MARTHA: Hello. Let me begin today by acknowledging the stresses that are currently tearing our country apart. We need as a university that was created for any person to denounce systemic racism, to denounce police brutality, and to stand with and support black individuals and communities of color across this nation. And we also need to recognize and address the fact that the current pandemic has disproportionately impacted those communities.
At Cornell, we will continue to work towards justice and equity in our teaching, and our research, and in programs that support faculty, staff, and students. Right now, we're exploring additional concrete approaches that can be implemented immediately, and we'll be sharing those with the community very soon. The problems we're facing as a nation are enormous, and we can't solve them on our own. But that doesn't absolve us from doing what we can, and we will.
For today, before we start this town hall, I ask that we have a moment of silence for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and every human being whose life was extinguished simply because they were black. Thank you. I appreciate all of you participating in this town hall.
As I said in my email last week, we really need to hear the voices of all of our stakeholders as we tackle the critical decisions that we're facing. I think you know that we've had three committees made up of faculty, staff, and students, who have been working really hard to help us plan for campus reactivation. The first one was tasked with reactivation of research and other campus operations.
And as I hope you know, research reactivation is now underway. But that committee continues its work, because we're looking to open dining halls, libraries, and so on. The other two committees are developing recommendations for the coming academic year, and that's our focus today.
The first is identifying and assessing a wide range of options for our teaching activities, and the second is looking at how we can best manage and provide quality online experiences. Because frankly, no matter what, even if we bring back most of our students this fall, we're going to need online teaching to support international students, who might not be able to come back, students with health conditions that might make it dangerous for them to be in the classroom, students who become quarantined or isolated during the semester. And today, I think we really want to focus on what I think of as the three major decisions for the fall, and possibly, the spring semester next year.
One, do we teach in person or in a hybrid fashion, so some online and some face to face? Or do we teach wholly rural and online? Second, if either in-person or hybrid, do we bring back all or only a subset of our students?
And finally, what do we do about the academic calendar? I know that many of you have seen some of the options posted on the faculty senate website, and they include things, like starting early, or starting late, or stopping at Thanksgiving and completing the semester online. Now, of course, underlying all of these decisions are a range of factors, such as what kind of restrictions do we put on travel by students, faculty, and staff or on visitors coming to campus. How on one do we do testing for the virus for all these groups?
How do we modify our facilities, our classrooms, and our residence halls? The committees are looking into all of these issues and more. And what I'd like to do is turn things over to Mike Kotlikoff, the Provost, to talk a little bit more about these.
But before we do that, I just want to make sure that everyone-- I think you all do. --but that everyone knows the panelists, Mike Kotlikoff, Provost, John Siliciano, Deputy Provost, Lisa Nishii, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, Gary Koretzky, Vice Provost for Academic Integration, and Wendy Wolford, Vice Provost for International Affairs, who will be the moderator. And I want to thank all five of them, because they have been working extraordinarily hard as have the whole leadership team to help us come to the best possible decisions we can for this fall. So Mike, let me turn it over to you.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Thanks very much, Martha, and good afternoon, everybody. Before discussing the fall, I also want to acknowledge the problems of ubiquitous systematic racism that individuals, our colleagues, our students, and our staff encounter on a daily basis. It's a problem everywhere. And as much as we would like to think otherwise, it's a problem in our community and in all of us.
We're going to talk about hard problems for the fall. But I did, first, want to join Martha in acknowledging these larger and far more difficult problems that we must continue to acknowledge and address. We do face significant challenges and decisions for the fall, and they are difficult choices.
There are no answers that will satisfy everyone. Most of our students prefer a residential fall, and most faculty report that they would prefer or consider teaching students in person, if safe conditions can be assured. On the other hand, many students and many faculty and staff are concerned that conditions on campus will expose them to unacceptable risk and do not want to return.
At this point, there are many things that we do not know about the fall and a few things that we do. We do know that whatever happens, the fall will not be the same as last fall, and that statement will likely apply for the spring term as well. We know that instruction in the fall, whether in person or not, will involve remote instruction for students who cannot attend classes and at least some specifically designed online components.
We will have a town hall next week on online instruction plans with information about support, but I urge all faculty, who teach in the fall, to begin thinking about components of their courses that can be delivered effectively online. We also know that, if we have residential instruction in the fall, it will come with significant compromises that assure our public health and safety. Masks would be required in all public spaces, large classes would not be taught in person as such, vulnerable individuals would be accommodated, individuals would be tested extensively and quarantined immediately to eliminate carriers of the virus, spaces would be modified to enhance protections, travel would be restricted, as Martha mentioned. Large groups would not be allowed, dorm living would be altered, and many other parts of campus life altered to enhance safety.
What we do not know is whether, in fact, we can assure ourselves that this can all be done safely. Gary and Lisa on this panel will provide details. But all of this involves complicated partnerships, logistics, and new capabilities that we are seeing if we can put in place.
Let me say one more general word about testing, because it is critical to any decision that we will make and reflects our fact based approach to the question of residential instruction. We know that undergraduate students and all students constantly mix inside and outside of classes and that they interact within our community and with Ithaca college students. For that reason, we have focused on a scheme of surveillance testing to identify and remove anyone who is infected from those interactions as quickly as possible.
