just going to try and enjoy it as much as possible.”

Students walk to their in-person classes in Newhouse 3 on Monday.
Students walk to their in-person classes in Newhouse 3 on Monday.