JOEL MALINA: Good evening, everyone. My name is Joel Malina. I'm Cornell University's Vice President for University Relations. I want to welcome you to this evening's town hall featuring officials from our area's three higher education institutions. We very much appreciate your taking the time this evening.
This is a very important conversation. It's a conversation that's been ongoing for a number of months as we've all been planning for our upcoming fall semesters. We thought this would be an appropriate time to come together as three institutions to talk a bit about how these plans are standing as of today, to hear from you, for us to be able to respond as part of what is really this ongoing conversation.
We appreciate the interest that all of you have expressed in private emails, in other town halls that we've undertaken. And we approach this really with the recognition that we are one community, and we want to make sure that all of our friends and neighbors, colleagues have an opportunity to hear from one another and to provide as much information as we can in a transparent fashion.
So to give you a sense of how the next hour will play out, we have officials from TC3, from Ithaca College, and from Cornell. I will first introduce our speakers from TC3. They'll then take about 10 minutes providing an overview of their plan for the fall. Then I will introduce our colleagues from Ithaca College. They will do the same for 10 minutes. And then finally, I'll introduce my colleagues from Cornell. We'll provide an overview.
And then we'll turn for what will be about 30 minutes to your questions. We have received questions in advance. We'll start with those. But I do encourage you to utilize the Q&A function on your Zoom screen. So you can ask questions, and we'll try to get to as many of them as possible. I will say that the session is being recorded, and a link will be posted and publicly available. And to the extent that there are questions we don't get to, we will make sure that we gather responses and post those as well.
So without further ado, let me first turn to introducing our friends from Tompkins Cortland Community College. Representing TC3 this evening is the provost, Paul Reifenheiser, and the vice president for student services, Greg McCalley. Paul, Greg, please, give us a sense of your approach to the fall.
PAUL REIFENHEISER: Sure. All right. Thank you. So this is Paul Reifenheiser. And so our approach for the fall was we really wanted to maintain a healthy environment while responding to the needs of our students. And one of the core things we learned was that COVID brought to the forefront a lot of equity issues for our students.
So a lot of our students, for example, were trying to complete classes only on a cell phone because they don't have access to a computer. Or they're trying to share laptops, or they're fighting over Wi-Fi in their home. Or they just don't even have Wi-Fi where they are, or reliable Wi-Fi.
And so what we discovered was-- and we know that our students are vulnerable. Many of our students are vulnerable in a lot of ways. And it could be really small things that can really lead to them just giving up on their education. So our goal was to offer as much flexibility as we possibly could. And again, as one of my faculty members-- one of our faculty members said, we're community college professors, and our students need us. And that is just not an exaggeration.
So some of the things that we did from the academic end-- because I'll talk about that. And then we can let Greg talk about some of our student services. We have kept our campus open for instruction. But we greatly have reduced the density of students who can be on campus. And it's worth noting, we already had over 100 sections of fully online courses each semester. So that would mean, of course, that was fully asynchronous and had no meeting time. So we just kept all those the same.
However, for our other classes, by default, we took every course that had a synchronous meeting time, and we cut those meeting times. Typically, we cut them in half. So a class that would meet on Tuesday and Thursday would now only meet on Thursday, and the other work would be shifted into the online environment for asynchronous learning. So this reduced the number of class meetings on campus.
So that's for ones that we were going to keep as face to face. And then for the courses that we shifted over to video conferencing or remote, which was most of our courses, that also reduced the amount of time that we would be doing the video conference. And one of the things that we've learned is that too much video conferencing is a thing.
It can be very, very difficult to be engaging over all of that time frame within that medium. It's not impossible, but it's difficult. And there was some burnout on folks taking part in video conferencing. And that's really important to us because our classes are very small. We don't have any really large lecture hall-type classes, and so we're heavily focused on that engagement with our students.
As far as what we're doing for our classrooms, we have 15 of them or so that we're going to be using on campus. And we've already fitted them out so that the students will be socially distanced from each other. They'll be wearing masks as well, of course. We're also working right now to fit those 10 to 15 classrooms with lecture capture equipment that would allow faculty the opportunity to teach classes simultaneously, both in-person and remotely, and also-- and I think this is really cool-- to have those students on campus and the remote students be able to interact with each other and talk to each other.
So it's worth noting, we do have a small amount of fully face-to-face classes, but those are mostly just labs that are so difficult to turn into the remote environment. We do have some classes that we are offering in the fully video confidence mode. So they'll be meeting a couple of times a week, but only via video conference.
And then we do have some that are also meeting one class session face to face, and then the other class session would be via video conference. But again, those last three are-- there aren't large numbers of those for us. It's worth noting that anybody who has a face-to-face class will have to have a backup plan on day one. That will be communicated out to the students so they know exactly what's happening if we do have to go remote.
We have also allowed face-to-face classes the option to switch to remote after Thanksgiving, so that they would essentially have about the first 10 classes or so that would be face to face and then switch over. But they also have to state that from the beginning. And we also have an array of academic support services that we're going to be offering to our students. Mostly they'll be offered remotely, but we'll also be offering some options face to face. Typically that would be by appointment.
Again, we're going to offer the opportunities, but we want to reduce the density of the amount of people that are on our campus while offering up flexibility. So that's a quick overview of academics. Greg, you want to take it away for student services?
