NC State freshmen clap as Chancellor Randy Woodson finishes his speech to new students at the Freshmen Convocation Aug. 15, 2021 in Court of the Carolina.

For the last three weeks, students have been going to class, eating in dining halls and living right next to each other. Despite the mask requirements in place, and the push to be vaccinated, cases have reached the hundreds this semester. Many students have shared differing opinions on what it means to be back in person, and how NC State has changed in the last few years due to the pandemic.

Many students agree that the University is offering less student involvement opportunities due to the pandemic and an attempt to keep the number of cases low. Garrett Doxtad, a third-year studying electrical and computer engineering, spent one year on campus pre-pandemic. He said NC State is having trouble getting students safely involved in on-campus activities and events. 

“We used to get emails three or four times a week about fun stuff happening on campus, but now we only get them two times a month,” Doxtad said.

Declan Perkins, a fourth-year studying political science, agrees with Doxtad. While he only spent one semester on campus pre-pandemic, he discussed how participation on-campus activities has deteriorated in the last couple of years.

“Somehow I started with one semester on campus, and now I am graduating and have spent most of college online,” Perkins said. 

Although the University is clearly attempting to gather students and create a sense of community at NC State, students say there are ways that they could improve their efforts. 

Taylor Slemenda, a second-year studying animal science, said she is glad to be on campus and as long as NC State keeps enforcing masks and social distancing, she is confident about the safety of students as well as the ability for students to remain on campus. However, she feels as though the University could implement more outdoor activities to get students involved.

“We could have more going on in Talley, or the Brickyard or even the football stadium,” Slemenda said. “We have until October or November to be outside in nice weather, so we should take that opportunity while we can.”

Slemenda also pointed out that the University and chancellor are communicating well about cases, but are lacking in communication about what will happen if COVID-19 cases rise too high to be on campus.

“I have gotten multiple emails from State all saying that vaccination rates are rising and tests are reporting mostly negative cases, which is good,” Slemenda said.

Many students recognize the difference between this year and last year, comparing how the levels of cautiousness by the University and staff have worsened. While there are mask mandates in place and the University urges students to social distance, some students are still showing concerns for their safety and academic well-being. 

Lila Cantrell, a second-year studying forest management, is taking water aerobics for a physical fitness credit on campus. 

“We have to wear masks the entire time until we are in the pool, but the pool is filled with the entire class.” Cantrell said. “What is the difference between me breathing the same air as people in the pool deck, versus being in the pool?”

While some students are happy to be back in person and diving into a “normal” campus life, this semester has left many confused. From rumors about going back online, to lack of communication from the University about measures to be taken if COVID-19 cases spike again, students still have concerns.

Ashley Martin, a second-year studying microbiology, said it is unnerving how students are somewhat left in the dark about plans to move online if cases rise. 

“Every time I go to class, we talk about what might happen if we go online,” Martin said. “I always think to myself, ‘This could be the last time I see these people.’”

While students are generally happy to be back in person and on campus, the remainder of the school year is up in the air, and students are anxious to find out what will happen next in the story of schooling during a pandemic.