If we can do that, and that is a big if, we can keep the spread of infection low and not significantly different than the prevalence in our surrounding region, which is low and getting lower. We are working with faculty and students to understand how often we need to test for the virus to achieve this. Gary Koretzky's committee has been working on seeing if we can put such a system in place, a system which would require cooperation with our local health providers, efficient testing methods, rapid turnaround, robust contact tracing, and sufficient quarantine capacity.
We have never done anything like this before and nor has any other university. Working on the problem does not mean, however, that we're going to implement it. But we also know that, if we don't work on the problem and address these questions, we have no chance of solving them. So with that, let me now turn it over to Wendy, who will begin asking questions that you've submitted.
WENDY WOLFORD: Thanks, Mike. Good afternoon, everyone. It's good to be back here, again, so we opened up the portal for questions ahead of time. We got 46 questions, many of them with multiple parts. They're great questions, so we'll try to answer as many as we can.
The Q&A, somebody has just posted a question. It is also open, and we will try to pull questions in from the Q&A to the questions we posed for the panel. So please do submit questions. OK, so to continue this tradition now of starting with a hard question for Mike, the question is, what threshold of infections would lead to the administration canceling in-person fall classes? And is that threshold higher than what the state itself would mandate?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Yeah, I think the first answer to that question is that we are going to choose a scenario in which we have confidence that a shutdown can be avoided. That's the first thing, I think, that, if we see that this is a likely outcome, we will not choose that scenario. However, whatever scenario we choose, we're going to monitor specific data on a daily basis.
One factor we're going to monitor is the ongoing rate of infections. Another is the number of individuals that are not just infected, but symptomatic. Another is hospitalizations, and a final one is our local hospital capacity.
It's important to understand that we have to have confidence that we can see these things in real time and that we can modify our procedures to respond. So if we start to see asymptomatic infections rise, for example, we can test more frequently. And we need to have the capacity and know that we could do that.
But for the final question, we will not choose a level that's beyond the level that is acceptable to New York state. New York state has given general guidance, and we will not choose that. And we would not be able to act outside of the guidelines of our state health department.
WENDY WOLFORD: OK, thanks, Mike. A question now or a set of questions for Lisa. The work that you've done on the calendars is impressive, and people express their thanks online. But every detail raises several more questions. So a number of common questions are, is the committee leaning towards a particular calendar? Why?
And one that came up often is, why not start early and finish before Thanksgiving? And a question that just came in on chat to add to that is, how do we know what students want? How are we gathering opinion from the students as to which calendar makes sense for them?
LISA NISHII: OK, so I think the first question was, are we leaning towards a particular calendar? The option of starting later in September was attractive to many people, simply because it gives us a lot more time to prepare. As Mike said, the new academic year is going to look very different from past years, and there's so much for us to prepare.
So having that extra time is really meaningful, but it would require that we teach over the holidays, which is obviously not attractive. And we would lose the winter term, so I think that one is out. Of the ones that are there, the one that has a starting a little bit later than the traditional calendar, and embeds some time for in-person exams prior to Thanksgiving, and then transitions over to an online portion is probably the most attractive.
Although we've gotten a lot of feedback from faculty, who are concerned about having to condense their course material into an independent four week module. So the alternative there is to have a 15 week term, but we go until Thanksgiving. We avoid break, and travel, and also, flu season, but allow for the in-person exams, which we have heard repeatedly is really important, especially in some classes.
So the question, why not start early? The students have asked us that. I think they would really, really like to have a full residential semester. You know, on the face of it, there are a lot of advantages that full residential semester is definitely really attractive.
Avoiding that disruption of traveling back home and moving to an online portion at the end of the semester is, I think, attractive to students, but probably also faculty. But at the same time, there are a lot of really key disadvantages, and really, again, it has to do with time for preparation. I think for one, faculty would have less time to prepare their courses.
If we were to start and end before Thanksgiving, that would mean bringing students back. No, classes would start mid August. That would mean students return at the beginning of August, which really means we only have four or five weeks to prepare to get everything ready, including for faculty. And we've heard from a lot of faculty saying that that's just not enough time.
We also have to completely overhaul the course roster, so how courses are going to be taught, when they're going to be taught. This is a huge undertaking, and it also involves completely rewriting the enrollment system that lies beneath it. We all sort of have to look at financial aid packages and repackage them. We have to secure all the supplies that we need in order to be able to welcome people back safely and have our testing capacity at the level that we need it to be in order for us to feel safe about that.
So that's why the early option, it just doesn't give us enough time, and it just doesn't-- it's not feasible in my mind. However, right now, I am working closely with Offices of the Registrar, Financial Aid, and Compliance to try to see whether there is one more version that's somewhere in between the two that would allow us to basically start the week before Labor Day and finish instruction before Thanksgiving, but have exams after Thanksgiving. That's not attractive for some in that Thanksgiving won't feel as big of a break, and students would probably still have to be on campus here.
