JOEL MALINA: Good afternoon. Welcome to today's faculty and staff town hall. My name is Joel Malina. I'm Cornell's Vice President for University Relations. I'm joined today by a group of my colleagues, who I'll introduce shortly.
Thanks to all of you who have submitted questions in advance. We received about a hundred of them. And we've pulled together a great cross-section among the many topics that those questions covered. I do want to remind you to use the Q&A function at the bottom of the Zoom window to ask additional questions. Time allotting, we will try to be able to pull from those questions as well.
So without further ado, just quickly to introduce the panelists, President Martha Pollack, Provost Mike Kotlikoff, Vice President for Facilities and Campus Services Rick Burgess, Vice President for Research and Innovation Emmanuel Giannelis, Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Mary Opperman, and Vice President and General Counsel Madelyn Wessel. I'd like to ask President Pollack to make some brief opening remarks before we jump into the questions. Martha?
MARTHA POLLACK: Thank you, Joel. Hello, everyone. It's really great to have everyone here. And I want to thank you all for spending your lunch hour with us today. Before we really get going on the questions, I just want to say to this group what I said to the Faculty Senate yesterday, which is this is an amazing community. And I thank all of you, yet again, for everything you've done to enable Cornell to move forward during this truly crazy year.
Last August, before we brought the students back to campus, I was being told multiple times a day that our reopening was doomed to failure and that we were going to be sending all those students back home again within four weeks. Some people were generous and they gave us six. And yet, here we are at the end of a year that's demanded so much of all of us, our faculty, our staff, and our students. And I can't say enough about how our success has been a community effort in every respect.
We never could have gotten here without the incredible determination and creativity and resourcefulness that you've shown. Together, we've achieved something that's never been done before and something that we were told was impossible. So thank you, thank all of you for everything you've done to get us to this point, with an extraordinary academic year almost behind us and plans for a much more normal year ahead of us.
Now the primary reason we're able to plan for a much more normal future, of course, is our vaccination rates, which are very high and increasing. And we expect them to continue to rise, to the point where our campus will be overwhelmingly vaccinated by the time we begin this fall. So if you haven't been vaccinated yet, please do that as soon as you can. Now let's go to our Q&A. We're going to spend our time today talking about what the summer and then the fall are likely to look at here at Cornell. Joel, back to you.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Martha. The first set of questions are related to the topic of safety and testing protocols. Mike, the first question will be to you. Monday's campus message referenced CDC's new maskless guidelines, evolving New York State guidance, and the expectation that Cornell would further adjust its approach to masking and social distancing indoors. Do you have any more detail on what that adjustment will look like and when it might go into effect?
MIKE KOTLIKOFF: Yeah. Thanks, Joel and hello, everybody. And I echo Martha's comments. So last week we put out the message that, as we looked at the end of this semester, we've anticipated a number of changes in our campus procedures that are going to start as of June 1. And this basically moves us closer to New York state guidelines and are more appropriate as our campus dedensifies post-semester.
So these include no longer requiring testing for vaccinated students, a change in our quarantine procedures for individuals returning-- vaccinated individuals returning from domestic travel, and relaxed building occupancy guidelines, again, more appropriate with New York state guidelines.
Now with the change in CDC guidance that was announced last week and the attendant change in New York state guidance, which governs us, which was announced Monday, I want to outline some measures that we're putting in place for employees coming back and occupying buildings after June 1. I'll go through these generally, but we'll release a specific message outlining these changes following this meeting.
So these guidelines, I want to stress, apply to employees only. We're working through the implications for students in summer classes and how those occur. And I also want to preface this with the remarks that Martha made, which is that our vaccination progress is going extremely well. Currently, for those faculty who are approved to be on campus, we have a 94% vaccination rate. You can see this on the daily dashboard if you mouse over the total aggregate vaccination rate. 72% of our staff have been vaccinated.
So as of June 1, first, vaccinated individuals can occupy our buildings and attend meetings without masks beginning June 1, not before. Unvaccinated individuals are expected to wear masks and distance, but we're not standing up a system to verify vaccination status.
Second, in-person meetings can be scheduled, in which vaccinated individuals do not wear masks and unvaccinated individuals do wear masks. However, we also cannot exclude those people, such as immunocompromised individuals, who are at risk and may not be able to attend these meetings. For that reason, if you're scheduling a business meeting, you need to provide a remote option for individuals who choose not to attend the meeting in person.
So just to summarize again, as we move back post June 1 to normal operations, we can have our regular business meetings in person under the conditions that I described. Vaccinated individuals without masks. You can wear a mask if you choose to, but you're not required to wear a mask.
