Back to campus cautiously

Representing the engineering, science and math alumni and students of Case Western Reserve University.

Back to campus cautiously

With the coronavirus lurking, students, faculty and staff face new rules and a quieter campus

Like universities everywhere, Case Western Reserve monitored the pandemic and pondered how to safely launch the fall semester. Ultimately, administrators decided that meant bringing fewer students back to a quieter, cautious campus.


Classes were scheduled to resume August 24 with the only certainty being that, in the time of Covid 19, any and everything could change.


Less than a week before students were scheduled to begin moving back into residence halls August 12, the university announced it was making all dorm rooms single occupancy. That meant there was no longer enough room for everyone. Freshman, seniors and international students were welcomed back to campus. Most sophomores and juniors were excluded from university housing, including Greek housing.


“We are sorry that health concerns mean that we cannot accommodate all of you this fall,” university President Barbara Snyder and Provost Ben Vinson III wrote in the August 6 email. “For now, however, we must do all we can to protect your well-being in the conditions we face today.”


They said the rising numbers of infections regionally and nationally convinced them that more efforts were needed to mitigate health risks. In a separate memo, faculty were instructed to plan for far more online classes, especially for sophomores and juniors.


Meanwhile, plans called for returning students to be temperature checked and tested for Covid-19 before moving into dorms and suites. They would be handed a drawstring bag containing face masks, a digital thermometer and other new dorm-life essentials.


In that and many other ways, the pandemic has altered campus life.


• Students and staff are expected to mask-up, wash up and practice social distancing throughout campus

• Classrooms have been re-configured with capacity limits, assigned seats and Plexiglas dividers

• In dorms, students face restricted common areas and shower schedules

• Dining halls are open but most meals are being boxed to-go

• With varsity sports and large events cancelled, small groups and outdoor discussions are the new norm, at least while the weather is warm

• The fall semester will end with Thanksgiving break


Over the summer, faculty and staff simulated a socially-distanced classroom in the Peter B. Lewis Building, offering a preview of the pandemic classroom, with students in masks and the instructor miced behind a plastic shield.


For students, Covid-19 has made college life uncertain and more difficult, though they are trying to take it in stride. 


“It’s still exciting, mostly just to see people,” said Ben Baierl, a fourth year computer science major. A member of the track team, he’s training in anticipation of sports returning in spring.


“The act of simply being back on campus kind of gets my mind ready to learn,” said Cooper Reif, a junior mechanical engineering major. He said he’s sad he won’t see many of his friends on campus this semester but that he feels “very lucky” to have secured an off campus apartment.


“There will still be campus life, which I think is great for students who have been cooped up at home all summer,” he said.


As a member of Undergraduate Student Government, Reif helped plan the annual Student Activities Fair August 23. Though the fair would unfold remotely, student groups were still eager to pitches their missions to potential members.


“There’s plenty of ways to be social distanced and still interact with your peers,” Reif said.


The university has reminded students that their cooperation is essential to in-person classes continuing. A new motto, being widely circulated, speaks to a new college try:  “Think for the good of my neighbor.”


Everyone is being asked to pledge to mask up, wash hands, assess one’s own health daily, and respect social distance.


To respond to questions as they unfold, CWRU has created a Covid-19 Frequently Asked Questions page on its website, view it HERE.

Visit back2cwru for the latest updates and information on CWRU’s response to Covid-19.

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