So there's no perfect solution, but it may be one that is preferred to the other one, where we definitely transition into a few weeks of online instruction at the end. We're collecting feedback from students in a number of different ways. The students who are involved in our committees have been actively going out to students to collect feedback.
There was a survey that our students also did of both undergraduates and graduate students. They have requested meetings. We have gotten a lot of feedback, I think, from them. Was there another question, Wendy?
WENDY WOLFORD: No, you answered a lot right there. No, it's incredibly complicated. I want to ask you a question about classroom space and a couple of questions. The main one is, do we have the classroom space to teach in person without violating the six foot requirement?
And second and sort of related with large classes, is it preferable to teach a subset in person with everyone else remote? Or is it advisable to simply teach all of those large classes remotely? OK, a third one. If you have a very large class, could you meet one time in person, and then have everybody be remote and teach effectively that way?
LISA NISHII: OK, so starting first with the do we have enough classroom space. It's going to be very, very, very, very close, so a rough estimate is that we can use about 20% of our classroom capacity. That is when you account for the six foot distancing between students.
We have a very reduced classroom stock. There are a number of ways in which we're addressing this. So we're assuming that classes would be scheduled optimally starting at 8:00 AM, until 4:25, and then, again, from 7:30 to 9:00, except on the days when we can-- so there are days we couldn't go from 7:300 to 9:00.
We know that some courses will be taught online, and therefore, will not need classroom space, and that some instructors have chosen to teach online. We have also asked every college to tell us about every space that could possibly be used for instruction that isn't currently in the classroom database, and we've added that in. And thank you very much to, David Shmoys, who has been going through all of this data so carefully.
We think we might be able to make it, and it may mean, however, just a warning that we may have to dip into that 4:25 to 7:30 period to get some more hours. We have to think about whether we need a little extra time between classes to de-densify the hallways. And also, because classes will take place in such a wide range of buildings on campus, we want to make sure there's enough time to travel between classes. So there are still some adjustments that have to be made.
And to tell you the truth, one thing that we will have to do is actually assess each space and manually adjust our estimates for how many people can actually fit in that classroom with six foot distancing. Because depending on the furniture and the configuration, you can't just do a quick calculation of that. So it's going to be painstaking work for us to get it right, but we think we can pull it off.
Oh, wait, there are other questions. Should you teach, if you have a large class over 50? I think that is really a question for faculty to answer for themselves. I know that's not the answer maybe that you want, but there are a number of things to think about.
So if a course has enrollment larger than 50, you could either split it up into multiple sections. Of course, the question there is, do you have the instructional capacity to be able to offer that many more sections of a course? And then another question to ask, I think, is, what is it that you think you can only achieve in an in-person context that would be very difficult to replicate in an online context? And do the costs in terms of the instructional capacity that's required, or do the benefits outweigh the costs?
I think that's a really big consideration. There are a number of different ways to do this, though, so it could be that all of the lecture content is online is developed a priori to be delivered online. And then recitation, discussion, lab sections are in person, or it could be that the class is split up into a number of different groupings. And students go to the in-class portion every other meeting or every third meeting.
Again, I would ask the question of the making sure that it's clear what the benefit would be of doing that for students. I think the last question is, would it be possible for courses to kick off the term with one in-person meeting of 50? Is it possible?
So we have, as you can imagine, the number of rooms that can fit 50 students, well, 49 plus the instructor, with physical distancing. We don't have very many, but we do have some. And we think we can accommodate the large courses, because some will be going online.
But to be able to provide rooms for just one meeting at the beginning of the semester, I honestly think that will be very difficult. Because we don't have many spaces, and they're needed for the courses that are scheduled to be in person. Wendy, did I get it all?
WENDY WOLFORD: Yes.
LISA NISHII: OK.
WENDY WOLFORD: Thank you. That's great. I'm going to turn it over to Gary, because all of these calendar actions are also health questions. Gary, several questions. First, can you just talk about the weight that the CDC's guidance is playing in any recommendations you have for the fall?
GARY KORETZKY: Of course, Wendy, thank you very much, so we're paying attention to the CDC. There are actually some very good guidelines from the CDC. I'll just point out one, in particular, about travel. There's a lot of very, very good advice that people that are thinking about travel can go to through the CDC.
But the CDC is not our sole source in thinking about how we can come up with a strategy, that as Mike said, emphasizes safety and allowing us to open up the campus as much as possible. So what are those sources? We use the medical literature. We use the scientific literature.
This is a particularly vexing illness right now, because it's changing so much. Not that the illness is changing, but we what we understand about it is changing so rapidly. We have colleagues on the Cornell campus, who are outstanding in every domain that we're thinking about, and I'm really pleased to say that no matter who I call, they call back immediately. And they're really, really generous with their time.
We have colleagues in New York City at while Cornell. Great colleagues, who are committed to helping us think through these problems, and we actually have colleagues around the country. So we're not shy to get good ideas from anyplace else. We share what we're thinking about. We share perspectives, and I'll just mention one thing.
The library has been phenomenal. We actually have a group of six librarians, who are volunteering their time and effort. And we pitch them questions, and we get answers back. So this has to be evidence based.
