Published December 10, 2021
All things considered, the fall semester turned out well for senior Kyana Appling and her many peers at UB who didn’t quite know what to expect five months ago.
Classes were back in person after being largely online last year during the pandemic. Campus sporting events, clubs and activities resumed with the help of masks and other protocols. And the high student-vaccination rate at UB has helped keep COVID-19 cases down when compared to the surrounding region.
“Honestly, it went good,” Appling said of the fall. “For me, it was a fairly normal semester.”
As the last day of classes came to a close on Friday, UBNow asked students how they fared during a fall semester that began with a heightened sense of excitement about returning to campus, but also some apprehension over what lies ahead with COVID.
For senior Alissa Dabrowski, there’s a sense of relief UB made it through without much of an issue.
“At the beginning of the semester, I was a little nervous we might have to go back online,” Dabrowski says.
“I expected a lot more COVID cases to happen,” adds Appling, a legal studies major. “I don’t know how many cases there were, but you just didn’t hear about students getting COVID as much.”
Provost A. Scott Weber thanked students, faculty and staff for a successful semester and for being conscientious when it came to following campus health protocols. Those included mandatory vaccinations for students, requiring masks while indoors and encouraging booster shots.
“By following our health protocols, we kept one another safe,” Weber says. “And it made UB one of the safest environments in the region.”
But the provost also reminds the campus community about the need to remain vigilant.
UB officials and infectious disease experts continue to monitor the latest developments of the delta and omicron variants, and will notify students, faculty and staff if there are any changes to campus health and safety protocols for the spring semester or the upcoming winter session, which begins Jan. 5.
The university remains confident in its ability to safely offer in-person classes, activities and services.
“The entire campus community worked very hard throughout the entire semester to ensure a successful return to campus this fall,” says Graham Hammill, vice provost for academic affairs. “We are preparing for a more normal spring semester, while maintaining vigilance through vaccination requirements and other health and safety protocols.”
Dabrowski, a theater major, thought the university has managed the pandemic well and has no real objections about the semester. Wearing a mask during her dance class wasn’t always pleasant, Dabrowski says, but she knew it was necessary and just “part of everyday life.”
For freshman political science major Paige Kent, the pandemic hasn’t slowed down her involvement on campus. She stopped by the club fair during Welcome Weekend and hasn’t looked back.
“I found UB Improv,” says Kent. “I did theater all throughout high school, so I am so glad I found a community that allows me to further pursue what I love. I have met so many friends and different people who really made me feel welcome on campus.”
On one hand, sophomore Albert Hamilton felt relatively safe on campus this semester, with 99% of UB students being vaccinated against the virus. On the other hand, Hamilton says everyone needs to be more diligent about wearing a mask on campus.
Campus life also has been an adjustment for the exercise science major. As a sophomore who spent his freshman year remotely because of the pandemic, Hamilton was still finding his way at UB this fall. “It had its ups and downs,” Hamilton says of the semester, “but I can’t complain.”
You’ll get no complaints from junior Connor Ogrydziak, either. “Above all else, I’m just glad classes were back in person,” says Ogrydziak, a pre-med major.
Still, the pandemic looms large on campus.
Just like at the start of the fall semester, students continue to keep an eye on the latest developments and health recommendations.
“Honestly, I’m not too concerned about a new variant,” says Orgydziak. “I feel it’s a vicious cycle to get into if you’re in a constant state of worry with every variant.”
“I’m a little nervous about next semester,” counters Dabrowski. “I think we still need to be precautious and not let our guard down.”
While scientists are still awaiting further data on the omicron variant, UB continues to educate students on what to do for the best level of protection against infection: Get a booster when eligible. And continue to mask up on campus and when out in the community.
I appreciate positive news. I think we all need to read stories of joy during challenging times. However, my reaction to this piece is that it is "back to normal" propaganda. This semester, more than any previous pandemic semester, my students are struggling. They are continuing to deal with deaths of family members, sick children, mental illness flairups and financial struggles.
The cognitive dissonance between back to normal rhetoric and the dashed hopes of vaccination makes it all worse. Being back to normal is the dream for all of us, but it is not yet a reality. We have to think carefully about the impact of stories of joy on students who are still struggling with the chronic stress of this relentless pandemic.