GREG MCCALLEY: Thank you, Paul. Hello, everyone. I am Greg McCalley. I am the vice president of student services at Tompkins County Community College.
And I was going-- I'm going to focus my comments real quickly on the res life population of our students, because I think that's of most interest to people. First of all, I wanted to give a profile of what our resident students look like, because it is a little bit different than the other colleges in the area. It's not better. It's not worse. It's just different.
Typically, the students who live in our dormitories are from a disadvantaged background. They come from a lower socioeconomic background. Almost all of them, without fail, are eligible for full Pell, which means that the government has looked at their income and determined that they are eligible for as much financial aid as possible.
The majority of our students do come from the downstate area and New York City, at least the ones that live in the dorm. We have very few students that come from out of state that live in our dorms.
I bring this up just because I want people to understand that our students do come from a disadvantaged background and have a lot of barriers in their way already. And as a college, we feel our job is to remove those barriers and help their students reach their goals, which for a lot of our students is going on to the four-year institutions like Ithaca and Cornell, which are two of our top schools that students do feed to.
To give you just a little bit more beyond data of an example of students, when we have move-in in the fall, I always like to go help them move in, move in their boxes, because it's a really fun time. And I can't tell you how many times our students in the dorms are so excited that this is the very first time they will have their own room or they will have some privacy and they don't have to share with others. Just to give-- I bring that up just to give you an idea of where our students come from. It's a little bit different than students at other schools, that, again, they face some barriers. And we need to get rid of those barriers for them.
What we found in the spring, and Paul alluded to this, is when we went online, students that lived in the res halls who went home-- again, a lot of barriers. A lot of them didn't have computers, so we provided them laptops. Some of them didn't have web access, so we provided them hotspots. And in spite of all the support we gave them and the tools they needed to succeed, they just weren't able to be successful online. And a lot of that has to do with their living situation. Other things took over, and they weren't able to concentrate on their studies.
So for us, we felt that, just from a social responsibility aspect and an equity issue, it was important that we address or provide education in a way that supports these students. A lot of students can take a year off and take a gap year. But for this student population, if they take a gap year, all the research shows that they are lost, and they are never going to college. So this is their one shot, so we felt it important to support them and give them the opportunities they need.
As we made our plans for the fall for move-in and how to safely get students on campus, we knew that we weren't the experts, that we needed partners. So we partnered with three different institutions. That includes the Tompkins County Health Department, Cayuga Med Center, and then also SUNY.
As a member of the SUNY system, they were one of our partners. So we worked very closely with these three groups to develop our plans for the fall. And two of those, both SUNY and then the governor's office, had specific requirements for us if we were going to be open in the fall. And we submitted plans, and both of those plans were approved through those different departments. So we haven't been working in a vacuum. We have been partnering with others to create our plans for the fall.
Just some real quick things as we get closer to the fall and move-in, we have reduced our capacity. All of our dorms are actually suites with four bedrooms, living room, and a kitchen and a bathroom. We've cut that capacity in half. So it will be two students per suite instead of four. So our overall capacity on campus has been greatly reduced. We normally have about 450 to 500 students. We're expecting probably around 200 to 250 will be on campus this fall, so about 50% less than what we normally have. We will have a phased move of three phases.
Phase one actually started last weekend. That was for students who had a quarantine. We called students from all the states who would be required to quarantine or from out of the country. And that's usually a small number for us, anyway. We actually had only one student who needed to come in early. And he was here last-- came in last Saturday, and he's quarantining in his room now.
The next two phases are this Saturday. Our athletes and students who are in special programs this summer will move in this Saturday. And then the following Saturday, the remaining students will move in. Before they move in, the night before, they get a call from our campus nurse, who will go through a screening process with them.
The next morning they will come to campus. Cayuga Med will be administering COVID tests to all of the students who are moving in. They cannot move into the dorms until they've gone through the testing process.
Once they go into the-- once they are approved, they'll go into the dorms. If they do test positive, we will be encouraging them very strongly to return home. Again, if they have a car or anything like that, we will get them home, but a lot of our students don't have transportation. So we have a dorm set aside that will be only for them if that should happen.
Once they're on campus, we have a lot of support. We have a quaranteam that will swoop in if a student needs to go into quarantine that will take care-- partnering with the county, will be their support system. They'll make sure they have food, supplies. They'll do weekly phone calls with the parents and the families at home if they're quarantining, just to kind of keep them up to date. So that's kind of where we're at with our move-in, not to forget our commuter students because that is the majority of our students.
We will do daily screenings with those students. They've been given the opportunity to test. Today we had our first round of testing. We had 117 individuals who came through to do the testing, and they can also come the next two Saturdays to do their testing.
We'll continue to do all our traditional student service supports, both online and in-person-- primarily online with, like, mental health services. We will have our food pantry, tutoring. Anything a student needs we have plans for in how to support them. So it will be an interesting fall, and I look forward to answering some more questions later. Thank you.
JOEL MALINA: Terrific. Thank you, Paul and Greg. We'll now turn to Ithaca College. Representing IC is Ithaca College's provost, La Jerne Terry Cornish; the vice president for Student Affairs and Campus Life, Rosanna Ferro; and Vice President for Finance and Administration Bill Guerrero. I don't know who'd like to start, but the floor is yours.