We're making really important decisions. Nobody has the answers. And as Mike said, we're going to constantly revisit this. So that when we come up with a strategy, we'll practice. We'll try things, and we'll regroup. We'll reassess, and that, I hope, will continue to always be evidence based.
WENDY WOLFORD: Gary, you brought up travel, and there are a couple of questions in the chat about travel. So can you talk about how you're defining travel? And somebody asked about a commute that's more than 50 miles from campus, if that constitutes, or if that is considered travel. And what about visitors?
GARY KORETZKY: Yeah, sure, so this obviously has so many ramifications. I'll answer the easiest one, first, I guess, and that is that, if you commute 51 miles, there isn't a magic number of miles. It's more what you're doing, right? So if you get in your car in Northern Pennsylvania, and you drive here to go to work, and then you drive back, that there's really very little risk that is greater than if you were in Danbury, or whether you were in Lansing, and you came to work.
So when we're thinking about travel, what we're really thinking about are, what are the things that you might do while traveling that would put you at risk of encountering individuals with the virus, who could then transmit that virus to you? So I hope that within the next week or so, we'll be able to provide clarity around this to the community. We're coming very close that we want to make sure that we can provide guidelines.
I do want to make sure everybody understands that the goal here is not at all to interfere with individual's right to travel on their own time, to go places on their own time. The goal is to provide information, so that people know what the risks might be. And then the other goal, which is very, very important to our community, is that when you come back, you know, we think about where you've been, and what's been done, and whether you can reenter the community immediately, whether you should work remotely for some period of time, whether there should be a testing component. All of that, I hope, will be clarified within the next week or so.
Visitors, right now, we hope that people are not encouraging people to visit. Again, what is a visitor? Is it a prospective student? I don't think we'll see throngs of students touring the campus in the fall.
But if there is a key event for you to bring somebody here as an academic for your scholarship, you know, we have to be thinking about practicalities around all of this. So again, just like for travel, we're working through the principles. I think the principles are clear, and that is that we want to minimize the number of people who enter the campus just because of the risk. But we have to balance that with practicality, and we're working very hard to come up with guidelines for that.
WENDY WOLFORD: Thank, Gary. Another question. There are actually several questions, but I won't ask all of them about testing and contact tracing. Can you just talk a little bit about your sort of most recent thinking about testing?
How often will people have to do it? Is the antibody test from roche? Is that worthwhile? And will Cornell labs be doing the testing and likewise with tracing?
GARY KORETZKY: Yeah, so again, really complicated. And we don't have the entire town hall to devote to this, but let me just try to give the high level view of the strategy. So as Mike said, testing is key to our strategy.
The first thing that we have to make absolutely certain is that, if people feel that they have a risk, and we're going to help them know that. We're going to ask people to look at symptoms that they might have on a daily basis just to remind individuals what the symptoms of COVID are. We'll ask people on a daily basis, if they have come in contact with somebody with COVID, because that is a risk.
We'll ask people if they were on a cruise ship last weekend. That's a risk, so we're going to ask people to be very, very self-aware and seek testing. So we will be able to provide them the opportunity to be tested. But if you are symptomatic, or if you believe that you're a risk, there will be a very, very low threshold, we hope, for people to seek and then obtain testing.
So that is paramount for making sure we don't spread the virus. Some asymptomatic with COVID can spread the virus very easily. Unfortunately, because of this disease, there are individuals who are asymptomatic. They have no symptoms. They were not of any risk.
They didn't expend any risk behaviors of which they know, and they still may be infected with the virus. And this is what Mike was talking about with surveillance testing, so what we're doing right now is we're modeling this. We're trying to understand the prevalence, so what we'd like to do is test the community. So we really know what our prevalence is starting at, so that as we continue to do surveillance testing, we might have an early warning marker, if things are going in the wrong direction, if our prevalence goes up.
It might mean that we have to test more frequently, as Mike said, but the notion would be to test people randomly, test people selectively. Like I said, we're coming up with a model. And of course, this requires that we've got the testing capability, so we're working on that. The med school will be a testing site.
We're partnering with our local health care system, Cayuga Medical Center. We feel quite confident we'll have the capability. Now we just need to be able to come up with the right model that we can then continually test.
You did ask about antibodies. Antibody testing will be part of our future, but not part of our present. And I can just tell you why, and that is that antibody testing is very valuable when there is a high prevalence of people in the community that have had the disease and would be likely to be antibody positive. Antibody tells you that you've had the disease.
With low prevalence, the number of positive individuals that would be reported out in the test might actually be more often false positives to give us misinformation. Secondly, we don't know what to do with that information, because we don't know whether antibody presence actually gives you protection. So until we're more confident of the test, more confident that it will be meaningful, and more confident that we could use that information to help guide us in our decision making, we think it would be a distraction at this time. I hope I answered your questions.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Wendy, could I add one thing?
WENDY WOLFORD: Of course.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Just for the information of the people attending the town hall, we did do Gary's group did do an experiment last week, which tested everyone, faculty, and staff, and students that were there at the veterinary college, over 350 people. And this was an initial test to see what we could find out about prevalence, and also, to sort of test our testing, if you will. And we found a very, very low prevalence, one person that was positive, nonsymptomatic.
