The traditional autumnal return to campus — a time of reconnecting with old friends and diving headfirst into classes and activities — had taken on morbid overtones. Students spent their first week tracking campus case numbers, getting tested, reporting peers for partying, nervously getting meals at crowded dining halls and waiting for classes to be shut down.
Their experience is not unique. Thousands of students on campuses that have resumed in-person classes have watched anxiously as coronavirus case numbers have skyrocketed around them.
Students at other colleges have flooded social media with photos of outdoor gatherings and of their crowded classrooms and dining halls, expressing outrage at their administrations. On a Reddit page for University of Georgia students, people have posted memes mocking the university’s president, Jere Morehead, for keeping the school open even as cases have skyrocketed; others have uploaded footage of packed frat parties, demanding that the administration take action.
One video posted on Twitter showed more students in a J.M.U. classroom than there were seats available. Chairs had been taped over to encourage distancing, but the result was that groups of students just sat on the floor.
Gemma Dobbs, 20, a J.M.U. theater major who tweeted about her frustration with the university’s haphazard social distancing policies, described the feeling of walking into a crowded music lecture as “apocalyptic.”
“They’re putting all this pressure on us to not party and, and my friends and I aren’t,” she said in a phone interview. “And then all of a sudden, I’m in a room with 199 other undergrads, most of whom probably live on campus, and we’re sharing our germs with each other.”