LA JERNE TERRY CORNISH: Thank you very much, Joel. Good evening, everyone. Thank you for making time to join us tonight. I'd like to begin by thanking our partners in the community for all of the support and collaboration you have given us during this interesting time that has taken a hold of this community since March.
In particular, we would like to thank the Tompkins County government. We'd like to thank our friends at Cornell, our friends at TC3, and our friends at Cayuga Medical Center. We could not have made it through this time without you. And you've been thought partners for us, and we just want you to know how much we appreciate that.
As many of you already know, or I'm assuming that you know, Ithaca College announced today that we will remain remote for the fall semester. As our president said in her message to the campus community, this is not what anyone had hoped for, and it comes as a great disappointment to our students and to our families. But we believe that this is the correct and responsible choice for Ithaca College to help us protect and maintain the health and safety of our students, of our families, of our faculty, of our staff, and our greater Ithaca community.
There were three major driving factors that influenced our decision to remain remote for the fall. Primary among them was health and safety. This COVID-19 is deeply disturbing. The pandemic has affected more than 5 million people in the United States, and more than 170,000 people have died.
We are fortunate to be in New York state where we have a low prevalence, but we are not in control of the virus. And so health and safety was paramount to us. The student experience and the academic experience will also paramount to us. With regard to the student experience, my colleague Rosanna Ferro will speak to that in a minute.
But with regard to the academic experience, academic continuity was most important for us. At the end of the day, we did not want to bring our students back to campus in the fall only to have them have to go back home in a few weeks. So for the sake of academic continuity, we have chosen, again, to go remote in the fall.
Hats off to our faculty who have spent the summer in a five-week institute called Flexible by Design, preparing to deliver remote instruction in the fall in an innovative, engaging, and meaningful manner. But at this point, I'll turn to my colleague Rosanna Ferro to talk about the student experience a little bit more. Rosanna.
ROSANNA FERRO: Thank you, La Jerne. And again, I must echo La Jerne's comment. The last couple of months have been instrumental for us in our development in terms of the relationships that we have with our colleagues across the county. I in particular have been really happy to see the collaborations that have happened with TC3, Cornell, and IC just in the brainstorming of what are we going to do. This is unprecedented for anyone. This is not something we learned in grad school.
So for us, obviously, as La Jerne just mentioned, we have made the difficult decision to remain remote, and we will have a few students on campus. So we are mostly going to be closed for residential students, and we are going to have some exceptions, mostly based on students who have health-related kind of majors-- so some of our physical therapy, occupational therapy, those type of students.
And then we're also launching or actually will launch today an exception process for students who might have circumstances at home that will not allow them to continue their academic studies or might not have access to resources and things of that nature. We're not expecting it to be a big number. We're expecting it to be small enough that it will still allow us to manage everything we need to manage, but making sure, again, that all students, regardless of location, are able to continue their studies. I know we've been getting a lot of questions about what is IC doing with off-campus students.
So as you all know, we made this decision today. We had many students who had already moved into the Ithaca community. So IC traditionally does not have a lot of hands-on involvement with off-campus students. But recognizing that these are different times, we have shifted that thinking and are actually putting some protocols in place to be able to proactively engage our off-campus students in ways that we haven't before.
We're going to be repurposing some staff to actually work directly with off-campus students. We've been inviting them already. We had one testing day already on Friday, and we had a few students already actually from off-campus take us up on that offer.
We also have another testing date tomorrow, and Bill Guerrero will talk a little bit about that. And we're inviting them as well. And so our hope, again, is that we are still going to be engaged with our students. Even though we're remote and they're not going to be invited on campus for multiple things, we still have a sense of responsibility to our students in many ways.
So I know that this is a community meeting, and I wanted to make sure that folks in the Ithaca community understand that we, even though we're not open in the sense that students are going to be on campus in large numbers, that we do have a responsibility that we're going to be having.
Another thing that I think I want to highlight is that because we are going to be virtual, this has really pushed our boundaries. We are a residential college, and that's where we thrive. And we've had to really pivot to be able to engage our students virtually. And so my team has quickly put their heads together to think about, how do we engage our students in ways that isn't just having them sitting in front of a computer all day in a Zoom meeting.
So we are launching some residential virtual engagement opportunities, where our team in residence life is going to engage students based on where they would have been living this semester. And so there's going to be some cohort-based activities. We also have some signature programs coming out of the division and the campus-wide programming. And we're also looking at ways to engage your students. Not everyone has the same home circumstances.
And so we understand that this is not ideal for everyone and anyone. And so we're looking at creative ways to maintain that engagement so when we do welcome our students back, which we are hoping to do, that they don't have that sense of disconnect because they've been away for so many months.
And another kind of planning, as La Jerne mentioned-- part of our plan was to greet our students in a few weeks. And that is not happening, but the planning is still happening. We had a plan submitted to the state, and we are now in full implementation mode. We've been very fortunate to have very talented folks on campus who have stepped up to lead.
We created a new position, someone that's going to be leading our public health emergency preparedness. Launching a public health task force is going to be the implementation team of the plan. And all of that is going to be shared next week, so please be on the lookout. But now I'll turn it over to my colleague Bill Guerrero, who will talk a little bit about kind of the relationships that we talked about and how we've been implementing testing and other aspects of our plan.