Unvaccinated individuals are required to wear a mask. We're not setting up a verification system, but it is a significant violation of our policies to be unmasked as an unvaccinated individual in a group meeting. And then third, as part of that, we need to set up these options.
I would also just preview, we're anticipating beginning regular seminars as of July 1. More instructions about that will come forward. And we're also thinking about-- we're also now enabling faculty recruitment visits. I know many of you have asked about that. We'll provide some guidelines for that in terms of how to structure those talks between now and July 1.
So with that, let me just turn to Madelyn Wessel, our University Counsel, for more detail on our efforts to enable in-person business activities in a safe manner and while not disadvantaging those who cannot or do not wish to be vaccinated. Madelyn?
MADELYN WESSEL: Yes. Thanks, Mike, and hello to everyone here. You've done really a great job of outlining the basic architecture here of the planning. And like everyone else in the state, and frankly the country, we're continuing on a daily basis to monitor what guidance we are getting from both federal and state agencies. New York state has been issuing updates on their guidance practically on a daily basis, and I do expect that that's going to continue.
But the fundamental premise here that was the basis for CDC's bold action was that vaccinated individuals really are not at risk anymore from infection from unvaccinated people, especially where mask and distancing requirements maintain in place for those who are not vaccinated. And so Cornell is following that guidance and New York state's position on this.
I believe we are planning to continue to maintain surveillance testing for people who are not vaccinated and certainly other kinds of measures to ensure that unvaccinated people do not pose any kind of threat to themselves or others in the workplace.
It is a complicated dance to make sure that we are stewarding privacy and disability responsibilities and accommodations. These are always case-by-case matters. So as we begin to implement these new rules and begin to reopen our meetings and offices, there will always be an opportunity for people who have accommodation needs or concerns to work through HR and to have those issues addressed appropriately.
Beyond that, there's, I know, a lot of other questions. And we're simply working through the guidance, for example, on the daily check and when that may be able to be lightened for people who are fully vaccinated in other matters. And that really boils down to consistently looking at New York state's guidance.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Madelyn and Mike. Mary Opperman, I'm going to turn to you for this next question. As people return to working on campus with greater frequency, will we have to continue to do the daily check each day we are on site? If yes, for how long will this continue? And will this apply to vaccinated individuals as well?
MARY OPPERMAN: Thanks for the question. And thanks, it's nice to see everybody [INAUDIBLE] to all of you. Right now the daily check continues to be required by New York state. The daily health screening is a requirement that they've put in place that we utilize the daily check for. So at this time, it continues to be required if you are going to be on campus, whether you are vaccinated or unvaccinated. As New York State looks at and perhaps changes its guidelines, we'll be back in touch with you if we change our practice.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Mary. Rick, next question to you. The COVID pandemic has made clear the importance of adequate ventilation to support the well-being of building occupants. For campus buildings with zero mechanical fresh air intake, will there be an investment made to upgrade their ventilation to minimal thresholds for COVID-like scenarios?
RICK BURGESS: Thanks, Joel and greetings, everybody. Rick Burgess, Facilities and Campus Services. So what we have in place really is part of an overall suite of controls. It's important to keep that in mind. Vaccination has been spoken to already, the physical distance, masking, good hygiene habits, washing your hands, et cetera. Those remain important in order to reduce the likelihood of transmission.
And as you heard Provost Kotlikoff just speak to, once you are vaccinated, the risk goes way, way down. New York state and CDC guidance indicates that some of those additional measures are no longer required.
Going forward, there has been a recent legislative action in New York state, the Health and Essential Rights Act, the HERO Act. And this act will require-- does require the state commissioners of labor and health to develop a model infectious disease exposure prevention standard. That's a mouthful. But basically, that would be a model plan that would address this sort of concern. And it would give employers in New York state, to include Cornell, a set of standards that we would need to adhere to.
So we haven't seen the plan yet. The legislation just passed, but we're going to be monitoring this closely. And my team in facilities engineering, works very closely with environmental health and safety, have been working this whole time to make sure that we are doing everything that we can that's appropriate, that we comply with all New York state guidance to keep our people safe.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Rick. Emmanuel, I'm going to turn to you for the next question. With the new post June 1st guidelines, will offices and labs need to submit activation plans to ensure social distancing?
EMMANUEL GIANNELIS: Thank you, Joel. Before I answer the question, let me first add my thanks and appreciation to everybody for allowing us to really keep a safe campus vis-a-vis the research operations. So let's now turn to the question.
