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Cornell gathering input on possible fall-semester campus reopening

By Eric Reinhardt (


Photo credit: Cornell University

ITHACA, N.Y. — Cornell University says it is seeking feedback from its faculty on instructional planning for the autumn and input from students regarding the fall semester.

The university is also working to reactivate its research activity. That’s according to a statement that Cornell University President Martha Pollack issued to the campus community on Thursday.

Pollack said Cornell University continues gathering input, seeking the “best possible solutions” for operations in the upcoming fall semester while acknowledging “the best way to reopen is not yet clear” as the path of the virus is “unpredictable.”

Pollack noted that “multiple” channels are available for faculty, staff and students to give their feedback on reactivation planning. At the same time, Cornell University Provost Michael Kotlikoff is convening weekly town halls for faculty that started May 27 and continue with a meeting on June 3, in which Pollack says she’ll participate.

The school also sent Cornell faculty an email requesting their feedback for fall instructional planning. Cornell students on Thursday received a similar email from VP Ryan Lombardi and Vice Provost Lisa Nishii requesting their input regarding the fall semester, according to the statement.

“I ask that everyone make it a priority to respond to these surveys,” Pollack said.

Over the past month, Cornell’s planning committees have been exploring ways to return to campus life and in-person teaching, reactivate the campus-research operations, and prepare for the “potential need to teach some or all” classes online.

“We’ve gathered ideas from faculty, staff and students across Cornell, from our colleagues at peer institutions, and from the state government and public health experts whose guidelines and protocols continue to inform all of our thinking,” Pollack said.

She also plans to send “regular messages that share opportunities for input, describe our progress on reopening plans and provide information about what to expect as we return our campuses to activity.”

Pollack’s statement also said the “three Cs’ that we now need to be aware of — close contact, crowded areas and closed spaces — are inherently part of life on a residential university campus. In the age of COVID-19, our traditional classrooms, dining halls, extracurricular and co-curricular activities, campus and off-campus housing, laboratories and public spaces all carry new risks.”

Research activity

Guided by the recommendations of Cornell’s research-reactivation committee, and in accordance with New York’s phase one guidelines, Cornell’s non-COVID-related campus-research operations outside of New York City are preparing to begin the first stages of their phased restart.

Research that is related to health and disease, agriculture and food, and national defense, as well as research that supports essential businesses, has been cleared to begin as soon as Friday (May 29), according to Pollack.

“As the pandemic has impacted different regions of the state to varying degrees, research reactivation in New York City will happen a bit later,” she added.

Before Cornell can restart its research efforts, the school’s buildings must be “safe and ready,” with college-approved plans in place to ensure the safety of everyone in them.

As of May 22, that process was already “well underway” in the 20 most heavily used Ithaca campus research facilities, with all water systems flushed; building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning programming reset and cleaning in progress, per the statement.


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