Let’s work together for a strong fall semester

September 3, 2021

Dear Cornellians,

As we wrap up our first full week of classes, I am reminded of the many wonderful things about the start of the academic year – the renewed energy on campus, seeing students connecting between classes, and the return of many Cornell traditions and events – many of the things that make our community special and missed last year. Given all that we’ve been through over the last eighteen months, I know many of you are eager for increased activities, making personal connections, and fun!

Like you, I have looked forward to this moment for many months. From the depths of the pandemic to the joys of this past summer when it felt like we had come through the worst of it. Some of that euphoria was extinguished as the Delta variant surge took hold of the U.S. and we began anticipating another modified start to the semester. It was a hard decision to put the mask mandate back in place, but it seemed like a small price for the opportunity to be fully in-person and offer the activities that make college so memorable.

Over the last week we have watched with trepidation as our positive cases have risen. Last weekend was challenging for those who tested positive for COVID-19 and for our staff who worked non-stop in an attempt to support and care for students in the best way possible. Not unlike the rest of the country, we’re already starting this year depleted and exhausted after what we’ve all lived through these past eighteen months. I thank you for your continued patience and cooperation with those who are working so hard to support you.

As President Pollack noted yesterday, we continue to face uncertainty in this pandemic which has led to many conversations and unresolvable tension about the aggressive testing and isolation procedures that worked so well for us and protected our community last year, and on which we rely to blunt widespread infection. Many of our Cornell staff and faculty have reasonable concerns about their own health or that of their families. I myself have an 11-year-old at home who can’t be vaccinated yet. I don’t live in fear because of this, but it is in the back of my mind every day. Some of your peers, your faculty, and other members of our surrounding community are immunocompromised making risk of infection that much greater. And I also know that many students (and their families) want nothing more than a sense of normalcy and the full experience of what college is supposed to be like.

So, what do we do next? Simply put, we have no choice but to slow the spread of the virus to maintain our in-person campus experience.

It is crucial we all do our part to suspend our informal social interactions and adhere to all campus public health guidance. Our data show that the best ways to reduce the risk of transmission are to wear masks, to socially distance, to gather outside as much as possible, and to gather only in small groups. As we head into the long Labor Day weekend I too long for my own past practices of a gathering with a number of good friends, but sadly this year I will have to postpone those festivities again. I ask that all of you do the same. Connect in small circles of friends but put the parties on hold, and make sure that everyone wears their masks.

Making this additional small sacrifice now brings us one step closer to getting this semester back on track.

I have been overjoyed to spend time with many of you these past days and I want to keep that going in the months ahead. Thanks for doing all you can to help make that happen for each other and for our entire Cornell community.


Ryan Lombardi
Vice President for Student and Campus Life