WILLIAM GUERRERO: Thank you, Rosanna. Hi, everyone. My name is Bill Guerrero. I'm the vice president for Finance and Administration here at Ithaca College. And to add on to what La Jerne and Rosanna mentioned, we've done just an amazing amount of work not only on our campus but throughout the community. And when you think about setting up this type of meeting, we're just really, really proud to be a part of it, to work together.
And when you look at something positive out of this sudden health crisis, is the community collaboration has been amazing. And so when you think to have these three schools talking together, which is unprecedented-- I'm in a lot of different networks with other CFOs. And to think that we're doing this in a community is just absolutely amazing when I tell them about this.
And so it's not only just the three schools talking. It's the county health department, the county executive and his team, and then also, obviously, with Marty Stallone and his team at Cayuga Medical Health Center. The collaboration has been-- I know a lot of people don't realize how many times we meet and talk, but sometimes it's three times a week we have these collaborative meetings.
And then you can imagine all the one-off meetings, talking about all the different things that's happening. And so through that collaboration, as Rosanna mentioned, the testing that we have started-- just like TC3 did today, we had our first pilot testing this past Friday. We had 482 tests. And we're just really proud to report back to the community that there was not one positive case. And so from a pilot perspective, I'm really, really proud of that.
But we also know that that was a lot of our community members. It wasn't with any students or people moving back outside of the region. So we're excited about that. We have another pilot tomorrow so we're doing that on campus again on our A&E Center.
And I think we have-- I think it's 500? I think it's 532. So it's a pretty impressive number that we're testing again tomorrow. Myself truly will be one of them, and we'll see how that works. I'm excited to go through that experience. But it's important and necessary because we're going through the daily screening process that every single one of you guys are working on as well.
We have a push email that goes out really, really early. For some reason, I think the email goes out, like, at 3:00 AM to confirm if you're coming on campus or if you're not coming on campus. And then you go through a screening process just validating what symptoms you might have. And the collaboration with Ithaca College and Cayuga Medical Center and how that data is exchanged is really, really helpful, really, really important.
And so we're testing all of that out so we can be really supportive for the county to make sure we have metrics and data. So just in case there is a positive case, we can get that support, the tracing, you name it, all through that. So we're just proud to be part of this community, to respond to these unprecedented times. There is no right answer.
And so before I-- what TC3 does, what IC does, what Cornell does, I know from a community perspective people assume that everyone's the same. All three of our schools are really, really different. And so in no shape or form-- our big announcement today is in no shape to justify one reason or another. It is the right decision for us, as La Jerne said, our provost.
For us, for our community, for our students, for our faculty and staff, public health was number one, but also the academic experience and the student experience that Rosanna mentioned was pivotal for us. So I'll end there, and back to you, Joel.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you so much, Bill and Rosanna and La Jerne. Now to Cornell, my colleagues, Provost Mike Kotlikoff and Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi. Mike, why don't we start with you.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Get myself off mute. Thanks, Joel. Thanks, everybody, for attending tonight. I'll try and respond to some of the questions I've seen, some of the concerns of the community.
And I'll pick up where Bill left off, because I really believe that every college and university is different. I've been talking to colleagues around the country, many in different situations and making decisions that are appropriate for their situation Cornell has more than 50% of its undergraduates living off campus in off-campus housing, as most of us know, and virtually all of our graduate and professional students.
We also are very fortunate in having a diagnostic laboratory that takes thousands of accessions, does thousands of tests a day from all across the country, in fact, all across the world. Those factors guided a lot of our thinking as we started to consider the challenge that we would face for students coming back in the fall.
We surveyed our students a couple of months ago and asked them, knowing that many of our students have leases and were likely to come back to Collegetown and the community. And we surveyed them to find out what their plans were and found out that most of our students who live off campus were planning to, or leaning towards, coming back to campus, whether the campus was opened or closed.
This gave us a lot of concern and led us to start a process of epidemiological modeling to think about what we needed to do to create safe conditions in our community. So from the beginning, we tried to take a scientific approach. We recruited some epidemiologists to model Cornell's specific conditions.
And one of the first things that we determined is that we needed to mount a very aggressive surveillance testing process to be able to open safely and, really, to preserve the safety of our community, because we know our community's prevalence is very low. And we also know that bringing students back is likely to bring a virus into our community and bring students back with a-- coming from higher prevalence areas.
So the idea of surveillance testing is really to test individuals who are not symptomatic. When we talk about testing across the country, most of what you hear-- virtually all of what you hear-- is testing symptomatic individuals. So you get ill. Then you go in for a test. You're either positive or not.
For us that is too late. We wanted to get individuals on a regular basis where we could detect virus is they were infected very early and get them into isolation, remove them from contacts. Because we know that one thing that students do very, very well is mix well socially. And so our plans are really to test every undergraduate twice a week, and we've been spending a lot of time.
And again, I have to, as my colleagues have, thank Cayuga Medical, Cayuga Health System, Tompkins County Health Department, and our colleagues, because we've done this in collaboration with them. I've had many conversations with Wadsworth, with New York State Health, and indeed with the FDA and national individuals about how to do this in a safe way.
So surveillance testing is number one and key to what we're doing, but it's not the only thing. We have what I call a nested barrier system for protections for students. So first of all, we'll do daily symptom and contract screening for individuals. As Bill mentioned, every individual gets an email early on, whether you're a student or faculty or staff. Do you have symptoms? Have you been in contact with anybody with symptoms or diagnosed positive?