I think the good news is that starting June 1, there will be no longer a requirement to have a reactivation plan in place. We would just follow some simple guidelines that come from New York state, as well as the CDC guidelines, that basically say that we just need to keep the six foot distancing requirement when we are indoors, regardless if we are in an office or in a laboratory.
Now, of course, let me make it clear that if everybody, either in a lab or in a vehicle traveling, if everybody in that group is vaccinated, then, of course, the requirement for a mask is no longer there. And I think when we have people that are either in individual offices or in a cubicle where I believe there is some kind of a protection, something like a 5 foot wall, then also the requirement for a mask is relaxed. So I'm looking forward to that myself, as I also had to submit my own plan for my own lab. And I think this new era would make it much easier for all of us.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Emmanuel. Mike, back to you with this question. Although COVID testing will not be required for fully vaccinated staff, will supplemental testing still be available for vaccinated individuals if that is preferred while they're working on campus?
MIKE KOTLIKOFF: Yep. Short answer, yes. So supplemental testing will be available. We'll also continue surveillance testing of non-vaccinated individuals. And I see a question in the chat here. We are considering-- so we've asked Peter Frazier to do modeling around the overall campus safety and transmission, particularly for the fall when we redensify, and we will be considering using a kind of statistical sampling to sample our population during that period of time.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Mike. Mary, the next question is for you. What will be the rules for food and drink in private offices for those on campus? Do we have to eat by ourselves in our offices, or can we use designated eating spaces in the building?
MARY OPPERMAN: Yeah, it's a great question. So if you are vaccinated, you can gather in small groups and eat together without your masks on. If you are not vaccinated, then you should-- because you have to take your mask off in order to eat, you should continue to distance during any times when your mask is off.
JOEL MALINA: Thanks, Mary. Mike, back to you for this one. Not knowing who has been vaccinated, I'm wondering if customer-facing employees or departments can still require masks to protect themselves, their customers indefinitely, despite formal guidelines.
MIKE KOTLIKOFF: Yeah. Well, first, I just, again, repeat Martha's comment and urge all faculty and staff to get vaccinated as soon as possible. We're making great progress. The more we get those numbers up, the more we protect everyone. And you are protecting those people who are immunocompromised and can't mount an immune response to the virus.
We're proceeding according to CDC and New York state guidelines, which indicate that vaccinated individuals are not required to wear masks. And we cannot, for reasons that Madelyn referenced, we cannot require individuals to show evidence of vaccination, et cetera. So after June 1, when our campus is much less dense, the risk for customer-facing employees who are vaccinated is not zero, but it is vanishingly small.
So we are, as I say, proceeding with CDC guidelines and New York state guidelines and we feel that the risk of that is so low that we can safely operate in a way in which we don't require everyone to wear masks.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Mike. So now I'm going to turn to our second topic, which are questions specifically about vaccination. And Mike, we'll start again with you. How will the University accommodate and address immunocompromised, fully vaccinated Cornell community members when repopulating the campus begins?
MIKE KOTLIKOFF: Yes. So we are now in the process, as I mentioned, of having Peter Frazier begin the modeling that will really guide our operations for the fall. Again, the best way to protect everyone is to be vaccinated. If you are immunocompromised, I would suggest that you follow your physician's guidance with respect to your own in-person activities.
We're committed to making sure that immunocompromised individuals, or those who cannot be vaccinated for other reasons, are not excluded from normal business operations at the University and don't suffer from that condition. But we're also committed to making sure that we can return operations in a safe manner for those many, many people who are being vaccinated.
JOEL MALINA: Thanks, Mike. Madelyn, this question's for you. Some of us have had severe allergic neuropathy reactions to past vaccinations and may need to opt out of this vaccination. How are vaccine exemptions being factored into your planning?
MADELYN WESSEL: Thanks so much, Joel. And it's a great question, and it really builds on the issues that Mike just addressed. So first of all, the University is not, at this time, mandating vaccination of faculty and staff. And so the issue of requesting an exemption isn't, strictly speaking, present for employees.
That said, the University fully respects the responsibilities that we have as an employer to ensure that waiver requests or exemptions would be available based on medical or religious bases. And so to the extent that we would move in a direction of requiring, we would also immediately implement those legally appropriate opportunities for employees to opt out. As many of you probably know, in implementing the requirements for students, Cornell has also included both those religious and medical exemption waiver requests.
Now the issue of what to do if you're in a position of not being able to be vaccinated, or not being able to be effectively vaccinated because of immunocompromise, is one to address with your physician. And if, as an employee and in working with your physician, you believe that there are medical reasons for particular accommodations to be needed by you in the workplace, Cornell is a great employer. And under Mary Opperman's leadership, the confidential group and medical leaves works very effectively and intensively with employees who need those kinds of accommodations.
