October 25, 2021

SUNY students prepare for a new, quieter semester

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Tyler Colbey carries his bags into SUNY Cortland’s Bishop Hall on Thursday. With classes starting Monday and fewer students returning to on-campus residence halls because of the pandemic, students said they expected a quieter semester.

Tyler Colbey, a freshman from Rochester, said Thursday that coming back to live on campus for SUNY Cortland’s spring semester won’t feel like it did last semester with on-campus housing half of what it was in the fall.

Still, it will be better than staying at home.

“I want to get a college experience in some way so coming back will do that,” he said.

Colbey and other students returned to campus Thursday in preparation for the start of classes Monday.

College President Erik Bitterbaum said last week that about half of the campus’s 3,200 residence hall rooms will be occupied for the spring semester.

This has been attributed to students either staying home to save room and board costs and taking courses virtually or by skipping the spring semester, said Fred Pierce, the college’s director of communications, at a recent Cortland Common Council meeting.

Other COVID-related changes include having students take a COVID test when they arrive on campus and testing them — as well as staff and faculty — weekly throughout the semester through surveillance testing.

The reduced number of students could be felt Wednesday; only a handful of cars were parked along the sidewalks outside residence halls at any one time. This differed even from move-in days in August, which, like on Thursday, were spread out over a week to reduce clustering.

“It seems a little emptier than the last time,” Colbey said.

Despite the quieter arrival, Colbey said he was still excited to be on campus.

“I’m hopeful we can end this semester better than the first,” he said, referring to the college going fully remote in November. “Hopefully we can make sure we keep up with all the corona stuff to make sure we stay on campus longer.”

He did note that fewer people means fewer opportunities to make friends, which as a freshman, he is still doing.

Jenna Kratz, a junior and resident assistant for Randall Hall, said fewer students may provide for more personal interactions.

“Honestly, I kind of like that we’re now able to get more one-on-one time with our residents so now we get to meet more personally,” she said.

Instead of knowing 50 of her residents moderately well, she’ll now be able to know 25 really well.

Her role as an RA will still focus on the health of her residents and making sure they follow the college’s COVID-19 guidelines, including wearing a mask, preventing students from other residence halls entering Randall, and making sure people are doing well mentally.

“Mental health is a huge thing right now so we’re really trying to make sure” the residents are well, she said.

Kratz understood that people will miss the full college experience, including attending sporting events and, for those old enough, going to bars downtown.

To help entertain the students, RAs like her will host movie trivia games every other week where students can win prizes.

On the bright side, fewer students may mean Colbey will be able keep up a good grade-point average, one of his goals.

“I’m just going to focus on studying at this point,” he said.