Michael Suguitan / Sun Staff Photographer

Balch Arch, which leads the way to many North Campus dorms, is a common place for freshmen to walk through to get to and from classes.

March 13, 2020

Cornell Freshmen Express Disappointment Amid Widespread COVID-19 Concerns, Prepare to Move Out for the Semester

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Early Tuesday evening, murmurs of class cancellations rippled across campus, unsettling the Cornell student body as students mass forwarded the University’s online statement through dozens of group texts.

Later that night at around 5:30 p.m., President Martha E. Pollack confirmed the news in an official email to the Cornell community — students without any extenuating circumstances are required to move out before spring break and remain at their permanent home residences for the duration of the semester, completing coursework online.

Some of the newest Cornellians –– members of the Class of 2023 –– reacted to the news with mixed feelings and a widespread reluctance to cut their first years of college short by half a semester.

Nikki Jagid’s ’23 journey at Cornell only began this spring semester as a First-Year Spring Admit through the College of Arts & Sciences. Jagid said it was difficult to move off campus after just starting under eight weeks ago, as well as balancing prelims, taking online classes and preparing to move out within two weeks.

“Especially [as FYSAs], we’ve only been here for about two months, so we were very sad about receiving the news,” Jagid said. “We just got adjusted, got into our routine, found our friends and now we have to leave. I expected it, but the emotions were still there.”

First-years will also be missing what would have been their first Ithaca spring and all the Cornell traditions that come along with it — including Slope Day, Dragon Day, hockey playoffs and more.

Sabrina Martin ’23, a first-year in the College of Arts and Sciences, was disappointed about missing out on these acclaimed events, but glad she still has three full years to get the complete Cornell experience.

“It’s sad, but I just feel so much worse for the seniors,” Martin said. “I’m glad I’m only a freshman.”

For many students, moving out within just a two weeks notice borders the impossible. Students from far across the country have to either entirely relocate their belongings or rent storage spaces, both of which are expensive as students around the world rush to travel home.

Many international students who want to go home may not be allowed to return due to increasing travel restrictions.

Chloe Bogdashevsky ’23, a FYSA student in the School of Hotel Administration, is in a unique situation with her family caught in the middle of a move from New York to Los Angeles.

“This is the first time we’ve ever moved — not the ideal time,” Bogdashevsky said. “You’re only a freshman here once and we’re having that being taken away from us, but I’m trying my best not to complain and to prepare for what’s to come. I think in the coming days, these are going to be very minute complaints.”

Bogdashevsky echoed the concerns of many students who fear the newly declared pandemic could cause the U.S. to impose severe restrictions on travel and public gatherings or even shut down, following in the footsteps of Italy.

Hundreds of universities, businesses, community events and even cities are already grinding to a halt over panic and uncertainty for the future, with many enacting social distancing measures to minimize exposure to the virus.

On Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) enacted a ban on gatherings of over 500 people across the state, effectively shutting down major sporting events, concerts and holiday celebrations. Students returning home may find that their local events are getting canceled as the virus spreads.

As COVID-19 continues to spread through New York State, many Cornell students worry that it might reach campus before spring break, prompting emergency evacuations that could throw the University into complete disarray.

“I’m at a loss for words, actually, at the fact that we’re even staying here for the next two weeks. I’m surprised that we’re not being evacuated,” Bogdashevsky said. “I’m sure there’s definitely someone in Cornell who is affected –– it’s just that we don’t have enough tests.”