So the basic answer there is talk to your doctor and sort out whether there are particular accommodations that are appropriate and necessary. And know that Cornell, as an employer, is committed to responsibly implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act and being a caring employer.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Madelyn. Mike, a question from a faculty member. Faculty members with the long-term health conditions do not allow them to be vaccinated. At the same time, they cannot teach classes with a mask on. Will they be able to submit a request to be allowed to teach via Zoom this fall?
MIKE KOTLIKOFF: Yes. If you have-- as to what Madelyn described, if you have a health condition which puts you at risk, we will certainly consider that as a medical accommodation and provide you with the appropriate ability to teach your class.
JOEL MALINA: Madelyn, I'm going to go back to you. We've touched on this, but it goes a little deeper. I've been told by my supervisor that I can't ask colleagues what their vaccination status is. How will Cornell ensure my safety and the safety of my family if I'm not allowed to ask if a colleague in my office is vaccinated? One person's right to privacy does not supersede another person's right to health and safety.
MADELYN WESSEL: Well, I think this pandemic crisis has surfaced many intriguing and really important tensions of rights and responsibilities. And one of them is this issue of rights to privacy against communal rights. And the way that the University has stepped in to try to resolve some of those issues is through really powerful science.
The modeling that Provost Kotlikoff is talking about is modeling that ensures that Cornell is looking at overall campus safety. And what we've heard from the CDC and New York state is that vaccinated people are actually safe. They are safe in an environment where people who might not be vaccinated are wearing masks and are expected to be compliant with those responsibilities. And more broadly than that, people who are vaccinated are actually not subject to reasonable fears of dangerous reinfection. So Cornell is following the guidance that we're getting from the state and federal authorities.
The issue about supervisors and individuals asking each other about vaccination status is one where there are profoundly different levels of comfort. In many offices and many teams around Cornell, people have jubilantly shared their vaccination status. And when people are open and happy to share that with colleagues and friends, there's no barrier to that being done on a voluntary basis.
But we're also sensitive to protecting people's privacy and not putting our staff in a position where they feel put upon and required to respond to ad hoc inquiries about what, for many people, is a personal and deeply felt, sometimes also medical or disability based, reason for vaccinating or not vaccinating. And that's why we've established some basic rules of the road that supervisors should not be talking to their reports and putting them under pressure directly to reveal those kinds of issues.
Cornell developed a very careful and important system through the daily check that is administered by Mary Opperman and by others, who have excellent training. The University does know vaccination status and we manage many activities for community health and safety based on that. But we're not trying to create an environment where individuals are picked on or put upon by being asked about these issues face-to-face. So that's a sort of initial response. I know there's some more questions that will come up, but we'll dig into more of these issues, Joel.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Madelyn. Mike, I'm going to go to you. Madelyn earlier referenced that, as of now, we have not yet decided whether we would mandate vaccination for employees. So the question is, will the University require vaccination for faculty and staff?
MIKE KOTLIKOFF: Yeah, we're looking at that very closely. You may know that several of the Ivies, this week and last week, announced mandatory vaccination for staff and faculty. As I said, we're doing very well in terms of the overall vaccination. We'd like to see more staff vaccinated. And we're going to issue a survey that really tries to get at where we're going to be, what the intention of individuals are to be vaccinated by the time we open in the fall.
I would say that if you are vaccinated, you are overwhelmingly protected. So you're on your own, as Madelyn said, you're not absolutely completely protected. But the data are that vaccination overwhelmingly protects you not just from disease, but also from infection and transmitting the infection.
So we feel that if we can get as high a percentage as we feel necessary to be able to operate the campus without a mandate for faculty and staff, it will be a lot easier. I'll turn to Madelyn to address some of the legal issues around mandating vaccination for faculty and staff.
MADELYN WESSEL: Thanks, Mike. So the University has certainly looked very deeply at this issue. And the fact that increasing numbers of our peer institutions have decided to implement mandates or requirements, I do think makes clear that we have the legal authority to require vaccination. That's been confirmed by two federal agencies, the CDC and the EEOC, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
But that said, there may not end up being a need for Cornell to mandate. We've had extraordinary success at vaccination on campus, as Provost Kotlikoff has pointed out. And so those decisions, it sounds like, can be put off for a while until we continue to examine the population data, the demographics, we have more of this modeling information back. And at that point, the University can make that decision.
