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Students express mixed feelings about return to campus

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OSU students have their senior pictures taken despite social distancing recommendations on on Saturday, March 28, 2020.

On Aug. 17, OSU will resume on-campus operations, and students have expressed a range of emotions surrounding the re-opening, and the Cowboys Coming Back plan.

The O’Colly posted two polls to twitter, requesting responses from students and staff. The polls were unscientific, but garnered some attention, and offered seemingly contradictory results.

The first poll, posted on Aug. 7, asked participants their preference between in-person and online classes. Of 156 respondents, 55.1% said they’d prefer to be in person, while 44.9% said they’d prefer online classes.

The second poll, posted on Aug. 9., asked participants if they were confident in the university’s reopening plan. Of  381 participants, 59.1% said they were not confident in the re-opening plan, while only 40.9% said they were.

Several students responded to The O’Colly’s request for student comments. Despite holding diverse viewpoints around the COVID-19 pandemic, all were in agreement about the importance of wearing face-coverings on campus.

One first-year Oklahoma State student, Torin Prevost, said he feels like every adult should be responsible enough to make their own decisions about face-coverings.

I will make my best interest to wear a mask, because I feel like wearing a mask is the safest thing we can do right now,” Prevost said.

Prevost, a sophomore sports management major, said he’s a big basketball fan, and hopes to play intramural sports in the spring. He suggested limiting the number of people allowed in the Colvin at once, in order to limit viral transmission.

Prevost said he came to OSU for the family environment, and the friendliness of the surrounding town.

“I feel ecstatic because you know, I’m starting college,” Prevost said. “But at the same time, I’m still trying to keep safe from all the COVID stuff so I can stay on campus longer, and enjoy my college time at Oklahoma State.”

Other first-year students shared Prevost’s excitement, but were less optimistic about the return to school. Joshua Cleary, an incoming freshman, said he doesn’t want to miss out on the college experience, but worries that this semester might get cut short.

“I’m definitely really excited,” Cleary said. “The only thing I’m a little nervous about is how long we might be there until they— if they decide to send us home.”

He said he’ll be avoiding high-risk situations, but isn’t sure every student on campus will make the same decision.

“I’d assume that there will be more people up there, so the bars will be more full,” Cleary said. “Kids will throw parties, regardless of what rules Oklahoma State puts in place.”

Cleary doesn’t think students will be eager to help the university enforce the mask mandate. While he doesn’t want to have to govern other people’s behavior, he said he’s definitely planning to wear a mask on campus.

“I want to do as much as I can to make sure I stay up there for a whole year,” Cleary said. “I definitely will be following the regulations that the university puts in place.”

For upperclassmen such as Aerospace Engineering major Luke Stevenson, returning to campus will bring a welcome familiarity.

“I’m pretty excited,” Stevenson said. “I’m ready to get kind of back into the groove of school. Obviously things will be a little bit different this year, but I’m excited to kind of get back to normal.”

Stevenson, who will be a senior this year, said  OSU has put forth some pretty strict guidelines to try to limit the spread.

“It’s going to be impossible to go this entire semester without anybody contacting COVID,” Stevenson said. “It’s just kind of the nature of this virus. It’s going to happen. But I do think that as long as kind of those basic structures are maintained, and OSU does a good job of enforcing those policies, I’m not too concerned.”         

The one frustrating aspect of the situation, he said, was that most of his classes have been rescheduled as a result of the ongoing pandemic. He encouraged other students to make sure their schedules hadn’t been shifted without their knowledge.

For Stevenson, the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has hit closer to home than it has for many.

Stevenson’s father and grandmother have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, he said. Despite these firsthand experiences, Stevenson remains optimistic about the the return to campus.

He said he supports the university’s mask mandate, but is concerned about how well the policy will be enforced.

“I would highly encourage everybody to wear a mask,” Stevenson said. “I know its not fun, sometimes it can be uncomfortable, but there have been significant studies that show wearing masks significantly decreases the transmission percentage of COVID-19. So it’s on us to make a small sacrifice for our community to make sure the people around us are staying safe.”

Editor's note: This story was updated on Aug. 14, to correct a misspelled name. Luke Stevenson was incorrectly referred to as Luke Stevens in the original story.