SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – It was a day of stormy and turbulent weather at Syracuse University on Wednesday, Oct. 7. But that wasn’t the only thing boiling over on campus. Students were frustrated after the university announced a significant spike in COVID-19 cases.
“I was disappointed and angry and upset. Just a whole lot of not so great emotions,” SU senior Sierra St. Louis said.
Officials say that this spike is the result of an off-campus party held on Walnut Avenue last week. Forty-five cases have been confirmed already from this specific event with more expected to follow, per a university email.
The university has shut down all student organizations from conducting in-person activities as well as closing all gyms, including the Barnes Center at the Arch, which had been open on a reservation basis. Classes are still going on in-person, but officials have warned that the school is at a crucial crossroads in order to contain the outbreak and continue in-person classes. Per state guidelines, SU would have to transition to online learning if the number of active cases in a two-week period reached 100.
This uncertainty is especially tough on SU seniors like biology and psychology major Audrey Mellan, who is worried about losing her ability to collect data for her research if classes go online and campus buildings are closed.
“I’m on a very sensitive timeline in terms of getting my research project done and having enough time to write my thesis,” she said.
Mellan works in Dr. Sandra Hewett’s lab in the Life Sciences Building conducting research on epilepsy in mice, starting her testing on live populations just earlier this week. To have the bare minimum of any usable data, she has to observe the mice for at least 21 days straight.
She said her research “really needs to be done in person.”
With the specter of online-only classes looming, students have mixed opinions. Some students will be less affected by a potential change simply because their classes were already mostly online, like senior Courtney Terr, a dual advertising and marketing major in Newhouse and Whitman.
“Academically, I wouldn’t be too affected. I would not be very happy, because it is my senior year and I was hoping to have some semblance of a regular college semester” she said.
Terr has only one class in-person this semester, a one-credit seminar, with all her other classes already in a fully online format.
St. Louis, a biology major, expressed concern that she wouldn’t be able to get the fullest out of her classes in the event of a switch to online. She is worried that her professors are struggling with the technology and that it would affect the quality of the classes.
“I know the professors are trying their hardest,” she said, “but a lot of them aren’t doing it efficiently.”
Earlier today, the university opened its permanent COVID-19 testing site at Gate N of the Carrier Dome, with saliva-based testing available to all students Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. regardless of symptoms. What remains to be seen is what exactly those test results will mean for SU and its plan to continue the semester on campus.