As the 2021–22 academic school year comes to a close, Ithaca College students looking to celebrate the end of classes are being encouraged by the college to celebrate responsibly because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an email sent to the campus community April 25, Rosanna Ferro, former vice president for Student Affairs and Campus Life, reminded students to act with caution and care when celebrating to ensure the health and safety of the community. One celebration, Kendall Day, is a tradition that started in 2008 by students. On this day, students gather on Kendall Avenue for large house parties on the weekend before finals. This year, the celebrations fall May 7.
Samm Swarts, assistant director for Emergency Preparedness and Response, said his office is acting proactively to make sure students stay safe while celebrating. Swarts said it is important to have students remain aware of the consequences catching COVID-19 would have on the community. While the current COVID-19 alert level is low risk, the college currently has 19 total active cases.
As of April 27, Tompkins County is now classified as a high-transmission area, with residents being encouraged to wear masks while in public settings. According to the Tompkins County Health Department, as of May 3 there are currently 73 active cases of COVID-19, above the 7-day average of 57 for new positive cases. But COVID-19 numbers are lower than earlier in the year, with January seeing a spike in up to 361 new positive cases.
In 2021, students were discouraged from participating in large gatherings like Kendall Day due to COVID-19.
Another large event, the Class of 2022 Commencement ceremony, is scheduled to take place May 22. Two in-person ceremonies will be held in the Glazer Arena in the Athletics and Events Center at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. — the first time the college is opening the event to guests since the start of COVID-19.
Prior to student departure for winter break in December 2021, a surge in COVID-19 cases was linked to Santacon, a large gathering of unmasked partygoers celebrating the holidays Dec. 11. Following the surge, the college raised its alert to “Orange: Moderate Risk,” which shut down social gatherings and closed shared on-campus spaces. After lowering its alert to “Green: Lower Risk” Feb. 4, the college lifted indoor mask mandates March 4, choosing to maintain an optional mask policy.
The college is offering several events for students looking to celebrate the end of the academic year. The IC Kicks Back event will take place on the final day of classes, May 6, and feature a performance by Christian French, an American pop singer, on the Campus Center Quad from 3 to 9:30 p.m. Campus Center Dining Hall will also host its annual IC Community Brunch on May 7.
“One of the key things to [celebrating responsibly] is recognizing one’s own comfort,” Swarts said. “We want to really make sure that we’re creating things and spaces for people of all comfort levels.”
Freshman Sanskar Mehta said he was interested in participating in Kendall Day activities after hearing about it from friends, but is worried about the impact COVID-19 will have on the event.
“I’m not sure if I’m going, but it could be fun, especially since you see other people going out to parties and Moonies,” Mehta said.
Freshman Brian Martinez similarly said he was interested in partying to celebrate the end of the semester, but is not particularly concerned about COVID-19.
“I’m not really worried about COVID since I’m just trying to have fun and de-stress from finals and everything,” Martinez said.
To further encourage safe celebrations, the college held a virtual gathering over Zoom May 2 to discuss ways for off-campus students to be mindful of their health and the surrounding community in their celebrations by looking out for each other.
Bill Kerry, executive director of Public Safety and Emergency Management, said students can continue to expect the presence of local authorities along Kendall Ave and the surrounding areas to make sure the event runs smoothly, a service provided in the past for Kendall Day festivities.
“Kendall Day grows so quickly, so we want to make sure you know that the law enforcement that’s there is very much looking to help,” Kerry said. “They will help when not asked if they see someone who’s having any kind of medical condition … or if someone’s injured themselves.”
Michelle Goode, program director in the Center for Counseling, Health and Wellness, encouraged students to make sure they are practicing healthy habits if they plan to drink, like eating before drinking and avoiding substances when in a bad mood.
“Make sure that you have … a system worked out while you’re sober-minded about how you’re going to connect, how you’re going to get home, how you’re going to get where you’re going and looking out for your friend group,” Goode said.
The Ithaca College Medical Amnesty Policy encourages students in need of medical assistance for drug and alcohol related emergencies to call for help without worrying about student conduct consequences. Students in need of immediate assistance are encouraged to call 911 or Ithaca College Public Safety at (607) 274-3333.