Moving carts piled with stuffed duffle bags and cork boards rolled out of North Campus dorms on Saturday, as first-year students vacated their halls and gave up their room keys — less than 24 hours after the University suspended classes and urged them to return home two months early.
As parents flooded campus and “I’ll miss you”s floated through residence hall stairwells, some first-year students fled campus as soon as President Martha E. Pollack’s Friday email reached their inboxes. Residence halls are emptying, and other first-years are packing up to leave Cornell in the upcoming days.
“My world has flipped upside down,” said Ayesha Chowdhury ’23, helping a friend pack up her car outside of Jameson Hall. “The vibe on campus has shifted and we no longer enjoy it. Yesterday was fine before classes were cancelled, but now there’s nothing to look forward to. It sucks.”
Chowdhury booked a flight home to Minnesota for later on Saturday, and according to William Melancon ’23, some first-years left campus in the middle of the night after they heard Friday’s announcement. Melancon managed to rebook his flight home to California, and waited for a car to the Ithaca airport on Saturday afternoon.
“Between getting all my stuff together, packing up and saying bye to my friends, it’s been a very emotional and stressful time,” Melancon said. “I think it’s really unfortunate, but that’s how it is sometimes.”
Sabrina Martin ’23 joins Melancon on a winding journey back to California. Martin has not yet booked a flight home to the golden state, but she departed campus on Saturday to temporarily stay with family friends in upstate New York after a “frantic” 24 hours.
First-year students who hail from areas particularly affected by COVID-19 have been some of the fastest to rush out of campus.
Salima Ali ’23 of New York City said her parents drove the four hours to Ithaca less than 24 hours after they received Pollack’s email. Standing in her Donlon Hall dorm room beside bare walls and a stripped mattress, Ali would return to the city as soon as she finished packing. Her roommate had already left.
Ali, like many other first-years lamenting the loss of what would have been their first Slope Day and cherry blossom-filled spring, longed for more time to process her departure.
“It is really hard to go so quickly and say goodbye to freshman year,” Ali said. “I feel like I didn’t get a sense of closure because it ended so quickly, but I know the University has its students’ best interest at heart.”
Resident advisors must also navigate the departures of their hundreds of first-year students. Noah Russo ’22, a Donlon R.A., said he wished residential programming received more information from the University about the move-out process, which he called “hectic” and “very confusing.”
“It’s sad,” Russo said. “I feel like a lot of people feel like their freshman year got cut off way too short. That’s the major sentiment that I’m getting.”