I do want to reiterate that a decision to impose a requirement of vaccination is always accompanied by those legally required exemption opportunities based on medical or religious beliefs. So Cornell will act in a manner that is compliant and respectful of rights and responsibilities, for sure, in this space.
JOEL MALINA: Thanks, Madelyn. Staying with you, this regards the requirement that all employees and students, when they are fully vaccinated, have to upload proof of their vaccination status. How will this individually identifiable health information be kept secure? Who will access it? How long will it be kept? And will Cornell researchers access it for research purposes?
MADELYN WESSEL: That's a packed in complex question. I'll try to unpack it and respond to each of those issues. So first of all, Cornell has been incredibly careful to develop systems from the very beginning through the daily check that would enable a high level of protection and privacy to be afforded all of the information that was being collected around testing, around the surveillance program, and around the uploading of vaccination information.
It was a deliberate decision to have vaccination data be included in the daily check, which is a highly protected secure system that is not generally accessible to anyone in the community, except people who have received privacy and HIPAA training and have a required need to access information.
For example, as we had word of individual infections, environmental health and safety needed to have a reasonable level of notification, so they could clean an area. We needed to have information so that we could work through with Tompkins County any necessary quarantine responsibilities. But that data has been kept in an environment that was highest level built and most carefully stewarded.
It isn't the case that all institutions have handled vaccination information in the same extremely careful and separated manner. And I'm not suggesting that it is legally required for vaccination data to be held in the highly protected manner that Cornell has done so. But this community, early on, articulated a lot of concerns about privacy and security. And the University listened to those concerns and constructed a system that is very carefully done and managed.
There's always been a lot of suspicions or concerns about research access to this data. And again, Cornell has taken a pretty strong stance and a very high road around personal privacy and the security of that information. Many of you may recall that there have been emails. There's been outreach soliciting people who were interested in participating in different types of research to volunteer to be contacted for research activities. But the data that has been held in the daily check is not subject to research activities. We've treated that data as personal and that data has not been shared with researchers.
I'm happy to say that many thousands of members of our community responded to that call for potential interest and said, yes, I'm up for being contacted. And those projects are being handled under the rubric and supervision of the IRB, which reports in to Dr. Giannelis in research, and being handled absolutely consistently with human privacy and security protocols.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Madelyn. Mike, I'm going to go to you now with a question that will close out this section on vaccinations. It has to do with boosters. We don't yet know how long COVID-19 vaccines offer protection. Will we have access to boosters, preferably right on campus?
MIKE KOTLIKOFF: Yeah. As more information around the duration of immunity emerges, we anticipate there will be boosters. There will be guidance around booster shots to maintain immune status. I fully expect that once we have that information, we will be facilitating the vaccination of our campus community, just as we've tried to facilitate the initial immunization.
I should just briefly, again, thank Cayuga Health System and Tompkins County for the great partnership that we've had in being able to bring that to campus and do that in an effective way.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Mike. So now we'll turn to a set of questions on the topic of remote work and returning to campus. Martha, this first question is for you. The pandemic has forced Cornell to be adaptable and to work differently to support learning and research. Many units have pushed into new frontiers in educating and collaborating via distance. This is a huge opportunity to think creatively about the future of Cornell. How does University leadership plan to assess and determine the lessons that will carry forward for students, for faculty, and for staff?
MARTHA POLLACK: Well, that's a really great question, because I think there have been a lot of lessons. And in fact, I've stopped talking about how we go back to a pre-pandemic normal and thinking more about how do we go to an optimal normal, one that integrates what we've learned during the pandemic with what we did well before, or, as gets said a lot, how do we build back better?
So leadership team and I have gathered a pretty long list of things that we've done differently during the pandemic that seem worthy of assessment and seem worthy of consideration as things we might continue doing. And let me give you a few examples. And let me note that depending on the example, the question of who does the assessment is going to vary.
So if we think about our incoming students, prospective students, one of the things we've done is we've offered a lot of virtual engagement opportunities. And that's allowed students who might not have had the ability to travel to campus to consider Cornell. We'll almost certainly consider to continue doing that. We've made standardized testing optional. And we're looking closely at whether that is effective and whether we should continue that or not. And when I say we there, there the assessment is being done by our admissions staff.
When we turn to teaching, there's a lot of things we've done differently. Many faculty tell us that virtual office hours have actually been very good for them and for the students. Not as the only option, students still want to meet face-to-face, but maybe as an alternative once in a while. We've had changes in the way in which faculty assess students. It's been really hard to do high-stakes exams online. And so in many classes, particularly in large classes, those have been replaced with a series of low-stakes quizzes.
