Ithaca College is anticipating allowing more students on campus for Spring 2021 than Fall 2020, given new New York state travel advisories.
Administrators gave updates regarding Spring 2021 move-in and residential life at the All-Student and Family Gathering on Nov. 5. Administrators shared information regarding the move-in process and campus life at the gathering.
New York State Travel Advisory and Quarantine
New York state has released new travel guidelines for determining who needs to quarantine or get tested for COVID-19 when entering the state. The college released new move-in information Nov. 5 to comply with the new state guidelines. Dean of Students Bonnie Prunty said the college is still recommending that students quarantine for 14 days prior to arrival, despite the quarantine guidelines changing.
Prunty said that students from states that do not share a border with New York state or countries under the travel advisory will be required to get a COVID-19 test before traveling into the state. Students from contiguous states to New York state — New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut — are not required to quarantine when they enter the state.
Marsha Dawson, director of the Offices of Residential Life and the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards, shared a list of important residential life dates. She said that all students will have to submit a Spring 2021 declaration form that will tell their plans for the spring semester between Nov. 9 and 20.
The declaration form will have four different options students can pick: confirming the intention to live on campus, confirming the intention to remain at home and take all classes online, students living within 60 miles of Ithaca who will commute to campus and students who are living off campus.
“You let us know what your plans are and then we appropriately plan for your arrival,” Dawson said.
Students can communicate with Student Accessibility Services if they require accommodations or if accommodations have changed by Nov. 20. Dawson said that Nov. 20 is not a hard deadline but that the sooner students communicate the easier getting accommodations will be.
Students will be able to see their Spring 2021 housing assignments and receive an email regarding signing up for a move-in date by Dec. 7. Dawson said early planning for move-in is important because of the need to find times to test all students.
“We have a strict testing requirement,” she said. “Students will not be able to just show up on campus and just move into the residence hall.”
Currently, the college is testing students living on campus and in Ithaca at the Athletics and Events (A&E) Center. When students arrive on campus for the spring semester, they will go to A&E Center to be tested. Only students will be allowed to enter the A&E Center and residence halls during move-in.
Dawson said that at the A&E Center students will go to a table to check in and receive their room keys. Students will also go to a dining table and be provided meals while waiting for test results, Dawson said.
“We’re going to ask students to stay in place until they get that test result,” she said.
For roommates, the first roommate who arrives can quarantine in their dorm room until they receive a negative result. The second roommate will stay in a hotel room that is provided by the college. Dawson said the college is hoping to be able to take the belongings of the second roommate to their room rather than to the hotel and back. The second roommate can bring a bag with them to the hotel with items to last them the overnight quarantine, Dawson said.
Previously, the college said students would only be able to bring two suitcases and a backpack to campus. Dawson said there is no longer a rule regarding how much students can bring but is asking students to pack lightly.
“In the worst-case scenario event where we do have to pivot and make a change to the campus plans, we want students to be able to navigate that as quickly as possible and be able to pack their belongings,” she said.
Dawson also reminded students that they will not have help moving in and need to bring belongings to their rooms on their own. No family members will be allowed in the residence halls.
Spring 2021 Housing
Laura Davis, assistant housing director for the Office of Residential Life, said students will have the same room assignments that they had for Fall 2020. She said there are some students who do not currently have housing assignments for the spring semester because they did not have housing set up for the year.
“If there is a room or an apartment that has an open space or more than one open space, it is possible or likely … that you could be getting a roommate,” Davis said.
Students can also fill out a vacancy request form to pull another friend into their room if there is an open space, she said.
Jenny Pickett, assistant director for the Office of Residential Life, said the college is already beginning to move stored belongings into students’ rooms. She said that some students stored their belongings with the college after Spring 2020 and some students shipped belongings in August 2020 before the college decided to hold classes remotely.
She said students can ship belongings to the college for Spring 2021 until Dec. 17 and those will be put in students’ room assignments.
Campus Life and Health and Safety
Ellyn Sellers-Selin, physician and medical services director of the Center for Counseling, Health and Wellness, said that she recommends students get a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, which detects genetic information of the virus if it is present, before arriving on campus. However, she said she is still trying to determine whether a rapid antigen COVID-19 test will be acceptable. Rapid tests have a higher chance of producing false negatives than the PCR test.
Rosanna Ferro, vice president of the Division of Student Affairs and Campus Life, emphasized to students that they should not travel outside Tompkins County while on campus.
“We are just really asking students to stay within the area, just to be responsible and not bring anything back to campus,” she said.
Ferro said that going shopping or into town is different from traveling home. She also stressed that students should not have family or friends visit them. Visitor guidelines in the Community Agreement state that only members of the college community are allowed on campus.
Dining will also be grab and go, Ferro said. There will neither be places to sit in the dining halls on campus nor self-serve options, she said. Prunty said students will get a box to get their food and take it back to wherever they choose to eat.
Ferro said that there will be more restrictions on campus, but there will still be opportunities for students to participate in extracurricular and campus activities.
“Our folks have been working so hard to be creative around virtual programming,” she said.
Ferro said that there have been pilot programs for small on-campus activities that students currently living on campus have been able to participate in. She said she is hoping for hybrid programming for on-campus activities.
“College life is just going to be different for now and we’re going to try our best to make it interesting, to make it fun,” Ferro said.
There will be another meeting Dec. 10 to further discuss what campus life will look like.