Campus reactivation: Additional details for Ithaca students

July 2, 2020

Dear Cornellians,

As you heard on Tuesday from President Pollack, instruction for the fall semester will resume Wednesday, September 2, with a hybrid model of both in-person and online courses. We are so excited to welcome you to campus!

I want to first thank the many of you who provided input in the planning process that led to this decision. There are many varying perspectives on opening, but the one constant is our shared understanding that the success of the upcoming semester will depend on every one of us making a commitment to the health and wellbeing of our campus. Everything we do has the potential to affect one another and the wider community—whether it is working to slow the spread of the virus or setting an example for others to promote safety.

Your health and wellbeing have been at the top of mind throughout this process. The planning committees have worked hard to propose a safe classroom and campus environment for all, and if we did not believe we could provide that, we would not proceed with the on-campus semester in Ithaca.

While we are looking forward to your arrival to campus, the pandemic will continue to change routines for students, faculty, and staff. We believe that adopting some important behaviors even before you return to campus will greatly benefit your own health as well as the safety of the Cornell community when you arrive. If you are not already doing so while at your current residence, we strongly advise you to monitor your health, engage in excellent hand hygiene, practice physical distancing, wear face coverings, and become familiar with CDC guidelines on safe travel. If possible, you should seek viral testing at your current residence 5-7 days before your departure, knowing that many individuals who carry the virus are asymptomatic.

We are still finalizing many details, and additional information will be shared in the coming weeks as they are available. For now, and going forward, continue to check the University’s COVID-19 website and FAQ for the most current updates. Below are some additional details that I am able to share with you today that may help as you think about the fall semester. Please note this information is for Ithaca campus students as applicable. You should also expect to receive follow-up information from your respective college or school.

Cornell behavioral compact

In order to maintain a safe, educational, and vibrant learning environment for all members of our Cornell community, all students in Ithaca will be required to abide by a campus behavioral compact. Below is an outline of what you can expect:

  • Provide your local address and emergency contact information as a condition of registering for classes, and agree to update each as needed throughout the academic year.
  • Make every effort to quarantine in place for 14 days before your intended arrival in Ithaca.
  • Be tested frequently as required by Cornell.
  • Isolate in the event of a positive test result for COVID-19, as directed by health authorities, and cooperate with contact tracing and quarantine efforts.
  • Take responsibility for your own health and the health of others in our community by adhering to guidance from Cornell Health, Tompkins County, or state health authorities.
  • Complete and record a daily health check.
  • Practice appropriate physical distancing and good hygiene, including:
    • remaining at least 6 feet from others whenever possible,
    • wearing a face covering as required by the university,
    • washing your hands frequently throughout the day and cleaning your immediate areas in residence halls, laboratories or classrooms as directed, and
    • staying home if you are sick and requesting an evaluation from Cornell Health if you have COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Socialize only in small groups and comply with enhanced social and event management policies for student groups and organizations.
  • Avoid all non-essential trips out of the region and adhere to the university’s prohibition against inviting guests to your residence or to campus.

The complete Cornell behavioral compact will be provided to you in the coming weeks. All students who will be in Ithaca for the fall semester will be required to agree to the compact. In addition, students who reside in on-campus housing will be subject to additional requirements under their housing contract.

Virus Screening and Health Services

A robust virus screening program will be critical to controlling the spread of COVID-19 in our community. All students will be expected to participate in our testing program that will begin in the middle of July, and once the semester starts, all members of the Cornell community who are in Ithaca will also be expected to participate in our Daily Check, an easy-to-use online tool. Compliance will be closely monitored. Students will not be charged for testing.

The exact testing frequency has not yet been determined, but details will be shared with you in the weeks to come. Frequency may change over the course of the semester depending on what we learn about viral transmission on campus.