And now what we'd like is a real careful assessment of whether that in fact is better for student learning. Faculty have used online tools to supplement in-person classes. Our students and our faculty are craving in-class interaction, but there's lots of ways to use the tools to supplement that. All of that will be assessed by our faculty, our discipline-based research-- DBER, Discipline-Based Education Researchers, and so on. In the research arena, I'm sure we will continue to have virtual symposia, virtual speakers, more remote collaboration.
Over in student life, the Vice President for Student Life, Ryan Lombardi, isn't joining us today, but he is assessing a number of things. For example, we put online a number of socializing activities for incoming first year students before they got here. They loved it. They got to meet students coming to Ithaca from all over the country before they got here. We may continue that. We're looking at whether to continue extended move in. We've done a lot with telehealth and we're going to continue to do that.
On the employee front, of course, every unit is looking at where hybrid working arrangements might make sense, again, always remembering that the first thing we have to do is satisfy our mission as a residential university. And then we're looking at cross-training of staff across units, which enhances career development and facilitates better coverage.
Let me just mention one more, because I could go on and on and on. But when we think about communication, your area, Joel, the use of town halls like this, online town halls, have been amazing. We have-- I'm looking at the number-- 1,700 participants here. Now I'm dying to get back and see people face-to-face, but I have no doubt that we're going to continue to supplement those face-to-face activities with these sorts of online activities, because they do allow us to reach so many people all at once.
I would encourage everyone in the community to think not just about how do we get back to a pre-pandemic state, but what have I learned in the course of the last year that I might want to continue to do even after the pandemic is over.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Martha. Mary, given the topic returning to campus and remote work, I've got a bunch of questions I'm going to direct to you. So I hope you have a glass of water handy. The first one, why did the University conduct a staff survey on what employees' back to work preferences are if they're just going to make everyone go back to campus anyway?
MARY OPPERMAN: So we conducted the survey because we wanted to know how people were faring. So let me step back for one minute before I answer this question. We have-- our population right now is divided into those who are working on campus and have been this whole time and those that we asked to work remotely.
As we started to think about what the fall might look like, we wanted to understand how that remote work was affecting how people were connecting with one another and to their work. And so we did that survey twice. That data has been extremely helpful to us, and it has been given to the leadership.
And the walk away that we got from it was that lots of people missed being on campus. What they like is the flexibility that having a more flexible schedule provides them. And now what the leaders are doing with that data is they're working from their core missions, from their priorities, to determine how best to apply that request to the work that's being done.
We always begin with who we are, and our missions are very clear. Our student focus, our innovation focus, and the vibrancy of our campus has a lot to do with that. But I've been very impressed with leaders who are really thinking deeply about how to respond to the requests of those who had been working remotely to be able to continue to have some flexibility. And that is-- it is different, depending on how close to the student experience you are. So some of the back office or more support functions are able to think about that slightly differently than those who are directly supporting students.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Mary. Next question is about Zoom. Zoom has been a great way to schedule meetings and to be more efficient with time. Will we still have access to the service? And will the University encourage a remote option for meetings in order to increase participation by people with multiple obligations? This is also an issue of accessibility, as those with disabilities are able to participate in ways that they have not in the past.
MARY OPPERMAN: Yeah, definitely, and it's a really important question. So I want to take a minute and just make a shout out to CIT under Dave Lifka's leadership. They have been looking very expansively at the best ways to continue to provide services, applications that will allow us to increase our efficiency and also to continue to allow for a broad range of participation.
So I do expect that Zoom will continue. Many of us were using it before. So for those of us who have staff all over campus, what we found was that to put people together in a room for an hour, if you are far from that room, could have could take 50% more of a busy person's time. So we had already begun to use services like Zoom, and I fully expect that they'll continue.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you. Here's a question regarding our staff with young children. What flexibility will be available for people required to come back to the office who are still struggling with childcare availability, or if they have young children at home that have not been vaccinated, as returning to campus could put their children at risk?
MARY OPPERMAN: Yeah, so I'm going to start with the first part and then say, in the second part, we've heard a lot about the power of the vaccine in terms of its ability to keep us from spreading to one another. But on the first question, I would encourage you, as you always have, if you are dealing with short-term personal issues that require flexibility, to please talk to your supervisor, talk to your local HR person and familiarize yourself with our flexibility policy, which we've had for a number of years.
As I said before, we've had people on campus this whole time who have really been dealing with a lot of these issues around childcare. I'm happy to say that, as the state is beginning to open up, we are seeing summer camps returning and childcare returning and good hopes for the fall school year. So we think that much of this may very well be temporary, and we have options to help you.