Secondly, we will have social distancing. My colleague Ryan Lombardi will describe our behavioral compact for our students. We have mask requirements on campus at all times. Student and employee gatherings will be limited. We're going to not have those gatherings in the early part of this phase of fall semester when students come back, because it is the time when we really need to eliminate virus that comes into our community as quickly as possible.
The behavioral compact that I mentioned, there will be monitoring of the compact, as Ryan will discuss. And then Cornell Health is prepared to test and advise students as symptoms arise or other concerns. And then we've also ordered our schedule to make sure that we don't overlap, or overlap as little as possible, with the flu season. So we will end at Thanksgiving, send students home, but concentrate our in-person residential college experience during that period of time.
Let me just say that we will have more cases. We will have identified by surveillance testing-- the fact that we'll be doing so much testing-- almost 50,000 tests per week. We will be identifying individuals that are positive, and case numbers will go up. Positives will go up. We have not been doing surveillance testing in Tompkins County heretofore. We will be identifying individuals that would not have been identified because they never become symptomatic. That is the whole point, to get those individuals early, to get them out of circulation, get them in isolation.
So let me just say a couple words about how we're doing so far. We've tested over 7,000 students in our gateway testing, our incoming testing process. Four of those individuals have been true positives, and we've picked up three individuals that had previously been positive-- so a good test that our testing system is working. This is much lower than the prevalence that we predicted from students coming in from non-quarantine states.
Some of it reflects, as was mentioned before, our graduate students that have been in the community and are lower prevalence. But we're seeing a lot of students come in now. And thankfully, so far, our prevalence is well below what we had predicted, which was 2%. Our prevalence is about 0.06%.
At the same time, we're now starting to test individuals coming in and quarantining from New York state, quarantine states or restricted states. We just got those results about 10 minutes ago. That's about 1% of those students we've picked up as positive. We're putting them right in isolation. That prediction, we had said, would be about 4%-- so again, well below what we had modeled and what we had prepared for in terms of isolation space, health capacity space, and quarantine space.
Just a few words about what the residential experience will be like. About 30% of our courses will be in person. They will be different. We've changed our classrooms. We'll have distancing. We've eliminated the large classes. We'll have distancing within classrooms-- lots of changes on campus. But we will try and preserve this unique relationship between faculty and student that characterizes the residential college experience.
Let me stop there and defer any other questions and give Ryan a chance to talk a little bit about move-in and our quarantine plans and some of the behavioral issues. Ryan.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Sure. Thanks, Mike. Hi, everyone. Good evening. My name is Ryan Lombardi. I'm the vice president for Student and Campus Life at Cornell. Glad to be with you, as everyone else has said.
So I want to hit on a couple of issues here that Mike just alluded to. First, I do want to talk about our residence halls, as my colleagues did, to give you a little sense of what we're expecting in the residence halls this fall.
Our normal capacity in our on-campus housing is about just under 7,000 students that we can house on any given year. This year, we expect our occupancy to be somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 of those 7,000 students. The reason we don't have a specific number yet is because we have allowed our students as much time as possible to make the decision about whether they are returning or not. So they have until August 31 to tell us for sure whether or not they will be coming to campus.
So right now, we're at about 5,000 students who have not yet canceled their housing contract for on campus. I do expect that number may continue to decrease as it gets closer to move-in, which is why I said that it would likely land somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 as our final on-campus occupancy.
There have been some questions, and I wanted to try to address this. We did begin a move-in process yesterday. A very small percentage of our students, about 4% of our students, began coming in yesterday, as Mike just alluded to, with some of our early testing. We welcomed about 340 students to campus. About 321 of those students were tested immediately upon arriving on campus.
And before walking over to their residence hall room, they were tested in a central location on campus. There were a little over 20 students who arrived after hours, and so they spent the first night in their residence hall room before taking their test, noting none of their students had received their test results last night. The small group that arrived after hours went in for their test this morning. So they were on campus for overnight before they had their tests.
But that is still very consistent with our plans to test people upon arrival, because these folks came in late. You can imagine 350 people in a capacity of 7,000, there's not a lot of density in these buildings right now. They're very sparse. In fact, that's many fewer students than had been on campus all spring and for some part of this summer.
So this is a process. I want to be clear that we are working through this, and we will have hiccups in the process. I don't consider our students who came in late last night to be a hiccup. But I do understand that this is rapidly evolving, and anxieties are high.
And so I do want to be clear about what we were able to accomplish yesterday. I want to report very good compliance from the students. I was on campus myself yesterday, and good compliance when students were checking in, moving in-- good mask compliance. And we're really hopeful that will continue.
I want to also-- there were questions about quarantine and isolation space, and Mike alluded to this as well. We have secured an extensive amount of isolation and quarantine space for our students, both-- and as soon as our regular move-in process starts, which is this coming Sunday-- and that drags on for about eight days so that we could stagger move-in and cadence it, again, to make sure that we could test all of those students as they come in and on arrival into Ithaca. I'll mention that the testing, as Mike alluded to, will happen very frequently.
The students who came in last night, for example, will get tested at least one more time before other students begin moving into the residence halls so that we can make sure that we catch any additional positives and isolate them appropriately. We think our quarantine and isolation space numbers are excessive. They approach 1,000 beds of availability for both immediately during move-in. But also, we have done this-- arranged this for the entire semester. So we have a lot of capacity there that I want to make you aware of.
