Michael Wenye Li / Sun File Photo

An aerial view of North Campus Freshman housing.

February 10, 2021

With Pandemic Future Uncertain, Students Struggle with Fall Housing Decisions

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The deadline for applying for on-campus housing fast approaches, and the pandemic shows little sign of ending before fall, complicating students’ decisions. 

Many students expressed that the social distancing restrictions while living on campus influenced their decisions for next year, pushing many into apartments off-campus. Gavin Fogel ’23, who returned to campus this spring after studying remotely in the fall, felt that pandemic restrictions challenged his communication with floormates and neighbors. 

“Although I knew I wanted to live off campus, [COVID-19] pushed me to live with my friends,” Fogel said. “That way, I could make sure I had people around me in a time when it may be difficult to create and maintain connections.” 

Students also highlighted the convenience of getting food when considering living off-campus next year. Talia August ’24 wanted to live closer to restaurants and convenience stores, because most dining halls and buildings were either closed or heavily restricted during her time living on North Campus. 

Dylan Keusch ’24 felt living off-campus would be a safer alternative to living in the dorms or joining Greek life. Keusch explained that he did not think Cornell was doing enough to control the spread of the virus within the fraternities and sororities, referring to the recently identified cluster of Greek life members. 

Keusch has instead opted to live in the lightweight rowing house in Collegetown with friends on the team. “I didn’t want to live in a fraternity house where there was an increased risk of COVID,” he said. “The crew guys are much safer because they have to keep going to practice.”

Liam Pope ’23, a sophomore transfer from New York University, opted to live in the dorms this semester, expressing that this was a stressful year to be a part of a fraternity. 

Although his fraternity was not connected with the recent cluster, Pope explained how it put pressure on all Greek organization leaders at Cornell: “They’re put under a lot of stress right now because if we make any mistake, it’s their head on the line and their name on the line. It’s definitely making things more stressful.” 

Pope said he would be more comfortable living in his own apartment next year, where sudden changes to student housing in response to the pandemic wouldn’t affect him. 

Despite the precarious situation the Greek community finds itself in this semester, many students, including Julia Kohn ’24, are still optimistic about joining. 

“Obviously, I care about COVID and I care about following the restrictions, but it doesn’t really change my idea to join because I will be in one for three years, and I can always choose not to go to a party,” said Kohn, who decided to rush this semester with her roommate.

This decision has also been marked with challenges. “Usually you get to see the physical house, and you get to meet the other girls in person, and I think it’s harder to really get to know the different sororities in a virtual setting,” she said. 

The University has accommodated a longer decision-making process by extending the West Campus lottery deadline. The Cornell Interfraternity Council has likewise delayed recruitment.

Andreas Psahos ’24 and Milo Gringlas ’22 contributed reporting.