Hopeful spring

Hopeful spring

CWRU will welcome more students back to a virus-savvy campus for the spring semester.

After a semester of experience dealing with the pandemic, Case Western Reserve University is inviting more students to return to a slightly more vibrant campus this spring. But most restrictions designed to prevent the spread of infection will continue, and no one is sure when the game-changing vaccine will arrive.


The university will welcome back an additional 400 students for the semester that begins Feb. 1, boosting the on-campus student population to about 2,100. That’s far short of the 4,200 or so students who typically populate campus but a sign of growing confidence in coronavirus containment measures and a hopeful step toward normalcy.


Administrators shared the spring outlook with faculty and staff during an online “reorientation” on Thursday, January 21.


Lisa Camp, chief of staff in the Office of the Provost, noted that widespread testing for Covid-19 found a cumulative positivity rate of about 1.6 percent across campus last semester, an outcome she described as “phenomenal” compared to other universities. She credited staff and students for adhering to safety protocols, like wearing masks, avoiding travel and maintaining social distance.


The university thought it could swell the on-campus population to about 2,500 this spring, while maintaining single occupancy dorms, but found that many students were already committed to off-campus housing, she said.


The coronavirus pandemic abruptly emptied campus last March and caused upheaval at the start of the school year in August. Sophomores and juniors were told two week before the start of classes that they could not live on campus. Many found alternative housing or settled into remote classes from home.


Students returning to campus for spring semester will find that much remains the same. The university and the Case School of Engineering will again offer in-person and remote classes as well as a hybrid of online and face-to-face experiences. Masking will again be mandatory, gatherings discouraged and meals boxed to go. 

Testing for the coronavirus has been intensified. Students, staff and faculty are expected to make weekly visits to the Veale Athletic Center, which has been transformed into a giant testing center. 


Still, with more people on campus, students may enjoy more of the feel of typical college life. The university has added an ice rink to Van Horn Field, offering a new option for healthy outdoor fun. As the temperatures warm, outdoor dining and small gatherings will again become an option.


Meanwhile, students seem content with their academic experience in the midst of a health crisis.


Donald Feke ’76, MS ’77, the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, reported that fall classes attained an average ranking of 3.95 out of five on course evaluations, the best reviews in recent years. Students also expressed satisfaction with the structure of courses and efforts by their professors to teach through the challenges.


“We took these as very good signs that students are appreciative of the efforts the university has made,” Feke said.


As variants of the coronavirus threaten to accelerate its spread, administrators are eager to join a national vaccine campaign. Horsburgh Gymnasium in the Veale Athletic Center has been converted to a vaccine administration site, with 10 vaccine stations and special freezers to preserve the medicine.


As yet, there is no vaccine to administer. Katie Brancato, the chief of staff in the Office of the President, said the university is waiting for the state of Ohio to spell out the process for delivering vaccines on the state’s campuses.


“We have been approved to be a provider of the vaccine, we just don’t have any vaccine,” she said. “We very much recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity—get the vaccine.”


 The latest information on Covid protocols at CWRU, updates and testing results can be found at case.edu/covid19/.



The basement of Tomlinson Hall, usually busy with diners, has become a to-go dining hall.

“We took these as very good signs that students are appreciative of the efforts the university has made.”

Signs of the times in Nord Hall

Van Horn ice rink