I want to talk a little bit about the behavioral compact. And my colleagues mentioned this a little bit, and I know this is a topic on everyone's minds. This is an important tool in the tool kit, for sure, as we think about creating a safe and healthy campus and community this fall. But I also want to make sure that we emphasize our upstream approach to public health. It is critically important when you think about public health issues that you don't just think about things from a reactionary perspective, but you also try to prevent them in the first place. So making sure that we're promoting good behavior and encouraging and making sure that our students are well-informed about all the public health guidelines. Got a couple strategies we've put in place in particular that I want to mention.
First of all, we have a team of about 300 public health ambassadors that will be deployed on campus to simply share information, have extra masks on their person, and promote good public health guidelines. These will not be our intervention team. These are simply ambassadors to try to promote good public health, encouraging mask wearing, physical distancing, all the appropriate recommendations that come from the health department. That team will be in place and be working very hard. They'll have tents set up around campus and doing a lot of promotion.
Additionally, before our students actually had to agree to the behavioral compact, they took about a 45 to 60 minute course that our Skorton Center for Health Initiatives put together. They had to go through that course, learn more about the virus, and learn about the public health recommendations and then pass a brief quiz on the material that they had received before then attesting to the behavioral compact.
Now, I do know that the behavioral compact is important on a lot of people's minds and enforcement in particular, so let me talk about that. So one thing I'll say is that after the students attest to this, then it becomes an issue of how do we find out if students are violating this compact. And we have a couple of strategies in place.
We have developed an online reporting tool that will be available to faculty, to staff, to students, and the community. This will be an opportunity for people who see violations to report them to us so that we can follow up appropriately. We have a team prepared and staffed and ready to do the appropriate follow-up with students. So my encouragement is if you see actions or behavior that are inconsistent with what we have asked of our students to report that. And that will allow the team and our dean of student's office to then manage that process in coordination with our Office of Judicial Administrator as necessary.
The other thing that we're going to be doing is we have deployed a team, and will deploy a team, actually, starting this Thursday, August 20, called-- of folks that we're calling the behavioral compact monitors. So different from the public health ambassadors, these are actually full-time staff that work on campus that will be roving campus and the surrounding neighborhoods, specifically in the Collegetown area, doing spot checking and intervening when they see students who are violating the standard public health guidelines that we've outlined, encouraging them-- with respect and appropriateness encouraging them to put on masks, or if they see congregations or students too close together and not properly distancing to address those issues and ask the students politely and respectfully to make changes to their behavior.
But just like anyone, if they find an instance where the students are not compliant or refuse to support or anything like that, then they can also report them and allow for the appropriate follow-up through the dean of students office.
I'll also mention there is a moratorium on all Greek life parties, fraternity and sorority parties, for this fall. That is something that not only is supported by the administration but the student leaders of the chapters. As well as the alumni advisors for all of our chapters have agreed to and signed on to that moratorium for Greek life events this fall as well, which we think is very important.
Last comment I'll make on behavior-- and then I'll address one other point before finishing. I'm sure Joel wants to get some other questions. The enforcement will range. Look, the model here is we want good compliance. The model that Mike spoke about, our epidemiological studies, never suggested that we would have 100% compliance, never see a student without a mask, or never have a student who was too close to someone else or never, in fact, even have a party.
We anticipate some level of that happening. What you want to try to accomplish, though, is as much compliance as possible. And everything we have studied suggests that even reasonable, decent compliance far outweighs the public health-- our ability to create a safe environment than zero compliance and zero oversight. And so that's what we're focused on.
But depending on the nature of the offense, there are escalating consequences. We will be prepared, if necessary, to temporarily suspend a student, to let them go into our formal conduct process and determine whether or not they'll continue to be part of the Cornell community. This is not something that we strive to do, of course. We're an educational institution. But it is, again, a tool in the toolkit if we need to go down this path.
I want to say personally that I have great faith and confidence in our students. I think that they know how to rise to the occasion. And I'm tremendously hopeful that they will. I think everyone wants to pull in this together, and it will take everyone's effort to do so.
Joel, the last thing I'll say very briefly, we do know that, as my colleagues have mentioned, this is going to be a challenging semester on many fronts. We've started a series of programmings, actually starting today-- I'm sorry, yesterday-- losing track of the days-- called Q Week. For the next two weeks, we're doing an extensive amount of virtual program for students who are in quarantine, either here or elsewhere, back home. And so we're trying to make sure to engage those students as much as possible. Orientation begins and a lot of other activities that have been taking shape.
You may also know that Governor Cuomo recently announced that gyms could reopen. At Cornell we're not going to proceed with that yet. We want to get through move-in and these first couple of weeks of classes before we go ahead and open our fitness centers and our indoor spaces. So we'll be supporting outdoor activity as much as possible in a physically distanced capacity. So I'll stop there, Joel. I know you want to get to some other questions. I appreciate you all letting me share some of my thoughts. Thank you.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you very much, Mike and Ryan, and for all of you for the updates. We have 15 minutes to address questions. Let me remind everyone that the questions we don't get to will be addressed and answered and posted on Cornell's Community Relations website. But let's jump in. I'm going to start with questions that were submitted for all campuses.
And the first one. "How are the three campuses coordinating in terms of reactivation and shared interests, as well as with the health department and Cayuga Health System?"