None of these people were symptomatic. One person out of over 350 was positive. That also is important information as we think about where we are in the community. Can we identify people, isolate them, so that they don't pose a risk to other people?
GARY KORETZKY: Wendy, I see a question in the chat, and I think it's a really important one. And I just want to address that, and that somebody has asked why we're not testing now. That we have essential workers on campus, and this is exactly related to what Mike mentioned. And that is that we are going to mount testing before we bring everybody back.
We need to be good at it. We're practicing. It was a very, very useful experiment. There are bugs to work out, but there will be testing way before students all come back in the fall.
WENDY WOLFORD: OK, thanks, Gary. I'm going to ask this question to Mike. It's about health. But it has to do with students, staff, faculty, and graduate students, and whether any one of those groups, people in them, can work remotely. One question was, can TAs work from anywhere in the country, if we have a remote option? And can faculty also choose to be remote?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Yeah, it's a complicated question. The first thing I want to say is that we can't repeat enough that, if you can completely do your job effectively from a distance, you should remain at a distance. That's the safest way to proceed. It's de-densifies our campus. It does all the good things that we want to maintain.
On faculty, we have said that we want to give faculty the option of saying, I want to be in the classroom under these conditions of public health assurances, and with individuals wearing masks, and taking precautions, distancing, et cetera. But if faculty feel that they would prefer to mount an online version of their fall course, they should be doing that. They should be working on that and getting that ready. And they would have that option, so that's, we think, the appropriate way to respond.
We are working on a policy, a comprehensive policy, for graduate students, for faculty, for staff. Obviously, anyone in a vulnerable category will not be required must by CDC guidelines, New York state guidelines must not be exposed to individuals that could be positive. But we're also working on a much more comprehensive guideline about how to address tricky questions of individuals that feel concerned about being in a classroom setting, but aren't in vulnerable categories. And as part of these reports, we'll publish those guidelines and talk about how we move forward and implement them for the fall.
WENDY WOLFORD: And a question for John or Mike. There were a number of questions that came in early and now through the chat about faculty and staff, who might be at high risk or who might be vulnerable from a career perspective of being junior faculty. How will we make sure that those individuals are not stigmatized for taking the option of being fully remote and perhaps not being on campus?
JOHN SILICIANO: Mike, I can take that, if you want. So as Mike just said, faculty have the option for personal health reasons, because they're vulnerable or simply for pedagogical reasons to opt to teach online. That is a complete option, and faculty get to choose that. We don't see any role in monitoring it and second guessing it.
The survey that we sent out to faculty indicates a broad spread of preliminary desires. They're obviously not binding at this point as things unfold, but faculty for many reasons may choose to go the in-person route, if we make that available or go online. So I don't think there is in any sense a class of faculty that would be identified as wanting to teach online, but should be teaching in person.
The entire faculty body has very mixed preferences. It's very hard for me to imagine any kind of culture in a department that sanctions a faculty from making one choice or another. Faculty are intensely aware of the difficulty that's posed as a collective challenge. They've been supporting each other very effectively.
They've, obviously, in the spring term done enormous work to deliver an educational experience worthy of Cornell, so I personally have no concerns. I do understand from my role that junior faculty often have significant concerns along these lines. I don't see any possibility of that. If you do experience that, you know where I am.
WENDY WOLFORD: Thanks, John. And John, you're chairing with Julia Thom-Levy, the committee on preparation for online teaching. There are a number of questions about online teaching, but I think we're having a town hall on that next week. So just so everyone knows, I'll leave those for next week.
Now I'm going to turn back to Martha, and ask about the student code of conduct. We know that returning to campus, as Gary said, will require students to follow a pretty strict code. And people are wondering how you propose that you get students to adhere to these guidelines, and what will you do, if they don't? And what if somebody refuses, for example, or forgets to wear a mask during class? What should the professor and students do?
MARTHA: Thanks, Wendy. Yeah, this is a question I've talked quite a lot with Ryan Lombardi about, and we recognize they're young. They're young adults. Most of our undergraduates, the overwhelming majority of them are between 18 and 22. And a really important part typically of come into college is to interact with other students.
With all that said, we simply can't reopen, unless we have an understanding with our students about behavioral expectations. I mean, if the students want to come back to campus, they're going to have to agree to social distancing and other public health guidelines, mask wearing, and so on. And the way to do that, Ryan and I both believe, is by really working to establish a culture of shared responsibility and mutual accountability reminding students, and more importantly, having students remind each other that all of us are accountable for the well-being of all the members in the community.
It's true that, on average, students, if they do get sick with this disease, will come out of it just fine. On average, most of the time. Not always, and certainly, there are faculty staff and community really members who have proven that's not true.
Now people are going to make mistakes, and I think we should always start by assuming good intentions. So if you're in a classroom and a student doesn't have a mask on, remind them to put it on. If they don't have one, tell them they're going to have to leave and go get one.
