Graduate School COVID-19 update: Expedited campus operations changes

March 16, 2020

Dear Graduate Students, Directors of Graduate Studies, Graduate Field Assistants, and Graduate Faculty:

Cornell faculty received the message below from Cornell’s Provost and Vice Provost for Research on Sunday evening. The message has serious and important implications for graduate student research.

Please read the message, then see the notes below pertinent to Graduate School students and operations. Please discuss with your faculty advisor/special committee chair as soon as possible.

The implications for Graduate School students are as follows:

  • Professional degree students who have already been given instructions to depart from campus and the local area should continue, or expedite, those plans. You should aim to have all of your campus-based needs completed by March 18. Be aware that if you remain in the local area over the coming weeks you will not have access to most campus services, except for Cornell Health, which at this time plans to remain open. (If you have been approved to remain in campus housing, you’ll have access to limited dining services as well.)
  • All research degree students and professional degree students who have been working with project materials should gather materials, data, and resources that you expect to need in the coming weeks (potentially months) as soon as possible, over the next few days, so you have with you as much of the materials and information as you may wish to have with you (at your home) to be able to continue to make academic progress over the next couple of months. Note that after March 18, the majority of research staff, postdocs, and research degree graduate students are expected to remain at home, working remotely, and isolating as much as possible. Graduate research degree students who are involved in critical research activities as described below and who continue to come to campus after March 18 should practice social distancing, good hygiene, and sanitizing work environments as described below.
  • Research degree students should communicate with your faculty advisors/special committee chairs about options available to you to work on elements of your research and academic activities remotely. Seek guidance regarding working from your home on writing, data entry, data analysis, computational analysis, literature reviews, etc. Most research degree students and their faculty should be able to identify some weeks of activity devoted productively to writing and other remote work.
  • Library research: Keep in mind that it is unknown at this time whether Cornell’s library resources will continue to be available to you. The Library has announced it is closed on Monday, 3/15, to assess the situation, and will post updates to its operating status as that information becomes available.
  • Delays: The Graduate School recognizes that this situation may result in delays for some requirements and milestones, such as MS thesis exams, PhD A-exams and B-exams. Please communicate over the coming weeks with your faculty advisors/special committee chairs and DGSs regarding concerns you have about scheduling these activities if they apply to you. Then you and your chair/DGS should contact the Graduate School at and we will work with you to help you make arrangements as necessary. We have in place provisions for all exam participants to participate remotely, and we will be as flexible as possible to work with you, your special committee, and your field regarding appropriate exam timing.
  • Travel and social interaction restrictions are quite fluid, and are being announced daily at various national, state/provincial, and local government levels. You should consider your own personal situation in determining if you will remain in the Ithaca area or travel soon to another location and stay put there. Be aware that it is possible that domestic travel restrictions may be imposed at any time, in addition to existing (and expanding) international travel restrictions. Be aware that if you leave the local area, you should plan on not returning to campus until further notice.
  • Research: Cornell’s Research Division has information related to making continuity plans for research groups. Your faculty advisors may be relying on this information for guidance as they work with you and research staff in the coming days to identify how to ramp down in-person, on-campus research activities as needed by March 18, per the Provost’s message below.
  • Access Funds: With funding provided by the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, the Access Fund has financial support available for those in need to help cover travel, remote learning, and other transition costs. Complete the COVID-19 Access Fund form to apply. Monitor the Graduate School’s information page and the university COVID-19 information for updates.
  • Health: For your own health, and the health of others, I implore you to practice appropriate social distancing (6’ between individuals), sanitize work surfaces frequently, and practice good hygiene (frequent hand washing with soap and water, coughing or sneezing into your sleeve not your hand, avoiding touching your face-especially eyes, nose, mouth, avoiding shaking hands and other person-to-person contact, etc.)
  • Transmission: Please consider that while you, as a graduate student, may believe you are in a lower-risk category if you have no underlying health issues, you can contract and transmit COVID-19 to others who are more vulnerable, such as peers or co-workers with underlying health conditions, those who are older and thus more at risk for this particular disease, or to family and friends. All of us share the responsibility to take actions to combat this pandemic and reduce its possible effects.
  • Questions: Please send your questions to and we will strive to answer them as soon as possible.

Please take care of yourself and those around you,


Barbara Knuth, Dean of the Graduate School

COVID-19 update: Conduct of research (March 15)