JOEL MALINA: Thanks. And Mary, here's the last one from this section. What is being done to help those who will remain fully remote still feel that they're part of the University community?
MARY OPPERMAN: Yeah, and I realize I didn't answer the second part of that question, and I should have. If you feel more comfortable, vaccinated or not, doing so, you can always wear your mask. There is nothing that prohibits someone who feels that will safeguard themselves or their family from wearing a mask. So I just wanted to finish with that. And now I've completely-- oh--
JOEL MALINA: I will ask-- I can ask you again. What is being done to help those who will remain fully remote still feel that they are part of the University community?
MARY OPPERMAN: Yeah, so part of what we learned with our surveys is that fully remote has its own set of challenges, particularly for people who are new and are still trying to figure out things that they need to get done. So for those who are remote, what we know is that-- and Martha mentioned a lot of these-- there are certain things that we have done that work really well and will continue those.
So on the HR side of things, for example, we are doing many more of our discussion groups and chats online. Even if we begin to add in an in-person element to those, we will continue to offer them remotely as well. It creates a blended audience. And we'll all learn how to do that in a way that engages everyone but will continue to have those opportunities.
We also are putting together some tips and tools for those who are managing blended organizations as to how to draw in those who are working primarily or partially remotely. So that they feel that they are getting both what they need to do their jobs, but also the important aspect of being part of our community and part of our culture. So we will continue to refine those as we move forward, but we intend to continue the ones we know are working.
JOEL MALINA: Thanks, Mary. The next questions are on the topic of campus services. Mike, we'll start with you. Will services previously opened only to students-- for instance, Teagle Fitness Center, Lindseth climbing wall, et cetera-- be reopened to faculty and staff on June 1st alongside the other announced changes?
MIKE KOTLIKOFF: Yeah, we're looking at this. And I know faculty and staff have been frustrated by lack of access and we've prioritized students. We are looking at this. I fully expect that those facilities will open up substantially as we dedensify the campus, so please stay tuned.
JOEL MALINA: Thanks, Mike. Rick, a question for you on parking. People who have been on campus have really liked the loosened parking requirements during the pandemic. Can you talk about transportation plans once everyone comes back? This could be an opportunity to encourage people to consider commuting differently, parking differently than they did before.
RICK BURGESS: Yes, absolutely. And thank you for the question, because no town hall is complete without a parking question. So we got it. First, I just want to say my personal thanks to all the people who have been coming in to campus this whole time.
Everybody has been working very, very hard on campus and remotely, so not taking anything away from anybody. But there have been people here really the whole time, and so we were able to offer them a greater degree of flexibility in parking because of the reduced density on campus. Now as we start to repopulate campus, we are going to need to go back to enforcing parking regulations. So I ask for your cooperation and understanding as we do that.
We do anticipate a greater degree of flexibility, as Mary was just talking about. And what we've done is to kind of change the mix of parking options. So whereas, in the past, we had a fairly static mix of parking lots and permits, now we have much more in the way of daily decision lots, so that you don't have to make a commitment on buying that permit or just battling for ParkMobile. We're going to have more of the flexible spaces out there and available. The details on which lots are where is all available on the FCS Transportation website, so I'd encourage you to go and take a look at that.
With respect to how you get to work, I really would encourage everybody to take a look at how you can get to work without necessarily a single occupancy vehicle. There are alternative transit options available to you. We have a rideshare program. Again, details are on our website. I'd encourage you to take a look at that. That may be a good option.
TCAT is a good option, and they are very proactive. They've been very conscientious about their safety measures. I would encourage you to go and take a look at their website. They are bringing back a higher degree of service as they transition out of some of the restrictions they have. And very timely, they are going to have an open house, a virtual open house, next week that's going to talk about their transit development plan.
So if you have particular aspects of what they could be doing better to help you get to work, please get on that and let them know about that. But we certainly support them as a very valued community partner in helping us to meet our sustainability goals. So you're going to see continued flexibility and really an effort to add to our mix and help people find the right option.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Rick. The next set of questions is on the topic of travel. Mike, I'll start with you. It is still important to keep in mind that we will have many international students that will be unable to get here because their US consulates, embassies are still closed. What plans does the University have for these students?
MIKE KOTLIKOFF: Thanks. We're monitoring that very closely. Wendy Wolford is in touch. There is some good news on that front in terms of the opening of consulates. But we are monitoring that very closely and particularly looking at risk for the fall, when some of our courses where the percentage of the students is very high from an international community. We will respond if those individuals cannot come and be in person.