Let me start on behalf of the group. I've been involved in a number of regular conversations. Many of the individuals on this Zoom are in regular one-on-one and group communications with one another. This goes back to the early stages in the spring when the pandemic was first taking hold here in our community. The presidents of our three institutions have been in touch.
The provosts have all been in touch and certainly vice presidents, all the way down to those very active in residential life and other areas-- all very much coordinated. It's been a very helpful process, one that has enabled us to fully understand each other's approaches. And I think it has resulted in more informed decisions. Do any of my colleagues want to share anything more on that question?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Well, I'd just say, Joel, that we've interacted in a number of ways throughout the state. A number of my colleagues have mentioned the submissions to New York state. We all engaged in a CICU process for all the independent colleges and universities across the state in terms of thinking about how we approach these, what are the critical issues, framing up how we respond to this challenge.
And I just had great conversations with my colleagues at IC and TC3. And then we've also coordinated, as a number of people said, through Tompkins County Health Department and through CMC, through Cayuga Medical, which has been a constant with all of our responses, I think.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Mike. Going on, "What happens if there's an outbreak on your campus? How will neighbors be informed if they've come in contact with someone who has tested positive?"
Let me handle that. It's a very important question and a reminder that notification and contact tracing is purely in the purview of the Tompkins County Health Department. They will be the ones who conduct that notification and contact tracing. We are prohibited, for privacy and other reasons, from doing so. Anything that others would like to add to that question?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Yeah, if I could just say, just to step off of that, I see a lot of questions about notifications and tests. And so one of the things that Cornell will do, and we are mounting-- and I hope Monday we will have the public display of that. Joel has been working on a dashboard that would provide all of our tests, all of the positives, and broken out by students and by faculty and staff.
So individuals will see where we are on a daily basis, just like New York state and Tompkins County represents these tests. Yes, our tests will be part of Tompkins County database. They will be reported to Tompkins County. And we will also have something else, which will be a color-coded alert system, similar to what some other universities have deployed, which will tell the public where we are. There will be a number of factors that go into that.
But I can just briefly say, the important things to us are, do we have the health system capacity for our students, our faculty, staff, our community, and the community at large. So what is our spare capacity of that? We'll be looking at that on a daily basis. Do we have the quarantine and isolation space that we need? Where are we in terms of our ability to quarantine and isolate our students?
Third, what is our level of infection? So how many infections a week are we having? What's a level beyond which we have to say, we have to shut down? And then, fourth, do we have the supply chain to be able to continue our testing, to be able to continue all of our safety measures? So those will be the four things we're really focusing on in terms of letting the public know how this is going.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Mike. The next question, "What have been the most significant adjustments you've made in planning over the last month? And are you prepared to change current plans in the coming month if needed?" Let me first turn to TC3 for that.
PAUL REIFENHEISER: Greg, I'll go first. I think the biggest changes and plans that we had to make were what I alluded to in our piece, where we went from last fall having three different teaching modalities now to six different teaching modalities. That requires a lot of training and a lot of education to our students, to our staff, to our faculty. It sounds like doubling your teaching modalities wouldn't be difficult, but I'll tell you, it's not terribly simple.
JOEL MALINA: Ithaca College, you've certainly made some significant adjustments. Anything you'd like to add beyond your remarks so far?
LA JERNE TERRY CORNISH: I think the most significant thing we've done is to institutionalize our emergency preparedness response by appointing a director for public health and emergency preparedness. And that's Christina Moylan from our School of Health Sciences and-- Health Sciences and Human Performance, pardon me, HSHP.
So that's a big move for us. We've realized that-- this COVID has made us realize that emergency preparation and preparedness has to be a part of the everyday life of the college. It's not just COVID. It's COVID and beyond. And so should something happen after this, we will be ready, and we will be focusing on our emergency preparedness for the fall and into the foreseeable future.
ROSANNA FERRO: I think I'll just add from a student life perspective, we are so used to having students on our campus. And this might be our reality-- maybe not 100% as it is going to be this fall. But we might have a number of students in the future who may not be able to join us because they might have worries to be on campus.
So having to be hybrid, I think, was something that we had to learn rather quickly and how to do it well. How to maintain that level of engagement with our students regardless of their circumstances I think was a big lesson, at least in our area.
JOEL MALINA: From Cornell, I don't know-- Ryan, if you want to speak to the adjustment a few weeks back on the travel advisory quarantine states, that jumps out at me.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Sure, Joel. I would be happy to do that briefly. We regretted very much having to make this decision. And in hindsight-- Mike and I had spoken to our colleagues in the community-- we should have been more clear in our initial language of this, of our encouragement for students from those states to remain home. That was the intent and is the intent, with the exceptions that we spoke about a little bit earlier.
We had heard from a few students who needed-- or had already made arrangements with family members who live in New York or in other states near New York that have low prevalence. And we wanted certainly for those students to be able to continue to do that. But the lead there really should have been more strongly emphasizing, as it was in subsequent fora and messages, that we encourage those students to remain home until their state is removed.
It was difficult. It became just logistically challenging, our commitment to house, to feed, and to support those students. As the numbers grew and those expanded beyond the capacity of our local Ithaca area, it just became more and more unmanageable to do that. So that was a very difficult choice but regrettably one we had to make. But we were glad to support some of our highest need students, and those are some of the students that arrived yesterday.