Between now and the start of the semester, student campus life will work to put together guidelines for faculty and staff on how to address these kinds of situations. But I really want to stress this. The behavioral guidelines are going to have to be observed. And when there are either repeated or serious violations, they're going to have to be sanctions.
We cannot have large parties. We cannot have large parties on campus this fall. It poses risks to the entire community, both on and off campus. So if students are engaged in a behavior that egregiously violates the guidelines, there are going to have to be consequences up to and potentially including their being sent home for the remainder of the semester.
And we're going to have to have our students here and our parents understand this up front. Parents are going to have to play an important role in ensuring that there is, at least, a modicum of compliance with these rules. Now there's a really interesting-- one thing I want to just mention is there's a really interesting article in New York Times today, which people might want to look at. It's a dialogue amongst a number of leaders, and there's an analysis.
I believe it's by Atul Gawande from Harvard, who did an epidemiological study, and shows that, if you can get to about 60% compliance, whatever that might mean, you've been keeping infection rates incredibly low. Once you get even to 50%, the infection rates spike. So there is this narrow window in which we are going to have to say, OK, you have forgot your mask. Please put it on, but no, you cannot have a huge party in the dormitory or wherever.
WENDY WOLFORD: Thank you. I'm sure that will be an ongoing conversation.
MARTHA: For sure.
WENDY WOLFORD: So John, I want to ask you another question about online teaching, even, though, I know we will talk about it. There was several innovative ideas that were posed through the questions beforehand, such as people trading off weeks. Could they come on one week and then trade off with another to teach in person the next week? Given that we are hoping to provide some guidance and resources from the center, how open are we to people being able to put into place these innovations at a department or even a course level?
JOHN SILICIANO: I think we're very open to those and subject to the obvious caveats of persons complying with safety issues working within the sort of guidance of your department. What we're doing in the committee that's preparing for the possibility of full online teaching is a good chunk of problem solving from what we learned last spring, but also, looking forward and trying to extract from that collective experience what worked really well, what might work better. So there is a clear pathway for creative solutions.
Again, these can occur on the local level, but we also have an appetite for learning of those at the university level. Those of you who taught in the spring know how helpful the support from the Center for Teaching Innovation has been. That process has not stopped.
We are beginning to mount summer courses and then anticipating the need under any scenario to have a significant portion of online education. So CTI, and partnership with eCornell, and information technologies has worked an ongoing basis to move from this sort of crazy catapult into online teaching that we experienced in March to really provide forward looking guidance. And this will include the basic support for those of you who have not moved online yet, but also, into the creative options, where we actually can do things online, in some sense, better or in a different way than in-person instruction. So yes, experimentation is great, again, subject to the caveats of being within the department's norms and safety.
WENDY WOLFORD: Thanks, John. Lisa, I'm going to turn to you for three questions that you can punt, if you want. They are questions that have to do with the calendar one is about move-in, so can you talk a little bit about what you're thinking in terms of how long it will take us to move everyone in, what that will look like?
A second one is about dorms. And what are we thinking in terms of students, and how we'll maintain them or keep them on campus? I don't know if you want to take athletic events. Can we hold athletic events in person in the fall?
MARTHA: Can I can say that athletic events is the purview of the ivy league, and the ivy league presidents have made no decisions on that yet. There's just nothing to report on it.
WENDY WOLFORD: OK, great. One of your plate there.
LISA NISHII: Good, because I'm really tired. And now, I can't remember the questions.
WENDY WOLFORD: Move-in and dorms.
LISA NISHII: Move-in, OK, move-in, so it's not set yet. But the idea is that it'll happen over a much longer period of time. That is usually the case, which is one or two days. And the reason-- and this is, in particular, for students who would be moving back into residential dorms on campus. --is that they would be tested ideally prior to coming to Cornell, but also, upon their return.
And we have to then wait until the results of their tests come back before we can clear them for entry into the community, and this is incredibly important, as Gary was saying, for keeping the prevalence rate low. And there are just only so many students we would be able to process on any given day. The idea right now is that they would likely-- but not decided. One idea is for them to arrive at different hotels here in town to check-in, get tested.
Their luggage would be transported to their dorm rooms for them, and then they would move into their dorm rooms. Of course, some students might need to also be quarantined, so we need to account for that. So that's why it's going to take longer. And that was a really big part of the calendar options, really trying to figure out, how do we work this in?
Somebody asked, and I answered. I'm so sorry about that. I answered in the chat, but could we start online and bring people in part way into the semester? But the notion of a nine or 10 day break a couple weeks into the semester felt really disruptive, so that's why we ruled that out. Wendy, what was the other one?
WENDY WOLFORD: Something about dorms.
LISA NISHII: Oh, so the question is whether we'll have people live in dorms. I think that, if we invite students back for a residential campus, students would be in dorms. There are a lot of questions that we're still working on right now that will really dictate how many students and how much we might need to de-densify has a lot to do with quarantine protocols. So we're not quite there yet to be able to say, but we are looking at it carefully. That's all I can say right now.
