When Fiona Lombardo walked into the Center for the Arts dance studio last Tuesday afternoon, she felt butterflies in her stomach. Her fellow classmates weren’t on Zoom or six feet away — she was able to experience the intimacy that comes with putting on a show.
“I got to go to the dance studio for the first time, we didn’t have to be distant and actually could talk to each other without yelling across a large distance… I would say that was special to me,” the junior theatre performance major said.
In response to the influx of students on campus amidst the persisting COVID-19 pandemic, students are required to be fully vaccinated in order to attend classes in person. Additionally, all unvaccinated students are required to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing on a weekly basis. Face masks are required in all indoor settings, except while eating and are not required outdoors. Social distancing is largely a thing of the past, though unvaccinated students are encouraged to do so “wherever practical.”
The administration has expressed optimism for the weeks to come. “During the first week of classes, many students, faculty and staff expressed their excitement about the start of the fall semester and their appreciation for the health guidelines put in place by the university to keep them safe and reduce risk,” UB Spokesperson John DellaContrada said.
While many are excited for campus to reopen, some students are worried for their safety. Christopher Burns, a senior philosophy major, feels conflicted when on campus.
“The COVID-19 regulations UB has implemented is spitting into the wind," Burns said. "On campus, it’s packed; I truly see no difference between my first year and this year. My classes weren’t socially distanced; in fact, I had an activity where I locked hands with another student, and obviously the whole class had to as well,
“On a positive note, I am happy to be back,” Burns said. “It’s nice to be in a routine again, and just being on campus engages me far more than remote learning. Though I may be slightly irritated, without any doubt, I am happy to be back.”
UB’s vaccine mandate has been very successful on both the faculty and student side.
“We’re thankful for students’ tremendous efforts to comply with UB’s health requirements, especially their commitment to getting vaccinated, which has produced a 99% vaccination rate—the highest rate in SUNY.”
While UB requires students to comply with COVID-19 regulations, it has created a website for reporting noncompliance.
“If faculty or staff, or any university official witnesses violations of university health and safety guidelines, they have the authority to report noncompliance. Anyone can report noncompliance through UB’s reporting website for compliance concerns,” UB Spokesperson Kate McKenna said.
Consequences for noncompliance range from a required class taught by Health Promotion to housing contract termination. During the 2020-21 school year, COVID-19 noncompliance resulted in 10 suspensions and 1,415 “other noncompliance related sanctions,” according to DellaContrada.
But students like senior electrical engineering major Andrew Lauricella are just happy to catch a glimpse of the UB they’ve come to know and love.
“It was amazing to be able to cheer for the football teams in the stands with so many of my peers,” he said. “Being able to interact and learn face to face has been so refreshing for me, and I think many other students feel the same way. The atmosphere at the game was so energetic and you could tell students were excited to be able to attend in-person and had missed being able to do that.”
Jack Porcari is a senior news/features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jack Porcari is a senior news/features editor at The Spectrum. He is a political science major with a minor in journalism. Aside from writing and editing, he enjoys playing piano, flow arts, reptiles and activism.