JOEL MALINA: And a related question, which a number of people have asked online-- and, Mike, I'll turn to you-- "What is the threshold that would cause Cornell to close? Is there a specific number of cases that would cause each institution--" and I guess I would extend that to TC3 as well-- "--to close?" Mike? Mike, did you hear the question?
OK, well, I will answer it. Along with our public dashboard, there is a larger comprehensive set of data that we will be analyzing on a daily basis with Tompkins County Health Department, with Cayuga Health System. And the color-coded alert levels that Mike referenced, which will be available and accessible on our dashboard, really establish those different levels, that last level being red, which would be campus would close. And we would immediately transition, in as safe a manner as possible, to sending our students home to finish the semester from their permanent residences. Importantly, we are analyzing data regularly.
We are absolutely prepared to do what's necessary to promote and protect public health in this current moment. And Mike talked a bit at the outset around our modeling and about the formation of our plan. Our current plan remains for Cornell the best way for us to minimize the threat, not just to our community on campus but to the greater Ithaca community as well.
Let me turn-- and there's a question here. Ryan talked a bit about neighborhood ambassadors. Anything that Ithaca College, perhaps, has in place for your students who will be either on campus or off campus?
ROSANNA FERRO: So as I mentioned earlier, we are launching several kind of campaigns on campus as well, very similar to what Ryan mentioned, a public health campaign. And this was part of the recommendations that came out of our task force, and it's actually going to be implemented. We are going to have staff that's going to be designated to work with our off-campus students in proactive ways.
But we also will have folks in our Office of Student Conduct then to actually respond, because we do have relationships with the local law enforcement. And hopefully we won't go there. But if we have to, similar to Cornell, we are going to be extending our conduct process off-campus in kind of an egregious situation. So similar to Cornell's stance, it's not going to be any given student just sitting on their porch without a mask.
We are also going to be engaging some of our off-campus students in positive ways to kind of have that peer-to-peer support. So similar to the ambassadors, we are going to be asking some of our off-campus students to be in leadership roles. And we are launching an advisory board on campus as well to coordinate efforts with our off-campus students.
We're not going to have that many students on campus. And many of our cities who are going to be on campus are going to be really busy. They're going to be taking the health-related classes that I mentioned. And so we are hoping-- again, even if they're on campus taking classes or off-campus, everyone's going to have to sign our community agreement. So we are extending all of that off-campus as well.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you so much. This is a question that a number of people have asked. I was going to ask Mike, who I guess is no longer on, but I can certainly address it as well. "A lot of reporting in the news around UNC's decision. Of course, we heard today about Ithaca College, Notre Dame. Do these changes convince Cornell to reassess and readjust its plans?"
As Mike said at the outset, every college, every university has decisions to make regarding their specific situation and their specific decision making. Importantly, and we'll look at UNC as one example, we talked about our very aggressive surveillance testing program, where we will be testing every student as they arrive, then again three days later, and then twice a week for undergraduates, once a week for graduate and professional students through and up and including Thanksgiving.
And for our faculty and staff, it will be anywhere from one week to every two weeks to a little less regularly, depending on whether they're doing complete remote work. If you look at UNC, I believe with their population of about 30,000 students they had only tested in the hundreds, maybe 300 or 400 students. Just down the street, relatively speaking, in Raleigh-Durham with Duke, where they have a similarly large population, they have had a similarly aggressive surveillance testing program as compared to ours. And their results and their ability to continue their semester remains unaltered.
So again, we are very confident that our current approach is the right approach. And as we've mentioned, this will be assessed and reassessed looking at real data, as our testing results come in in consultation with the health department, in consultation with the state of New York. And we will make all of these decisions as transparent as possible.
We have time for just one more question. Here is a question. "TC3 and IC, we're loving your care for students. Thank you for protecting them, the Ithaca community, and, by extension, us concerned Cornell grads who live here." I think that goes, again, to ongoing concern and anxiety over Cornell's approach. Again, we are looking at our modeling, at the results on a daily basis. We will present those data on a daily basis and make any changes that are necessary.
But let me end on one note, again focused on Cornell. It is not as if we had a choice of a risk-free approach to the semester and a risky approach to the semester. Our whole approach has been recognizing that if we were fully online, based on the modeling, based on the surveying, that we would be putting our community and the greater community at a certain heightened level of risk.
The approach which we've embraced is to minimize that risk through a combination of in-person instruction with hybrid learning, where we have the ability to have the levers of mandating adherence to our testing protocols and other adherence to the behavioral compact through enabling students to access our facilities, by enabling us to have all sorts of levers that wouldn't be available to us if we were in a purely online environment. We recognize this is counterintuitive. We recognize the level of anxiety that a number of you are expressing.
Let me reassure you, we are putting significant focused analysis and attention to these concerns. And as we are today, we are confident that our approach is in the best interests of public health.
So with that, it's reached our 8 o'clock hour. Thank you all for joining us. We will respond to all of the questions that will be posted on the Cornell Community Relations website. There will also be a link to this live recording. Have a wonderful evening, and thank you again for your participation.
We've received your request
You will be notified by email when the transcript and captions are available. The process may take up to 5 business days. Please contact email@example.com if you have any questions about this request.
Q & A for greater Ithaca/Tompkins with the campus leadership from Cornell, Ithaca College, and Tompkins Cortland on the return of students and campus reactivations.