WENDY WOLFORD: OK, great. Last question for you, Lisa, which is about academic integrity. And we've touched on this already with the code, but many people are concerned about how we deal with academic integrity in the fall. And additional questions related to that are whether the university would prefer that we return to fully in-person proctored exams in the fall. Otherwise, how would we address concerns?
LISA NISHII: Yeah, that's a great question. It has been a huge topic. I think that I've heard a good number of faculty say that it actually forced them to think about alternative ways of assessing learning outcomes and that they like what they came up with. I've also heard the exact opposite, which is that it was a complete nightmare, and it depends, I think, a little bit on the size of the class and the disciplines.
I don't think that is a decision for us to mandate one way or the other. What I'm hearing, though, from faculty and faculty responded in the recent survey about whether or not they would prefer to have an in-person exam regardless of whether the course itself is being taught in-person or online. And from that, we heard that for about 10% of the courses, it would be very important to have an in-person exam.
And then for, I think, it was another 17% or so, it was somewhat important. So we'd like to be able to accommodate those courses, so that faculty can choose that option. But of course, as in any other year, lots of courses will choose alternative methods of assessment at the end of the semester.
WENDY WOLFORD: OK, thank you. I think I'll turn to Mike now for a question on finances. We know from what you've said previously, of course, that going all online would have significant implications for the university finances, but can you talk a little bit about what you see the online auction doing potentially to enrollments in the fall? And then do you see us, if we go all online, having to cut personnel because of that? Mike, you're muted.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Sorry, thank you. There's so many uncertainties here. And Martha and I are going to go to the faculty senate and discuss finances next week.
Let me just say that we know that we're going to face significant financial challenges in the fiscal year '21 budget. A very, very big part of that is financial aid as occurred in the FY '08 downturn. We're seeing a spike in unemployment much higher actually than FY '08. And that results in people being able to afford financial aid and increased financial aid costs, and therefore, decreased tuition revenue to the colleges.
That's one component. As Lisa discussed and others have discussed, our international student attendance is quite in question now, whether our undergraduates and graduate students will be able to get visas and attend or be able to travel to attend. So lots of questions about our revenue.
We're working on plans to try and address that. But clearly to answer the question, both for our region and for us, the implication of an all online semester will be far, far worse. From the student questionnaires that we've gotten back, it's clear that there will be far more deferments, if we're all online, and that will be a significant additional revenue hit here without much of a change in costs.
Of course, our faculty, et cetera, will continue to need to perform or deliver that instruction online. So that is a real challenge, and I would emphasize the challenge for our region. Because so much, so many people outside of our community depend on Cornell and the students and their activities in the fall and spring.
That is a motivation for trying as hard as we can to see if it is possible to safely mount residential instruction in the fall. Having said that, I want to repeat that, at the end of the day, we're going to look at this with a very cold eye and say, can we assure the safety of our community? And not just us, not just Martha, but also, the board of trustees. We're getting feedback from our faculty and our community. And that decision, we're not going to take lightly.
WENDY WOLFORD: Mike, do you think that when the decision is announced for the fall, you will also be announcing the decision for the spring?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Perhaps. That is not exactly clear. Let me just say that it's very possible that we are faced with the same set of fundamental facts on the ground in the spring. That is that we don't have a vaccine that is widely distributed, so we have an immunologically naive population locally and not much else has changed.
We have low prevalence. But we have the possibility of infection, bringing infection to our community, and it spreading. So we really can't predict exactly what's going to happen in the spring. We all have our fingers crossed that we'll have a vaccine, and we'll all be getting vaccinated.
But we can't make predictions. One thing we are trying to do, and Lisa and Gary's committees are working on, is planning for calendars that would address the same fundamental vulnerabilities in the fall and spring. And that is flu season, travel, trying to make sure that students don't leave and come back.
And I'll just say one other word, which is one of the things that we're understanding is one of our biggest challenges is bringing 25,000 or so students back to this community and trying to make sure that as few of them as possible are carrying the virus with them. That's one thing that we're aiming our strategy to try and detect. And we need to may be able to ensure that we can detect it, in fact, if possible, before they come.
Because once they come, then they contact others. We have quarantine issues. We have local hospital capacity issues, et cetera, so all of that is part of the strategy.
WENDY WOLFORD: Thank you, and you reminded me of a question in the chat that's for Gary, which is whether or not Cornell is going to be doing the testing. And how will we staff the testing effort?
GARY KORETZKY: Yes, that's a great question. Obviously, we need a lot of capacity to do the testing, and I mentioned that college has an outstanding laboratory. The laboratory is able to test for the virus. They've done that.
They've done that initially in animals, and now they're gearing up to do that in humans. There's regulatory authority that's required, and we're working through that. So they will be a really important part of our strategy. We're going to partner with others, Cayuga Medical Center.
The other thing that we are going to be able to do, it's becoming more and more common. It's becoming more and more appreciated that this is essential for surveillance testing. And that is to group samples together, test them as one sample. If you take 40 samples, put them all together, and you test them, and they're negative, then 40 people are negative.
