Students waiting in line express different emotions and reactions upon hearing the Wear Red Get Fed booth at Stafford Commons ran out of food on Wednesday, Oct. 27 2021.

This semester, NC State welcomed students back to in-person classes for the first time since midway through spring 2020. After spending all of the last school year in online classes, students were able to return to lecture halls in a new, unique fashion.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, NC State officials have kept several safety protocols in place from last year. Students are still required to wear masks indoors, and several buildings, such as the Atrium Food Court, have designated entrances/exits and arrows for students to follow so that the buildings don’t get congested.

Kelsey Peil, a fourth-year studying statistics, said she was happy to be back in the classroom even if things weren’t exactly the same as they were her first or second year at NC State.

“Last year was necessary I suppose, for what the time was and everything, and I understood it, and I muddled through,” Peil said. “But I was definitely, this year, ready to get back on campus, whatever it took. … I’m a big proponent of vaccinations. But at that point, if you're doing your part, you should be on campus and reap the benefits of that. Especially [because] I'm a senior, it's my last year.”

Peil said for the most part, she felt safe on campus and that officials and professors were doing their part to help keep students in the loop. While she said that she has some friends whose classes require attendance, Peil said for the most part, her professors did a fantastic job of keeping students up-to-date with their assignments and were understanding when students were forced to miss class time.

“I can tell they’re eager to be back in the classroom as well,” Peil said. “They've been good about it. I don't know if all teachers or professors participate in it, but we have Panopto. There's a camera at the back of every class that's supposed to automatically record and automatically upload to a website called Panopto. Some professors choose to opt in, some don't. But it makes it helpful if you do have a possible exposure or something where you need to miss that.”

Ashley Jeanne, a fourth-year studying communication, echoed Peil’s sentiments about University protocols.

“I feel pretty good on campus,” Jeanne said. “Because I feel like a lot of people have actually been listening to the mask mandate. And I was just at [The University of Tennessee, Knoxville], and it was not as good as here. … I think it's been pretty good. Some of my professors have called people out for putting a mask on incorrectly, and that's nice.”

However, Jeanne did say she wished students would pay more attention to the mask mandates and the regulations set in place by the University. Jeanne said it’s hard for professors to stay on top of everyone when it comes to mask safety, and some of her classmates don’t always follow the regulations.

“I feel like people in Talley [Student Union] who are working should tell more people to wear their masks,” Jeanne said. “I know last year, I knew that people got called out for it sometimes, and I feel like people are just getting really lax.”

On the other hand, many other students feel as though the mask situation has run its course and is less beneficial than it was at the onset of the pandemic. Andrew Cox, a fourth-year studying business administration, said he was happy to be back in person and was decently satisfied with NC State’s handling of pandemic policies. However, Cox said being in person was integral to the college experience and not getting to have those interactions over the last year was strenuous.

“As far as the current handling goes, it's great to stay in class,” Cox said. “I think we're all done with the masks situation. I can be in a football stadium with 60,000 people, but I'm supposed to wear a mask walking from one side of the building to the other, or between the door of a restaurant where I'm seated. Besides that, it's great to have campus life mostly back to normal. And I hope we can continue to progress without steps backward over winter break.”

Cox said the main thing he wants to see next semester is for options for unvaccinated students to remain open. Specifically, Cox said he wants weekly testing options to remain in place for the next semester, and he wants as many professors as possible to host in-person classes next semester.

“I would suggest that professors who have chosen to keep their classes online be encouraged to bring them back in person,” Cox said. “I think we're seeing lectures now that have been recorded in the past couple years instead of fresh material. And some professors are taking advantage of not having to show up to class when they're given the option when that's not the true college experience.”

Graduate students have also felt the impacts of the return to in-person classes. Simon Diaz, a graduate student studying industrial engineering said that, while this was his first in-person experience at NC State, he ultimately felt safe in his studies. Diaz is an international student from Colombia and said he felt NC State handled pandemic policies better than his home country.

“I think compared to my country it’s better,” Diaz said. “So I feel very safe. Because it’s very controlled indoors and everything, we wear masks. I think it's the best option obviously with the vaccine. And it's very diverse because the school is not controlling you to take the vaccine but you feel very comfortable. You feel very safe.”

Diaz said while he didn’t mind a student’s individual decision to get the vaccine or not, he wanted all students to make the best decisions for those around them. Heading into the next semester, Diaz said he wants students to be more aware of their mask wearing.

Leon Krapf, a graduate student pursuing his master’s in accounting, said he feels as though University officials have done everything they can to ensure that students have had the best in-person experience this semester.

“So through my involvement of SAAC, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, I'm the president of that, I had the privilege to actually work with Chancellor Woodson and with Boo Corrigan,” Krapf said. “It's always easy to point out what went wrong and what was difficult, what was the wrong decision on the back end. But I know for a fact that those people work really, really hard to do the very best they could.”

Krapf said he felt protected on campus and that University officials were transparent with students amid the return to campus. One of the University’s policies during the online school year was an extended pass/fail system, which gave students an opportunity to change a class to the S/U grading scale after final grades had been submitted and still get class credit toward a student’s major. Krapf said these options were extremely beneficial, and he felt the University was almost too lenient.

“And from my personal perspective, and my personal experience, they did an excellent job,” Krapf said. “Sure, there were sacrifices, but everyone in the entire country had to make sacrifices. I never felt that my health was threatened here. I felt well-educated. I felt like I had all the resources I needed to be successful here despite the pandemic.”

While students like Jeanne and Cox had tangible suggestions for the University, Krapf had a specific request for the student body.

“I would like to see [students] show administration some grace,” Krapf said. “I know it's frustrating. But [administrative officials] have a very, very difficult job. And I know they really tried to do their best for us. I think many people don't really understand that because people in leadership roles are sometimes framed as [though] they just have money in mind and not our best interests in mind. And from my personal experience, I can say that's not true. So I think we could all appreciate what they do a little more.”

Managing Editor

I'm Tristan Tucker, managing editor in the class of 2022 studying Communication Media and Statistics. I joined Technician in Fall 2018 and am a credentialed NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and SB Nation.