Ithaca is finally experiencing sunny days, and normally the warmer weather paired with the end of the spring semester results in student festivities like Kendall Day.
In an email sent to students April 14, Rosanna Ferro, vice president for student affairs and campus life, reminded the Ithaca College community that mass gatherings are prohibited, according to the Ithaca College Community Agreement. Instead of participating in end-of-the-year gatherings like Kendall Day, the college is encouraging smaller gatherings with a student’s “Bomber Bubble” — or the small group a student has been interacting with throughout the semester.
Usually, the weekend before finals, students gather on Kendall Avenue, off of Pennsylvania Avenue, at large outdoor house parties. Police officers patrol the streets to keep students in check but do not prevent the event from happening. This year, the event would fall on May 8.
A few consequences of a COVID-19 outbreak related to a mass gathering could be a cancellation of an in-person commencement or senior week, delayed move out at the end of the semester, a potential to overwhelm the health care systems and student conduct violations rising to the level of suspension, Ferro said in the email.
An Intercom announcement posted April 16 by Eileen Harrington Roth, off-campus community coordinator, calls for volunteers to patrol Pennsylvania Avenue and Kendall Avenue May 8 in two-hour-long shifts. Volunteers will be required to attend training a week prior to the event. They are asked to engage with students who appear to be headed toward any Kendall Day celebrations and inform them the event is not happening.
“We want students to still, as much as possible, have a normal senior experience while also balancing that we do need to maintain low numbers in Tompkins County and not overwhelm our hospitals,” Roth said.
Students will be encouraged to head back to their on-campus residence or apartment. Volunteers will encourage participation in alternate activities on campus and in the local area.
Roth said the college is advertising a Celebrate Smart campaign on the off-campus Instagram page. One post recommends that students rent a bike from Ithaca Bike Rental, hike local trails or get a celebration dinner on Aurora Street.
Senior Jocelyn Pawcio, who lives on Pennsylvania Avenue, said the restrictions ensure the safety of the school and the community.
“While, yes, we do have people getting vaccinated, and already fully vaccinated, they still have to remain vigilant about all the public health measures,” she said.
Off-campus students were invited to a meeting at 6 p.m. April 20 to go over physical distancing in an outdoor space and safe alternatives to a mass gathering. The meeting provided information on how to limit uninvited outside visitors at one’s residence and who to contact if unwanted visitors refuse to leave one’s residence.
Pawcio said she understands the public health perspective as a Student Health Emergency Liaison but can see the student perspective as well.
“We’ve had so much taken away from us and this is something to be social and celebrate, but I think there’s also a safe way to go about it,” Pawcio said.
Senior Jackson Gallati, who lives on Coddington Road, said that he does not want to see commencement or senior week events canceled but that the college could be a bit more lenient. He said there is a safe way to celebrate Kendall Day, citing New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s allowance of residential gatherings of up to 25 people and an increase in vaccinated individuals.
Starting April 19, every state expanded vaccine eligibility to anyone 16 and older. As of April 21, 37% of residents in Tompkins County have been fully vaccinated. This includes 75% of adults over 65 who have been fully vaccinated and 44% of people between 18 and 65 who have been fully vaccinated.
“College, I think, should be a space where you can safely experiment,” Gallati said. “That’s one of the biggest advantages of college, and I think that colleges should be catering to students having those experiences.”
Senior Dan Capodilupo, who lives on Kendall Avenue, said he is frustrated by the college’s restrictions.
“I just think it’s an overreach by them, and I don’t think they’re allowed to tell us how to do anything that isn’t on school property,” Capodilupo said. “I don’t pay the school to live on Kendall. I pay my landlord to live here, and my backyard, for the time being, is my property, so they don’t have the right to tell me to do anything.”
Roth said the college wants to support students to help them successfully celebrate the conclusion of the semester without posing a health risk.
“In the past, people have kind of just wandered down and kind of joined the party,” she said. “That’s an honest conversation if you are planning on having your Bomber Bubble over. How can we assist you in making sure that people don’t just kind of show up into your backyard and think it’s something that it’s not?”