COVID-19: Governor Cuomo’s order

March 21, 2020

Dear Cornell Faculty and Staff,

Many of you have no doubt read about Friday’s order by Gov. Cuomo that, effective Sunday, March 22 at 8 p.m., non-essential New York state businesses must bring their in-person workforce down by 100 percent. We have been working with our Albany office and peer institutions across the state to determine how higher education institutions, including Cornell, will comply with the substance of the order given our need to continue certain essential services. This communication provides guidance for our Ithaca campus faculty and staff.

Importantly, Cornell remains open with students who cannot return home remaining on our Ithaca campus and requiring essential services. Also, critical research activities and animal care needs remain, which, while limited to essential activities, require ongoing support. Further, education is considered an essential service, and faculty must be able to continue to receive the critical support they need to move to virtual instruction in two weeks. For our faculty and staff who are preparing to teach online, the governor’s order does, however, make clear the need to do this work from home, unless university facilities are absolutely required.

For those of you who had planned to come to campus, for even a part of the workday, that will no longer be an option unless your situation is specified below.

Accordingly, we are implementing the following policies, effective Sunday at 8 p.m.:

  • Faculty and IT personnel can only utilize campus offices or classrooms for the preparation and delivery of virtual instruction if they get an exemption from deans, who will be consulting with the provost. Exemptions will be limited to extraordinary circumstances. Those faculty and staff who do not get approval must conduct virtual instruction from home.
  • Those conducting critical research should continue this research utilizing university labs.
  • Staff who will support (e.g., dining, housing, Cornell Health) those students who remain in on-campus housing have been notified, or will be notified in the next 24 hours, if they need to report. Staff who have questions should contact their supervisor.
  • For our custodial, maintenance, facilities, security and public safety workers, New York state recognizes that universities must maintain the minimum number of personnel necessary to maintain safe and clean dining and living spaces, critical research environments and core campus utilities such as water, HVAC, electricity, roads and the like.

This is a rapidly changing situation and we appreciate the goodwill and resilience that our campus community has shown. We understand that this recent change has raised questions among staff regarding their pay status. At this time, we are continuing to pay all faculty and staff their current rate of pay.

As always, all of us – those who must be on campus and those who are working remotely – should continue to practice social distancing. And if you have questions about any of the above, please reach out to the HR director of your unit.

We appreciate your continued support and flexibility in these challenging times.


Michael Kotlikoff

Mary Opperman
Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer