[MUSIC PLAYING] MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Hello, everybody. Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us at this town hall for graduate and professional students. I want to first, begin by introducing our panelists and then our moderator.
So our panelists are Barbara Knuth, who's dean of the Graduate School; Wendy Wolford who is the vice provost for international affairs; and Zebadiah Hall, who's the director of student and disability services. And our moderator today is Katherine McComas. Professor McComas is the vice provost for engaged and land grant affairs.
So I'll just say a couple of opening words. We've got a lot of questions from the students. And I think we're going to have a very engaged hour, and try and answer as many questions as we get to. We won't be able to answer all questions. But a lot of them ask a very similar general question about how we got to where we are. How we made the decision to open as an in-person residential fall semester.
And then, also, how we're viewing changing conditions. As we all know, the national prevalence is changing. And we're seeing an uptick and substantial growth in cases across the country.
So some time ago, in March after we closed the campus, we began thinking about the fall. And how we would go about analyzing and making the decision. And although-- I said this in our first town hall to faculty at the time-- that many people view this situation emotionally. It's a scary pandemic. It's a once in a hundred year pandemic. And it triggers a lot of fear.
Many people view this politically. There's a lot of issues around the way the pandemic is being handled. But we resolved to approach this in a scientific manner. Get as much data as we could, probe all the issues surrounding opening, and then make a decision with the president once we had all the data.
Very early on, I recruited Peter Frazier, who's a professor of operations research, and who's team had been working on modeling epidemiologic events, to begin to formally look at our situation, which is unique. We are upstate in a fairly isolated area, with a relatively low prevalence. We also have a substantial number of our students, percentage of our students-- over 50%-- that live off-campus. Both of these factors are significant factors in terms of the overall equation, and how we predict what would happen in the fall.
We also polled faculty about their willingness to teach. We polled students about their willingness to attend. And then we got as much scientific data about the virus, medical data as we could get.
And also began to think about our ability to do surveillance testing. One of the things that was clear to us very early on was if we were to open, and even if we were not to open, it really required a substantial comprehensive surveillance testing environment to be able to make sure that we could control transmissibility of the virus in our community, were we to bring back our students. So that led to modeling.
One of the things that came out of that modeling was the realization that we had a problem whether we opened or didn't open. So if we were not residential and we didn't bring students back to our dorms, we would still have over 50% of our students living off-campus. About 2/3 of those who've told us in polls they intended to return. Of course, these students, many of them are graduate students, many undergraduate students with leases. And would plan to come back, and occupy their spaces.
So we had to model that condition, and that condition where we did not have a formal residential campus where we had an overall behavioral program and a testing scheme. And consequences to not abiding by that program against bringing back the additional residential undergraduates in our dorms. And giving people the option to be to take classes remotely or to be in person.
And that surprised several of us that, that really looked like the more significant concern was having students that we were not monitoring and not under an intensive surveillance program. And then we looked very carefully at what we would need to do to surveil. How we would do that. How we would get compliance. How we would mount the testing capacity, et cetera. All of that led to a decision that, I think, is a rational decision that I stand behind and Martha stands behind in terms of the decision that was made at the time.
Now, the situation is changing. And we are monitoring that situation. We are looking re-looking at our modeling. And we're committed to continue to think about what's the safe thing to do here. But I do point out that that rise in national prevalence affects both conditions, whether we're all online and students end up returning to Ithaca as they have been already or whether we are not online, but are residential. In both cases, we're bringing back students from areas of the country that have a higher prevalence than our local prevalence. And that's something that we have to be concerned about.
So that's how we came to the decision. And I emphasize that we're continuing to evaluate conditions on the ground. And we've begun student testing. So we tested about 760 students last week. We've tested another 800 yesterday. And we'll test another 800 tomorrow. So far, that testing is going very well. And so far, our prevalence is quite low amongst the student population.
So I want to be very cautious because I don't have the results from yesterday or certainly tomorrow, but last week, we had results that confirmed the very low prevalence in our area of our students. So with that-- and we will be open and communicate about the results of these tests as we go forward. And you'll look for something next week on that.
So with that, I want to turn it back over to Katherine to start to field the questions, and ask them of the panelists. Katherine.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Great, thanks. And welcome everyone. Before we jump to some of the other panelists, Mike, I think we'd like to have a couple of follow-up questions about what you just said. Thank you for that overview.
I guess, perhaps you can describe the process of how the university is going to continue to monitor the prevalence rates. And how that decision-making around whether we're able to continue through Thanksgiving or whether we might not be-- just a little bit about the process of how you anticipate doing that.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: That's a great question. Because we not only make a decision to open, but we make a decision to continually test and monitor this situation. So we will start out with gateway testing-- testing everyone as they come in. We'll actually ask students to be tested before they come to Ithaca, and to self-quarantine before they come to Ithaca. Then we'll test them when they get here. And we will test them repeatedly.
One of the things that we're continuing to monitor and evaluate is how often that has to be. It will be at least, weekly, I can say. And that surveillance testing will allow us to very closely monitor the degree of infectivity of our student body. We'll also be testing faculty and staff, and be able to see that.
We'll mount a dashboard that has our prevalence and the spread of that prevalence. So we'll be able to contact trace and see whether those individuals are positive or not. We'll be able to see clusters of positives, if they occur. Do they occur in dorms? Are they associated with dining? Are they associated with college town, et cetera? And then we'll also monitor, obviously, symptoms-- individuals having symptoms, then becoming positive, any hospitalizations, et cetera.
I also want to emphasize that one of the things that you'll see-- I believe, next week-- will be a letter from Martha that outlines our campaign about the things downstream of testing, which are the, sort of, linked barriers of protection for us. One of which is testing, but others are social distancing, mask wearing, and a lot of the behavioral changes that where around parties, et cetera, that we will be imposing.
And next week, you will see a behavioral compact that all students will be required to sign to be residential at Cornell. And that will impose very significant constraints on behavior. And will be a very important part of our safety barriers, if you will.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thanks. Another follow-up, and then I'll let you take a break. And that's in regards to testing. So for many of our graduate students, they may be working remotely. They may be in Geneva. They may not come to campus very often, although they may be in the area living with their families. But yet, they're not coming to campus because they're writing their thesis or doing research online.
Will they be expected to come in for testing weekly as current students? Or, I guess, have the details been worked out in that domain, yet.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: No. That's an excellent question. And I do think-- so everyone will be required to go through a daily attestation, which will-- and that process will govern the testing process. When you need to be tested. If you didn't show up, when you need to go back, et cetera. There will be a different schedule for, for example, faculty that are remote or staff that are remote, et cetera.
I do think for graduate students that are on remote campus that certainly, this will not apply to Cornell Tech. For students that are in Geneva, we will make that determination whether it makes sense for students who travel to Ithaca from Geneva to be tested or to be tested in a different cycle. That's something, I think, we need to work out.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: OK. Thanks, Mike. I'd like to-- we have a number of questions that relate to the graduate student experience. Also in relation to graduate funding and TA-ships and RA-ships. And so, I'd like to ask a few questions of Barb-- dean of the graduate school.
So Barb, when we're imagining students and their decisions to be here present in the fall-- and we're not talking international at this point-- but to what extent do you anticipate graduate funding to be affected by this move to a hybrid environment or an online environment, in regards to graduate funding?
BARBARA KNUTH: Yeah, thanks, Katherine. Let me just begin by giving a little context overall here, to my role and to these questions. And who may be in the audience today.
I am the dean of the graduate school. So my answers will largely pertain to graduate school programs. So that would be research degree students and professional degrees students who are within the graduate school.
Also, I'm quite aware that there may be students participating here who are students in the professional schools-- the Johnson Graduate School of Management, the Veterinary College, the Law School. So what I'm going to say may not necessarily pertain to those programs. So if you're in a professional school program and something that you hear today sounds different from what you've been hearing, pay attention to what you're hearing from your program.
And, in any case, there are a lot of messages that are coming out-- the provost referred to a number that are coming out from the university. The graduate school is sending out information to both current and incoming new students. Degree programs are, as well. So please pay attention to the emails that you're getting whether it's from your degree program, or from the graduate school, or your professional school, or from the university. Because there's going to be really critical information there.
So in terms of the notion of how graduate student funding will be affected by the hybrid environment-- moving to a hybrid teaching environment really shouldn't have an effect on fellowships, research, and stipends. The fall '20 appointments for assistantships and fellowships will still begin as scheduled, August 21, and run through January 5th. And the spring '21 appointments for assistantships and fellowships will begin January 6th and run through May 20th, as scheduled.
So the hybrid environment may affect the type of Ta duties that you have, but not the stipend appointment date. So in terms of stipend, it's really staying as normal as possible.
There's no significant impacts to graduate school fellowships. And, in fact, we've actually taken steps to offer more flexibility for students with graduate school fellowships. Students on assistantships are being asked to coordinate with your supervisors on the location of your duties because you may be able to do that work remotely.
Also, you can learn from your assistantship supervisor-- whether that's a researcher or a teaching assistantship supervisor-- if it is going to be on campus, what the plans are for physical distancing, for PPE, masks, and other things. So they'd be able to give you some information about that.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thank you. And I think, maybe, I'll jump over to Wendy for a follow-up. Because there may be some specific points that need to be made in regards to international students and their ability to have assistantships if they are in their home country. Wendy.
WENDY WOLFORD: Yeah. Thanks, Katherine. And hi, everyone.
So in relation specifically to not just holding a TA-ship as an international student or a RA-ship, but holding that TA-ship or RA-ship and being able to work overseas, that's a question that I know is very important to a lot of international students, and a source of real stress. So we've heard that. And we're looking into whether or not we can allow international students to do TA and RA-ships from their home country.
You all know that we generally expect TAs and RAs to be in the US, unless they have explicit permission to work internationally. But in March, when all of this happened, we created a set of exceptions to the remote work policy. And they were specifically tied to COVID. So if you were stranded abroad or forced home, then we could pay you for remote work.
So what we're looking into now is whether we can extend these exceptions to the fall and to students who want to work from abroad, even though most students will not be legally stranded. Some may be. There is still a travel ban. But we want to see if we can extend the exceptions to students who might not be legally stranded, but who are broadly worried about travel restrictions in the future or have family considerations. These are still COVID-related challenges.
So we're looking into the extension, and I want students to know that we're taking it very seriously. We're hopeful that we'll be able to get back to you sometime next week with an update on that.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thanks, Wendy. And then, I'll jump back to you, Barb. Because I think a follow-on question is a number of students have wondered if they were to take a leave of absence this coming fall, how would that affect their funding? And is this a university level decision? Is this a program level decision? What advice would you give to students?
BARBARA KNUTH: Yes, thank you. So leaves of absence decisions would occur at the program level. So that's where you should begin the conversation.
There's two types of leaves of absence available through the graduate school. And I'm mentioning this because they do have funding differences associated with them. There's a health leave of absence and a personal leave of absence. So both of those leaves can be for up to 12 months, with annual renewal possible for up to four years.
For a health leave, the original offer of financial support at the time of admission is continued when you return if you're in good academic standing. But for a personal leave, the original offer of financial support at time of admission is not necessarily guaranteed when you return. So it's important to distinguish between personal leave and health leave.
The graduate school is offering exceptional flexibility with all of our graduate school fellowship funding for students who elect to take a leave of absence. But you should verify with your program and your funding source before you finalize a leave of absence. For example, there are some external funding agencies, like the NSF-- Graduate Research Fellowship program-- that does not allow a leave of absence and that fellowship program funding to continue after the leave.
I'll also note with regard to professional programs, that scholarship awards in those programs sometimes may be preserved for students who take leaves. But, again, that needs to be verified with your program in advance.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thanks. So turning slightly to a different question, which I think that you would have some response to, and then Zebadiah may have some response to it. And that also, it relates to funding. So a student has a teaching assistantship, and a student is deciding whether or not to have a teaching assistantship that may be in a course that is an in-person course, or an online course, or a hybrid course. And so, I guess, one is like, how is the graduate school or the administration approaching giving guidance to students as they're making choices about their teaching assistantships?
BARBARA KNUTH: Yeah, certainly, this is an important question, and one that is being asked a lot. And the graduate school had a number of written communications on this, both to graduate students and graduate faculty. So that information is on our COVID-19 website. So let me give a summary about this.
So fundamentally, decisions about pedagogy and curriculum, including the mode of instruction, are up to departments and faculty. So check with your department or your TA supervisor to determine if the department has selected a teaching modality for the current course you've been assigned. Or is providing flexibility for the TA to make that choice. Some are, and some are determining in advance what the modality is going to be.
If there is a mismatch between the teaching modality for the course that you want or prefer or need and the modality that the department has assigned, if you have personal health concerns that relate to that mismatch between modalities, contact Student Disability Services. And they'll support you in identifying accommodations. If your concern is not related to your own health, have a discussion with your TA supervisor about options. And, if needed, other offices are ready to help you with those discussions, including your director of graduate studies, the department chair, the college dean's office, the graduate school.
So the intention here is to be as flexible as possible in supporting the health and other needs of the student and the needs of the department. But if it is a personal health concern, again, Student Disability Services is where you should go. And so, I'm going to now turn this over to Zebadiah, who's the director of Student Disability Services, to address what that Student Disability Services process will look like for you.
ZEBADIAH HALL: Barb, thank you for that. And Katherine, thank you, as well, for the question.
I do want to start off by saying we're here to support you. I know there has been a lot of questions and a lot of things in writing. There is stuff to the editor about our process. I know that some people feel that even going through our process itself is medicalizing it. I'm here to tell you that we don't want to medicalize the process. We definitely want to listen to your story. That's the most important story.
As it relates to teaching remotely and things like that, we have-- to be honest-- already approved certain students to teach remotely. If you engage with us about your personal health conditions, we're here to support you. We're also here to understand that certain people can't get access to medical documentation due to COVID. But I would say, pre-COVID, there was people that couldn't get access to medical documentation. We take that into consideration. And so, you don't always need medical documentation to receive accommodations. And so I just want to put that out there.
I think it's also important to think about it not just from a TA standpoint that I'm teaching. But I think, sometimes in a graduate school, they're not as serviced as much from Student Disability Services. And we can help with A exams, Q exams. We can help with making your material accessible to you if you're doing research and a whole slew of things. And so I want to focus on the Ta aspect of it, but I want you to know, there's a broad range of things Student Disability Services can do to give access to the student experience at the graduate and professional level.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thank you. I think that that's really helpful for people to understand that the SDS-- Student Disability Services has really evolved in response to this. And is really trying to work and respond to students in many different ways.
So maybe we can talk a little bit about coursework itself, and what the experience will be like for graduate students on campus or in return. And so, there's a general question in terms of whether or not students will be able to access remote options of their courses if they're unable or uncomfortable coming in person.
So one question is, if classes are being held in person, will there be a remote or virtual options for students to attend? Maybe, Barb, you can answer that question?
BARBARA KNUTH: Sure. Thank you, Katherine. Most courses will have a remote option to meet the needs of students who can't attend in person. So even if the core part of the class-- if the class is being offered as an in-person seminar, an in-person class, it also will have the ability to over Zoom or some other technology provide any remote option for students who maybe that day, or in the moment, or because of a 14-day quarantine are not being able to participate in person.
Also, some courses will be online. So whether it's going to be online only, in-person only-- and there will just be a few of those in the graduate professional world-- or in person with a remote capability that information will be available soon for each course at the time you do course enrollment. So you'll know for sure at the time you enroll in courses, what you're signing up for. And the modality that that course is going to be offered in.
