By Hope Chookazian
Purchase officially opened its doors, allowing 3,695 students back on campus for the Fall 2021 semester. But with student facilities such as the library at limited hours and the Stood closed all semester, has it been worth the return?
“I’m happy to be back on campus,” Amaiya Jones, a senior studying playwriting and screenwriting said. “It gives me a sense of normalcy.”
Jones spent over two years on campus before the COVID pandemic shutdowns. Two of her classes, Modern Novel of Latin America and The TV’s Writer’s Room are fully online. One class, Poverty and the Informal City in Latin America is a hybrid with one day meeting in-person and the other over zoom.
“I’m not an online kind of student,” she said. “I need to be in a classroom setting to focus and digest all of the information. My second semester junior year was rough.”
Students have expressed frustration with on-campus facilities having limited hours despite the fact that students are on-campus and the college has reopened. In the Purchase College Open Forum Facebook group, students have even posted about their willingness to volunteer at the library to enable students the opportunity to use it over the weekends.
“The campus is assessing the needs day by day,” facilities Director Michael Kopas said. “As far as the library is concerned, I’m sure they are looking at the same thing, and ramping up when they need to or not bringing in unnecessary personnel when it’s not needed.”
Starting Oct. 3, the library has updated its hours to better accommodate students, including being open until 11 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday and from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday. The library will remain closed on Saturday.
Kristen Benner, a sophomore theatre design technology student, only knew the campus during COVID times.
“It was challenging,” she said. “I wanted to know what the college and interaction between students were like before. Would I have met more people and made more friends?”
Students may have returned, but Zoom fatigue is still prevalent.
“It’s more difficult to focus while staring at a screen than being in the physical atmosphere of learning,” Benner said. “It’s great to have in-person classes to break up the monotony of Zoom classes.”
Jones shared similar sentiments.
“Knowing I have to walk to class and physically sit there with other students makes my brain work harder,” Jones said, “anything that requires me to stare at a screen for more than an hour, my attention is gone.”
Carlos Rivera Gonzalez, a sophomore jazz studies major currently taking eight classes, commutes to campus from Washington Heights four days a week.
“Zoom classes are hard because my classes are long lectures,” Rivera Gonzalez said.
Most of his two-hour commute to campus is spent in Zoom classes. “I’m trying to pay attention while attempting to make the train and not get hit by a car,” he said. “It’s very counterintuitive.”
“My six in-person classes are small enough to allow social distancing and still be able to meet,” Rivera Gonzalez said. “It’s good to have my music classes meet in person. It allows you to flow with other students which was a drag to try and do over Zoom.”
However, the lack of facilities has left some students feeling a sense of isolation.
“I wish they would bring back the Stood,” Jones said. “Since it’s not open yet this semester, it feels more isolating on campus. I would also love for Culture Shock to come back. That was great to experience with everyone.”
Another worry was the air filtration within the residence halls.
“The entire campus filtration system was updated,” Kopas said. “Almost across the board, we were able to upgrade to the proper filter size recommended for this kind of virus.”
So, what led Purchase to the decision to open their doors?
“The vaccine was a game-changer,” Purchase College president Milagros “Milly” Pena said. “It made all the difference in the world.”
Some students, like Benner, felt the same way.
“I wasn’t worried about returning, especially because the vaccination rate is so high,” she said.
Jones said, "I believe there are enough precautions taken that I feel safe. The school is doing the best they can do.”