But for now, we're asking those individuals to try and get their visa. That is loosening up. And we're very hopeful that we'll be able to get as many of those individuals on campus as possible. I will add that we've also facilitated this recently by accepting the WHO approved and European Union approved vaccines that are non-FDA approved vaccines, such as Sinopharm, AstraZeneca, which are easier for our international students to obtain.
JOEL MALINA: Thanks, Mike. Emmanuel, a question for you. What are the research travel guidelines for both domestic and international travel for faculty, grad students, and staff?
EMMANUEL GIANNELIS: Thank you, Joel. Let me first say that the rules are the same, regardless if it is research related or teaching related or business related. So let me first then review what it is available now and how that might change come June 1. So right now, as most of you or all of you know, international travel is not allowed. Non-essential domestic travel is not allowed and essential domestic travel requires approval by a unit head, by a dean, or by a VP.
Come June 1, the international travel, of course, will be permitted. But I need to emphasize that all international travel will require approval by the International Travel Health and Safety office, as well as ITART. And ITART starts from International Travel Advisory and Response Team. So good news come June 1 as well here as we change and shift in the way we will be able to travel. And so please check again all the sites that will be provided just for the latest on the guidance. Thank you.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Emmanuel. The last two questions are on the topic of visitors to campus, one for Mike and then the last question will be from Martha. Mike, when does the University anticipate welcoming visitors to campus again? And what will be the arrangements for allowing visitor access to indoor spaces?
MIKE KOTLIKOFF: Yeah, great question. And let me just say, since this is my last question, that we've dealt with a lot of very technical questions here, very specific. This is a very changing landscape, so we will be communicating with you directly.
We wanted to have this as a town hall and a discussion of what we're planning for June 1, but there will be a lot more guidance coming forward as we go forward. And particularly as New York state's regulations change, we're hopeful that the requirement for a daily check that Mary mentioned will be relaxed by the state and people won't have to sign in every day, et cetera. And we'll be in communication.
In terms of guests visiting campus, what we've described, as of June 1, is for our employees, our working arrangements. We're anticipating, for now, that visitors to campus-- and we will have appropriate signage for our buildings-- that visitors to campus must wear masks. They must come into our buildings and socially distance and wear masks, as you would in any other commercial operation for now. Again, that may change.
We are, as I said earlier, now anticipating things like faculty recruitment visits, staff recruitment visits, seminars, faculty seminars. And we'll be providing guidance for those. We hope to have seminars starting in July on the 1st of July. We hope to have faculty visits starting or recruitment visits starting June 1. But we'll have some guidance about how to conduct them, how to have the seminars and chalk talks, that sort of thing. So please stay tuned.
But for this specific question, we're enabling individuals, student visitors, to our campus that want to look at the campus in anticipation of applying, to visit with their families. But we'll have signage on buildings that they can only go into buildings-- visitors can go into buildings if they're masked and maintain social distancing.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Mike. Martha, last question to you, and then perhaps you'd like to offer some final remarks. But the question is about graduation. I know students can only bring two guests to the commencement ceremonies, but other family members and friends will surely line the procession route and walk through campus. Will Cornell allow this?
MARTHA POLLACK: As well, the whole planning for graduation has been a complete roller coaster. And every time we thought we had done as much as we could, fortunately, in a way, the governor changed the rules and we could do a little more. So it's been a bit of a roller coaster. But we are really delighted that a week and a half from now, barring tornadoes, we're going to be in Schoellkopf Stadium honoring our students.
There will be a PhD ceremony Friday evening, and then there will be four undergraduate ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday. We had to divide the students up, so that we could observe the state guidelines in terms of distancing. And as the questioner asked, we've had to limit students to two guests each. But we certainly encourage other family members to enjoy the commencement festivities online. And if they're on campus, absolutely.
The procession is going to be shorter this year. We're not going from the arts quad, we're just going from Hoy Field into the stadium. But as long as family members and friends are safely distance and masked, they can look for their graduates in that procession from Hoy Field to the stadium. And really, to me, this is going to be another way in which our community, which I take to include family and friends of graduates, it's another way in which our community has adapted and will adapt to the constraints of the pandemic and find new ways to support one another.
And really, on that note, I want just very briefly to close by saying, again, thank you for being a part of this wonderful community. And I truly, truly look forward to being able to interact with all of you again in person in the not too distant future. Have a great afternoon. It's going to be 90 degrees out there.
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Faculty and staff gathered virtually on May 20, 2021, to get updates on changes to university COVID-19 precautions after June 1.