So there's a great strategy. We have to work out the details. So the answer to the question about who will test, it will be a combination of internal Cornell capability along with partners.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Let me just add one thing to that, and that is to give a shout out to Rheonix, which is a local company, local graduate, and ex-trustee of Cornell, who has developed a platform for testing. That platform is-- Cayuga Medical has acquired Rheonix's PCR platforms, and they're expanding. That has greatly expanded our local capacity, and that plus the vet school, as Gary mentioned, really gives us an advantage. And in this community also is quite different than some of our colleagues addressing these questions, Columbia, New York City, Harvard and Boston, et cetera. So all of that is part of what we're factoring in.
WENDY WOLFORD: OK, great. Back to Lisa for one more question from Sue Merkle. And she asks, how can we balance the desire for faculty to teach as they want using many different modes and schedules with the student experience of having to figure out how to navigate four or five different courses?
LISA NISHII: I think they can figure it out, right? I mean, the idea is that when they sign up for their classes, the course roster will indicate the intended modality of the course. So they'll know when they enroll that they're enrolling for-- I'm just going to make it up. --two online courses, and one hybrid, and one in-person.
And there will be a schedule associated with it, so I think they'll be able to manage that. And they'll know this as they enroll, so I'm actually-- maybe I'm naively optimistic. But I'm not so concerned that.
WENDY WOLFORD: And if somebody chooses to change their mode of instruction midway through the semester?
LISA NISHII: You know, I think we have to prepare for the possibility that any and all classes might need to go online at some point in the semester, depending on the progression of the virus. But our hope would be that students know what they're enrolling in, what the modality is, and that that would continue for the duration of the term.
WENDY WOLFORD: OK, great. Sorry for that. I was paraphrasing a question from the Q&A that came in before, so let me finish then with a question for Martha. You have put a lot of emphasis on what you call academic verve, and there's certainly a lot of opportunity for academic verve here.
We are going to talk about online teaching itself next week. But could you just talk about what are the sort of things that you'd like to see in terms of maybe teaching, maybe really anything, what you'd like to see coming out of this crisis? And how can or should faculty work to create these innovations?
MARTHA: Sure, so first of all, I do want to note that I completely understand having taught myself for many, many years that developing new modes of teaching, even just developing new course material, is very hard work. So I really want to thank our faculty again. The faculty just stepped up in an extraordinary way last semester when we had to move online in very, very short notice.
Now I'm on make lemonade out of lemons kind of person, and this fall with the virus still not in control, we've got a lemon. And we've got to make lemonade out of it. The lemon is going to force us to continue to innovate with teaching.
We're going to. As we've talked about, we're going to have to do some online teaching, and I hope that it gives us an opportunity to explore some best practices. So we know it's the best practice online to allow students to be a little more self paced. Can we work that into our classes?
We're going to have to figure out how to teach online for material that might not naturally seem amenable to being online, and there were already some incredibly creative examples of this, this past semester. For example, with physics labs. And it's not just online. I mean, when we're going to be teaching in person, social distancing requirements are going to force us to change the way we do things.
It's going to be difficult. It's going to be a lot of work. As John said, we're going to provide as much support as we can through CTI and through eCornell. But I recognize that everyone is going to have to start thinking about this as soon as possible, and everyone is going to have to kick in and share the work as we deal with this pandemic.
This isn't just Cornell. It's something that faculty around the country have to deal with, so where's the lemonade? I mean, you asked me what I'd like to see come out of this. All this hard work-- and it is hard work. --I think really can lead to a range of new and creative approaches to teaching that we can then carefully assess.
I mean, we have experts on our campus, our DVERs, disciplined based educational researchers, who know how to assess teaching innovations. And my hope is that we try a whole bunch of things. Some of them won't work. That's OK.
Others of them, the assessment will show are successful, and we'll keep using them even after the virus is under control. And by successful, I mean, perhaps they're more effective. Perhaps they help students with different preparations succeed. I want to go back to the very beginning, where we started, and say that we do need to take care as we're doing all this planning and thinking about how each of our decisions impacts students from marginalized groups, and faculty, and staff from really whole groups.
But for particular, today, I'm thinking about black faculty, black staff, black students of color. Sometimes, these new teaching methods turn out even to be more fun, so my hope is that we come out of this with new approaches to teaching that we want to keep using. And if that happens, then we're going to have a head start on the kinds of changes that are going to be needed in higher education anyway, even independent of the virus in the coming years.
WENDY WOLFORD: OK, thank you. Mike, do you want to say anything in closing? We're at time.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Well, thanks. Just thanks everybody for attending and listening. And I really want to thank Gary and Lisa particularly, who have been working all hours of the day and night trying to work on these problems, and see if we have solutions to them. And a lot of people, John as well, and many, many people working to try and see if we can have an effective fall semester.
So this is an effort to communicate some of that effort, but a lot is going on behind the scenes. And we're really hopeful that these reports will show us the way for a successful fall. Thank you all.
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Faculty town hall meeting to discuss fall semester planning, June 3, 2020. Panelists: Martha Pollack, President; Mike Kotlikoff, Provost; John Siliciano, Deputy Provost; Lisa Nishii, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education; and Gary Koretzky, Vice Provost for Academic Integration. Moderator: Wendy Wolford, Vice Provost for International Affairs.