The first On-Campus Journal covered my impression of the first two weeks on campus. As we near the very end of the on-campus experience, here are all of the ways that the on-campus experience is different this year than in past semesters. Since I’m a non-athlete biology major and dance enthusiast, my experience will certainly differ from others.
One of the biggest changes this semester has been the fact that, by and large, Swatties do not study in libraries. When I walk past Cornell, I cannot recall ever having seen more than three people on the main floor. This is due, in part, to the fact that you must reserve individual seats in the libraries for two-hour increments. Seating is greatly reduced with the large Cornell 1st booths open to only two people sitting on diagonal opposites. Libraries are also operating on reduced hours, with only McCabe open on weekends. I understand that McCabe is better trafficked, although I do not spend time there myself.
The only communal study spaces I have observed being utilized are the Science Center Commons (which has effectively replaced Cornell as the hub of student activity), Shane Lounge, and dorm lounges, which are only open to residents of that dorm. For the most part, students tend to keep to their own rooms to study. I think that part of the reason for that is because there’s no reason to leave our rooms besides meals. It makes sense to camp out in Cornell all day if you have class three separate times in Sci Center; it makes less sense to walk up to Cornell for a two hour study session alone when you could just walk from your bed to your desk.
Students are permitted to dine inside Sharples (it was takeout only for the first two weeks), but the inside of Sharples looks markedly different than it has in the past. Everyone is served in takeout containers, regardless of whether they will be eating inside or not. You make a reservation on the GET app for a fifteen-minute time slot in which to enter Sharples. Instead of swiping your OneCard, you show your reservation confirmation to the Dining Services staffer.
You walk into the serving room, which is divided down the center with a plastic curtain, and walk first to the salad counter (which, on the right side of the room, is what used to be the pizza counter). A few of the vegetables usually available in the salad and sandwich side room are there. You tell the server which vegetables/salad components you would like. Then you walk to the next serving counter, which is entrees. There is one main entree now, and several fan favorites like fish taco bar and bread bowl bar are discontinued. After being served, you walk past the ice cream counter, where a few premade Grill items are placed (they rotate which are available each day, and the Grill is closed). For example, there might be chicken noodle soup, grilled chicken, and hamburgers. There are also bread items that you’re free to take, and novelty ice creams like Philly water ices and fudge bars you can grab.
You continue to the drinks bar, where all the usual drinks are served, and continue to the last serving station, which is located in the main room and the back room for the right and left lines, respectively. There you can pick up condiments, salad dressing, things like butter and jelly, hand fruit, dessert, and utensils. This sounds involved, but it goes much more smoothly than you might think. My biggest issue is that you can’t go back in line, so sometimes I’ll be leaving Sharples and realize that I forgot to grab a packet of salad dressing or a tomato to go with my hamburger. Deconstructing all the steps to making a meal makes it much easier to forget to grab something key. You also can’t go back for seconds.
All of the tables in Sharples are two-person tables (the rectangular four-person table, seated diagonally) or one-person (the small two person date tables). You can sit for 40 minutes before moving along. People definitely eat in Sharples, but I almost never see people sitting doing work there in the same way we used to camp out there. Most folks prefer to eat in their rooms, in lounges, or (when the weather is nice) outside on the lawn, which is the only way you can eat in a large group.
The Crumb Cafe is closed, so Essie’s and Sci Coffee Bar fill the late-night meal swipe Mon-Fri. A resurgence in Essie’s culture has been a pleasant part of this semester. It’s nice to go get something off the grill and wave to other folks in line. Sci gets Indian and Chinese food on alternating days, and Kohlberg does salads and sandwiches for lunch during the week.
Residential rules, social gatherings and the enforcement of the Garnet Pledge are laid out here. Students are not permitted to hang out in lounges outside their dorms, but they can host one other student in their private room. All students have singles (or in many cases, dingles). All the public social spaces are marked with social distancing stickers, so you can spend time with friends in Sci Commons or the lounges. There’s a new student lounge in Upper Tarble, with tables for two. Students spend a lot of time outside when the weather is good. One of the strangest things this semester is that there are no consistent, organized in-person gatherings. MMKs have been replaced by virtual office hours.
As a result, most of the hanging out happens on the lawns over meals, in rooms with good friends, and in lounges. People also spend time in their hallways. Interestingly, there tends to be less hanging out while studying, which is how I usually spend the bulk of my social time. I more frequently see students watching movies together, eating, doing their nails or other leisure activities, as opposed to just studying in a group. It’s hard to quantify social time when so much of our time is spent behind closed doors, alone or together, but I definitely have been spending more one on one time with friends in my or their rooms. There are some positives: because it’s so much more logistically difficult to hang out with friends that aren’t in your dorm, you tend to make connections with the other students in your dorm that you might not otherwise. I’ve made a lot of friendships with people I barely knew before.
Building Access & On-Campus Resources
There are no points available for use in the Ville and no shuttles, and students are discouraged from leaving campus for all but the most important reasons. Students have OneCard access to their dorms only. Parrish, Sci Center, Kohlberg and Essie’s have consistent OneCard access, but other buildings require special access/appointments depending on whether or not they are hosting in person classes. The Media Center is appointment only, computer labs in the Sci Center are OneCard access only, and the BCC, WRC, and IC have very reduced hours. The Matchbox requires a reservation. In general, there is much less mobility around campus.
There have been big group activities, and there’s been pretty good turnout compared to normal years. The OSE put on some very successful and well-attended Halloween events, and the WRC’s boba tea giveaway drew long lines. Hall-specific activities put on by RAs also enjoyed good turnout.
The changes made in light of the COVID-19 pandemic have made campus a very different place to live, and I recommend people speak to on-campus friends to get a nuanced view of what life on campus entails. When making decisions about where to live for spring 2021, remember that students must reside in campus housing to have access to campus facilities, and that Swarthmore is providing consistent testing access for on-campus residents. There are drawbacks and benefits to living on and off campus, and I encourage people to get multiple viewpoints before making a decision.