In a time of great uncertainty, one thing is for sure: Cornell’s fall semester will look like no other.
Every September, campus is full of new and old faces, but this year those faces are required to wear masks. In order to enroll in classes, students completed a COVID-19 educational training course and signed a behavioral compact. The campus community is also expected to comply with a slate of new policies and testing procedures to ensure a safe environment – one that will look different from years past.
Campus buildings are busier with increased cleaning and sanitizing procedures in place. Dorm populations have been spread out. Classes are a mix of in-person and virtual learning.
The campus is also covered in new signage promoting the university’s public health campaign, encouraging students, faculty and staff to limit the spread of COVID-19. The sidewalks are dotted with tents where peer ambassadors distribute personal protective equipment to students in need. More than 100 student and campus life staff members acting as behavioral compact monitors are making sure everyone is observing the proper safety protocols and encouraging violators to correct their actions.
While it is typical to see students staring at their smartphones on campus, this year they’ll be using apps and online platforms to organize their campus activities, such as where to eat, spend time between classes, and meet with student organizations.
Students looking for somewhere to study, or who need a place to participate in online courses without disturbing their roommates, will soon be able to do so by reserving private study spaces with the Cornell Chatter app.
The app will allow students to filter their room searches by building or room type, from quiet rooms to interactive spaces where students can meet with advisers or in small groups.
“It is essential that our students, many of whom are in shared living arrangements, have places on campus for both quiet and interactive study. Our students also need indoor study spaces between classes as the weather is not always cooperative,” said Miranda Swanson, associate dean for student services in the College of Engineering. “This is why this new study space reservation tool is so important, and why we are very grateful to the IT and Facilities teams on campus who have made it a reality.”
Dining facilities are also leveraging technology to make their spaces as efficient and safe as possible.
Students can download the GET app for contactless payment and to order meals in advance and pick them up the next day at one of Cornell Dining’s five satellite locations, set up strategically around campus, as well as at a number of retail locations, such as Goldie’s Café in the Physical Sciences Building and Mattin’s Café in Duffield Hall.
For anyone looking to dine in, the university is now using the Open Table platform, which can be accessed by smartphone or PC, so people can reserve a socially distanced seat at dining facilities. Open Table can also be used for ordering takeout.
And in an effort to control the flow of diners and avoid inundated eateries during popular events such as Taco Tuesday, Cornell Dining is offering the same menu across its 10 residential dining locations on campus. Menus will change in three-week cycles.
The activities of student organizations are also modified this semester. All in-person, university-sponsored events and activities are suspended through the end of September. During that time, many activities – including recruitment events for fraternities and sororities – will be held virtually.
Virtual Career Fair Days on Sept. 9-10 will allow students to meet employers from around the world and discuss professional development opportunities. A virtual ClubFest to connect students with clubs and organizations will be held Sept. 12-13 and Sept. 19-20. Student groups will create virtual “booths” that feature pictures and videos, with an instant-messaging or Zoom option to allow prospective members to chat with organizers.
“Getting involved in campus clubs organizations is a critical part of the Cornell student experience,” said Jenny Loeffelman, assistant vice president for student and campus life. “The Campus Activities Office, in partnership with many major student organizations and university departments, has worked tirelessly to provide a great semester of events for the Cornell community. In addition to the upcoming ClubFest, The First 30 Days program includes virtual escape rooms, concerts, cooking classes, craft nights and so much more.”
Walkers and joggers are a common sight on campus, but this fall – at least until winter arrives – there may be even more people exercising out in the open. Cornell Recreational Services is planning to offer in-person pop-up classes around campus and in green spaces like Jessup Field on North Campus. Students can participate in individual recreational activities at the outdoor Simon Track, Alumni Fields and Schoellkopf Field.
In the meantime, Cornell Fitness Centers are offering virtual instruction, starting with a week of free introductory classes, Aug. 31 to Sept 6.
And big news for students who have not been near a pool in some time: seniors graduating in December and in May will have their swim test waived for this year.