Cornell Health is fully staffed and operational for telehealth services and will continue to be pivotal partners to support the health and wellbeing of students. While telehealth will remain in place to address medical and mental health needs, in-person visits are limited to protect student and staff safety. Students are encouraged to call Cornell Health to schedule a visit with a medical provider or mental health professional if they need to do so. The Cornell Health staff is prepared and ready to provide care to our campus community during this on-going pandemic, and will continue to remain in close contact with our local resources including the Cayuga Medical Center and the Tompkins County Health Department as needed.

Modifications to Residential and Student Life

Whether you are new to the Cornell family or are returning for another semester, campus will feel different this fall. Below are some of the changes to life on campus that you can expect.

For new students, details about orientation will be sent to you directly from New Student Programs in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please continue to complete your to-do list.

Housing & Dining:

  • Planning Your Arrival: In preparation for your arrival to campus, whether living on-campus or off-campus, please visit Student Essentials to update your Ithaca address, emergency contact information, and phone number if you have not done so already. A request for additional information, including your estimated arrival date and how you are traveling to Ithaca, will be sent via email soon.
  • On-campus housing: Residence halls will be limited to single and double occupancy rooms. You will hear directly from Cornell Housing by mid-July regarding your housing assignment and contract, which will run from August 24 - November 25. Rates for fall housing will be adjusted according to the revised operational plans. Please note, if you do not plan to return to campus for in-person classes, or have decided to move off-campus, housing contract cancellations are due by August 10 to avoid a cancellation fee. While you have until this deadline to cancel your housing contract, our housing office would appreciate knowing this as soon as possible.
    • Move-In: Fall residence hall move-in will occur over multiple days beginning August 24. Detailed information will be shared later this month, including information on testing prior to and after arrival, options for shipping belongings before your arrival, and your assigned move-in date. Please also note that while parents and families will be able to drop-off students, they will not be permitted to enter the residence halls.
  • Off-campus housing: Students who are living off-campus typically arrive gradually over the summer, with most off-campus students arriving in August. If you are not already in Ithaca, we encourage you to plan your arrival carefully and with consideration of pandemic conditions that exist from where you are departing. Please note that the Cornell behavioral compact outlined above must be followed. Details about summer testing clinics that will begin in mid-July will be announced soon.
  • Greek housing: Students living in university or privately-owned fraternity and sorority houses will be permitted to do so provided all rooms are configured as singles and doubles only. All chapters will be expected to comply with NYS guidelines related to physical distancing, the size of social gatherings, and mandatory face coverings. More details will be forthcoming from the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life.
  • Cornell Dining: Meal Plan rates for fall will be adjusted according to the revised operational plans. Additional changes to service including reservations for in-person dining, touchless payment methods, and online ordering will be detailed in the coming weeks.

Student Organizations and Social Events:

  • Student Organizations: For in-person meetings, attendance must be taken and members must adhere to physical distancing guidelines. Reserving meeting spaces will not be available until October and will be reserved through the 25Live system.
  • Social Events: Students are prohibited from hosting social gatherings that violate New York state guidelines (i.e., related to maximum size, distancing requirements, and facial coverings). Students may still engage with individuals in their residence halls, classrooms, and student organizations. Please remember, meaningful engagement and opportunities for students to connect with their peers can be maintained while physical distancing.
  • Cornell Athletics: A decision about fall semester varsity athletic competition will be made by the Ivy League and is expected to be announced next week.

I know there are many remaining questions as we continue to prepare for the semester ahead. We are working very hard to answer them; and ask for your continued patience, as not only are many of the details still being worked out, but we also may need to adjust our plans even before the semester starts depending on the progress of the virus and government guidance. In the days and weeks to come, you will be receiving specific details and communications, including the date of a student and parent virtual forum.

I am confident that as Cornellians we can adopt a culture of shared responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of our community. I have heard from many of you about your enthusiasm for having a residential fall semester, and we now have the opportunity to make it a reality. It will be a different semester, but if we all stay diligent, we will experience it together and make it a great fall!

Stay well,

Ryan Lombardi
Vice President for Student & Campus Life