Even as rising coronavirus cases forced other colleges to halt in-person classes or send students home, Syracuse University managed to keep the virus at bay, with only a handful of students testing positive since classes began in the fall.
That was, campus officials say, until someone traveled to a nearby city and brought the virus back to campus, where it spread rapidly at parties. Syracuse, a big private college in Central New York, now has more than 75 active cases, including 68 people who tested positive in the last four days.
The sudden rise highlights how quickly the virus can spread in a college environment, even as many students take pains to protect themselves and their classmates.
It’s not how Ava Notkin was expecting her last semester to play out. The senior said on Saturday that she was exhausted from the health anxiety that pervaded the campus, making it hard to focus on homework, exams and other aspects of college life that would, under normal circumstances, constitute the bulk of a student’s stress.
“I feel like I’m teetering on the edge,” said Ms. Notkin, 21, a marketing management major from Pittsburgh. “We’re always in this risky gray area.”
Ms. Notkin and other students have expressed frustration with students holding parties that officials say are leading to new infections.
“Everyone just needs to realize that this is not our normal college experience anymore,” she said.
Still, students and campus administrators say they recognize the desire to socialize, particularly for those who are just getting to know their peers or are spending their last year in the same city. The campus has organized a series of virtual lectures, events — “Zumba Party at Home,” anyone? — and other programming for the campus. Ms. Notkin said she had safely enjoyed the region through outdoor activities like kayaking and hiking with friends.
Back in August, a gathering of students alarmed university officials enough that they issued a scolding letter warning the campus could be shut down before the semester even began.