On August 6, President Cornacchia sent out an email to the student body stating that SPU was revising its plans for fall semester classes. Originally, classes were going to switch to a hybrid online/in-person format following two initial weeks of exclusively remote learning, but would now remain online-only for the entire semester.
Switching to fully online meant this year's incoming freshman class would start their college lives the same way they ended their high school ones: behind their screens.
But unlike some of the other universities in New Jersey, Saint Peter's still offers the option to dorm on-campus. Freshman Dallas Bayya, a Millennium Hall resident says that "It's cool living on campus, but there just isn't much going on.”
While the limit of a four day move-in window already presented its own challenges, students who had travelled from other states or countries were required to quarantine alone for 10 days. Those freshmen who were required to quarantine had to miss out on any in-person first year experiences and delay meeting their classmates face-to-face.
Upperclassmen have had sympathy for this new incoming class, with new changes constantly taking place; some have even started comparing the school to being in prison.
Magda Budniak, senior, says, "living on-campus sometimes feels like we're in solitary confinement, but at least I had a couple of great real college years. This freshman class is starting their college experience off without socialization or real classes."
Students who are living on-campus are slowly losing more of their community spaces where they might hang out. When the freshman first moved onto campus, any and all furniture had been removed from community spaces, or the spaces had been locked.
As of the week of September 14, the school had also removed the picnic tables in-front of Millenium and Whelan Hall. This was due to concerns that too many students had been using the tables without wearing masks properly or at all.
Student organizations and resident assistants are still working to create events and activities that get the residents outside before the weather gets too cold. Relaxation events such as rock painting or an open mic night where students came to show off their singing skills were offered in the first couple weeks of school.
While some students are having difficulties paying attention to their online classes, others feel this is the best way for them to succeed.
When asked how she feels about her first year being online, nursing major Nathaly Sampaio said, “I enjoy online schooling. Although I tend to be a lot more focused when I’m at home, I long to be with my classmates in-person very soon.”
This feeling of wanting to be with one’s peers face-to-face soon seems to be dominant across the campus. While it's nice to be attending classes in bed and with pajamas on, freshmen have expressed that the biggest thing their college experience is missing is socialization with their fellow students.
But for freshman athletes, their transition was quite different.
Some have been given the opportunity to practice with their teammates. However, they are presented with the choice to stay home, as staying healthy is the community’s number-one priority.
Rozan Deryas, a freshman on the SPU women's swim team, was able to meet her future teammates on a visit to the school last year, but she has yet to practice with any of them. Deryas is saddened by the start of her first year, but happy that the school is putting the students' health first.
"Health is our number-one priority right now, and even though it may take some time, it will be worth it," said Deryas.