Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

A now emptier campus is leaving campus organizations saying goodbye to seniors and working to find new virtual solutions.

March 30, 2020

From Send-Offs Cut Short to Concerts Canceled, Student Organizations Adjust to Life Off-Campus

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As students and faculty prepare to resume instruction in a week, Cornell’s over 1,000 student organizations are returning to very different realities, grappling with the end of in-person meetings.

For organizations like Cornell College Mentors For Kids, a community service organization that works with local elementary schools to build strong connections and mentorships, the changes meant suspending the remainder of their activities for the semester and saying goodbye to their “buddies.”

Both buddies and mentors faced an abrupt end to the year, who found it hard to part “without a proper goodbye,” explained club president Winice Hui ’21.

“A few of our mentors have been with their little buddy for over three years,” Hui told The Sun. “A lot of mentoring relationships were also just beginning to grow deeper.”

In addition to canceling events, many organizations had to bid farewell to senior members earlier than they had planned.

Alpha Phi Omega President Molly Smith ’20 recounted the executive board meeting that the service fraternity had after the University announced the upcoming shift to online classes, but before they were suspended.

“A lot of our board members are seniors and there was a general sentiment of sadness, as we were losing a lot of April events that we had had planned since December,” Smith said. “We really couldn’t finish the year like we had wanted.”

The sudden conclusion to the semester caused other organizations to expedite their plans for the spring semester.

The Chordials, an a cappella group on campus, had planned weekly rehearsals and bi-weekly performances, in addition to their end-of-semester concert and senior “arch sing” send-off in May.

But after the announcement that all classes were canceled, the group rushed to have their senior send-off on March 13th, just a few hours after the announcement.

“It was pretty demoralizing,” said group president James Robertson ’21. “We had been working so hard to prepare for our concert and to leave the semester without seeing it to fruition was tough.”

But despite the abrupt end to the season, Robertson believes that their sound, as well as their spirit, will be better in time for next semester.

“I think everyone will have a ‘spring fever’ of sorts once we have the freedoms we’ve once taken for granted returned to us,” he said.

The University-mandated policy also strongly discouraged Cornell groups from international and domestic travel, a move that proved especially detrimental for organizations that have to travel for competition.

For the Cornell Speech team, a halt on domestic travel meant not being able to conclude the season with their end-of-year speech showcase or compete on national stages in Wisconsin and California in April.

“The students had been working hard all year and I wanted them to get their time to shine,” said coach Brandon Johnson. “But it made me grateful for the moments leading up to nationals, we had a lot of small victories.”

But speech team captains Ben Feldman ’22 and Chloe Washabaugh ’22 are still continuing to work throughout the rest of the school year and devise plans for the future.

“We’ve done our best to keep team spirit high,” Feldman said. “We do a Zoom call every Friday and while we’re still planning end of year logistics, we want this team to be a community of support.”

“We know we would have done well at Nationals this year,” he continued. “So we’re going to fight like hell next year.”

Meanwhile, some organizations are still continuing to collaborate outside of campus.

Creme de Cornell, a campus-wide food magazine, has adjusted their deadline for physical publication and are still working towards its deadline for online content. The group is also looking into ways to continue things like cooking demonstrations on an online platform.

“In reality, we’re all just a group of people who love food,” said the magazine’s editor-in-chief Abby Reing ’21. “We’re going to make it happen no matter the circumstances. It’s something we do to bring people together, and in times when things are uncertain and things are scary, this is the best time to do it.”