Announcements and reminders about the spring semester

Feb. 7, 2021

Dear Students,

We are writing to welcome new and returning students to the spring 2021 semester. Given all the challenges and uncertainties of 2020, we sincerely hope you were able to rest and recharge over the break and are feeling ready for the start of classes this week. Please read this message all the way through, as it contains some important announcements and reminders.

Course enrollment

Many of you may still be finalizing your course selections and searching for that perfect-fit class during the "shopping" or add period, ending February 22. Zoom links and instructions for accessing courses during the shopping period are posted on the University Registrar's website.

Enrolling in courses with overlapping meeting times is strongly discouraged for the spring semester. We recognize that the availability of class recordings in many courses makes it tempting to enroll in overlapping courses, with the assumption that you can keep up with coursework even if you do not attend one of the courses synchronously. However, data collected from students about their learning experiences in the fall show that students who relied on class recordings rather than attend class synchronously (local time zones permitting) were more likely to report being overwhelmed by the workload in those classes. Therefore, approvals for conflict exceptions will be reserved for extenuating circumstances. Students should contact their college advising office for further guidance.

Students in Ithaca: Communicating with faculty and Canvas restrictions

Students enrolled in in-person and hybrid courses who either 1) arrive late to campus or 2) are placed in quarantine or isolation at any point in the semester, provided they feel well, should contact their instructors to discuss their situation and how they will keep up with their course work. Faculty have been advised to plan ahead and support students who are unable to attend in-person classes while in quarantine/isolation, including hands-on lab, studio and performance classes. In addition, upon request, Student Disability Services (SDS) can send a temporary accommodation letter to the instructors of quarantined/isolated students. The letter will specify that academic flexibility and remote participation are needed for the required quarantine/isolation period. Students can communicate with SDS if they require accommodations beyond the initial quarantine/isolation period and may also elect to have their college advising office notified in order to receive additional personal and academic advising support.

You are reminded to take your responsibility seriously for keeping our campus community safe during our current pandemic conditions. If you are non-compliant with the Behavioral Compact or fail to respond to the Cornell Campus Compact Team, your access to Canvas, and therefore your ability to complete coursework, may be restricted.

Exam rules

Students should be aware of the spring 2021 rules for exams, which have been shared with instructors. Key updates and reminders for the semester are:

  • In response to fall 2020 student feedback asking to remove Sunday prelims, evening prelims for spring 2021 will be scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, at 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm, except on wellness days and the day immediately following wellness days. Prelims are 1.5 hours long.
  • Your instructors have the option of giving in-person prelims and final exams for any course, regardless of its instruction mode (including online and asynchronous distance learning courses). Students who are enrolled from the Ithaca area are expected to take all in-person exams in person unless they have a medical accommodation from SDS.
  • Although great care is taken when scheduling exams to minimize conflicts for students, they cannot always be avoided. If you have two exams that directly conflict or three within a 24-hour period, you should reach out to your instructors to make alternative arrangements.

Study space and learning support

In addition to an increase in the number of private rooms that will be added to the Book a Study Space app, students in the Ithaca area will have access to no-reservation Zoom lounges from which they can participate in online courses using noise-cancelling headphones (available in the Campus Store). The list of Zoom lounges located across campus will be posted at Study Space at Cornell soon.

The Learning Strategies Center will help students build their academic community and resilience, whether it be through study partner matching or by following tips to Start Spring '21 Strong. Remember successful students ask for help by attending faculty and TA office hours, access free tutoring, and attend LSC-sponsored study skills workshops.

Students taking asynchronous courses in the fall shared feedback about their learning experiences, and gave these key pieces of advice for success: don't procrastinate - schedule a consistent time each day to watch the lecture, as if enrolled in a synchronous course; engage with instructors at every opportunity to get to know them and discuss course material; connect with classmates by forming study groups, finding study partners, and/or creating group chats to benefit from collective learning and to stave off loneliness.

Well-being resources

Your health and well-being, without question, are the underpinnings of flourishing at Cornell. In addition to instructors and academic advisors, you have access to a team of caring medical providers, health educators, and advocates who are invested in your success, and who offer an array of supports that help students experience Cornell at its fullest.

Cornell Health's Coping During COVID-19 webpage is a treasure trove of health and well-being resources – including Let's Talk drop-in consultation, CAPS-led workshops, and the Skorton Center for Health Initiatives' weekly Quaranzine newsletter – available to students anywhere in the world. Additionally, the Office of Spirituality and Meaning-Making offers programs for spiritual support. Graduate students can access additional support and community resources through the Graduate School. We also know that simply leaving your room, wherever you live, and enjoying the nature around you will improve your cognitive ability and boost your concentration and overall mood.

We'd like to end by sharing that many more faculty volunteered to teach in person this semester despite their personal health concerns because they heard your requests for more in-person learning opportunities, and because they too have missed interacting in the classroom. Please honor their commitment to you and to the wishes of your fellow students by continuing to be diligent about public health and safety so that we are once again able to remain open for in-person instruction. We know it's really hard, but we are still in the middle of this pandemic, so we must remain strong and care for each other. Due to your perseverance, Cornell has been heralded for its successes thus far; together, let's keep it that way.

Lisa Nishii
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

Kathryn Boor
Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost for Graduate Education