New members of the Class of 2026 are now on campus and have participated in a mask-optional Orientation Week, also known as “O-Week.” Returning students moved into their new dorms and apartments from North Campus to Collegetown. Now, with changing COVID-19 masking policies, the first week of classes are underway for a somewhat “normal” semester.
This Fall, three new North Campus residential halls opened following the North Campus Residential Expansion project. Barbara McClintock Hall, Hu Shih Hall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hall, welcomed the newest members of the Class of 2026, displaying the brand new facilities such as the new tennis courts and turf pitch.
“Overall, I am greatly happy that I am living in Hu Shih Hall,” said Jason Mun ’26. “I am able to control the air conditioning in my room. The shower and the kitchens are very nice as well.”
Mun moved in after his participation on Outdoor Odyssey, Cornell’s 50-year-tradition pre-orientation trip, and expressed that his move-in process was smooth thanks to the help from the residential advisors and staff of the University.
“[I had] great experiences with all my RA’s and other adult members of Cornell,” Mun said. “They have all been very helpful with my move-in and gave me great advice. Most importantly, they have been very kind, making the move-in process smooth, quick and easy for all of us. Overall, I had a great time moving into Cornell.”
According to Residential Advisor Yemisi Mustapha ’25, all undergraduate residential advisors arrived on Aug. 7 to get prepared and equipped to properly welcome incoming Cornellians.
“We did a lot of prep trying to welcome freshmen aside from just basic training,” Mustapha said. “‘In our training, we made sure to emphasize how to guide the residents’ transition into Cornell and make ourselves a very present resource for our residents. As RA’s, we try to create a supportive community and culture of care so that the first-year residents know that they are not alone on campus because Cornell can be isolating at times”
Lauren Mckechni ’26 voiced that unique merchandises and small gifts provided by the residential staff members and the Cornell community made the first-year students feel welcomed.
“I’d say the move-in was very smooth. We got a lot of fun merch and stickers,” McKechni said. “I was told that my residential hall Donlon Hall was the only residential hall that provided stickers, so we felt pretty cool.”
First-year and transfer students also experienced their first O-Week, which was mask-optional for the first time since January 2021.
“We were able to host much larger events where more students could be involved at one time, and overall made each event much more engaging and fun,” said Orientation Steering Committee Co-Chair Janna Zilkha ’23 in a statement to The Sun. “It was so nice to see the excitement on the new students’ faces while they were enjoying the events that the OSC had planned for them.”
This year’s O-Week Events included the First-Year Festival Barton Hall, which celebrated the first day of O-Week with bounce houses and other inflatables, paint nights and Zilkha’s favorite event: A S’mores and Movie Night on the Arts Quad in collaboration with Campus Activities and Cornell Cinema.
“The turnout was greater than I could have ever imagined,” Zilkha said. “We were giving away hundreds of bucket hats and water bottles, and they were gone within the first hour!”
O-Week events weren’t the only places where masks were optional. Following the University’s new COVID-19 protocols, masks were “strongly encouraged, but not required, in classrooms” for the first day of classes.
In accordance with the new policy, some professors chose to wear masks, but none mandated them.
“I think I feel pretty good about it. I understand the importance of masks as a safety precaution, but I also think it’s a period of moving on from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Salma Hazimeh ’24 of the policy. “Every semester that I come back, I feel like things get more and more normal, especially in terms of COVID-19 restrictions. Since this semester is starting off normally, I have high hopes for this semester and the rest of the year.”
Similarly, for Gigi Ike ’23, her last first-day felt like a return to pre-pandemic normalcy.
“[During my first year], I took Psychology 1100 in Bailey Hall. This semester, my first class of the day was oceanography,” Ike said. “I haven’t been to Bailey since freshman year, so it made me feel like a freshman in a way. It felt like a fresh start.”