Keep in mind, though-- and, again, this is mostly a professional degree program caution-- that particularly, professional degree programs may have a core required first year set of courses. So there may not be a lot of choice in terms of what courses you're able to take. That's my point. Because many professional degree programs have a core required set of courses.
So if you have any questions about what to enroll in, communicate with your program, and they'll be able to point you in the right direction.
But, again, it'll probably be a couple of weeks, yet-- Mike may know this better than I do-- a couple of weeks yet before the total lists of courses that are available for enrollment will be available.
ZEBADIAH HALL: I'll just add-- as those modalities come out and you feel that there's concerns about engaging or connecting with those different modalities that are posted, that's, once again, an opportunity for you to reach out to Student Disability Services. So we can help you figure out, what kind of access do you need to be able to access that modality so you can take that class or that course? And so, once again, just make sure you're utilizing Student Disability Services if there's an access barrier based off health and personal reasons.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: So continuing on with the thread of the graduate student experience or the experience-- so outside of the classroom, students may be meeting with their advisors and committee members. Are these going to be all online, as well? Or will there be options for in-person meetings?
BARBARA KNUTH: Great question about committee meetings. And committee meetings, I think, that's mostly a research degree question. So the university's campus use guidance is really that if activities can be conducted remotely and don't require university facilities, you're encouraged to conduct them remotely. If there is a real need for an in-person committee meeting, that could occur if everyone has completed the required daily check before coming to campus and appropriate behaviors are followed for the meeting, including physical distancing, wearing masks. All of those things.
Most committee meetings, however, though, should be able to be conducted remotely. And for required meetings, like big ticket meetings like A exams and B exams-- those kinds of exam meetings-- the graduate school absolutely supports them being done remotely.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: OK, great. And I'm going to go slightly outside of that domain, and also think about other types of things that would be considered remotely, such as building community remotely. There were several questions that talked about the networking that occurs in our research and our professional programs. To quote one, "coming to work, but not socializing is an all work, no play lifestyle." How will you address our mental health and happiness?"
And this question of how do we maintain social distancing, while also partaking in some of the resources and support that are so vital to ensuring the successful career of our graduate students while they're here and when they leave.
BARBARA KNUTH: Yeah, great question. So remember that we have been working remotely, essentially, since the middle of March. So support for building community remotely is happening right now for our graduate student community. And will ramp up even further for fall semester now that we, too, have more experience with it.
There's already many online opportunities for social engagement within individual groups, within graduate fields, between departments that are already occurring.
The graduate school continues to offer opportunities to connect with other students, primarily through our professional development program called Pathways to Success, which is offered remotely now. It focuses on things like leadership development, career exploration for future faculty careers, career exploration for careers beyond academia, in business, and industry, governments, nonprofits.
Our Big Red Barn Graduate and Professional Student Center, while it is a physical location, has taken all of its programs online. So there have been very successful highly engaging programs like trivia night, a virtual walking program, a virtual game night. Lots of fun things virtually.
And also keep in mind that there's quite a number of graduate and professional student groups, student organizations, like organized student organizations, that exist. And they're doing a lot of remote activities for their members, and welcome new members. And are interested in reaching out to new students who are coming in who might be interested in them.
So for example, I heard just last weekend that one of the groups did a virtual remote Sunday brunch. Everybody had their meals, and was talking with each other, and interacting just as if they were in person.
So yes, there's a lot of community building, a lot of social activity. And we're really paying attention to it for mental health reasons and just for success. That when you're happy in the rest of your life, you're going to be successful academically. So we're really trying to support that.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thank you. That's very helpful. And I think that following on this thread-- and then and then I'll jump over to Wendy with some international questions-- but Mike, thinking about facilities. And, again, students who are in Ithaca, there's a number of questions about their access to facilities. Such as their access to graduate student offices, their laboratories, as well as some of the general university spaces like libraries and gyms. And I'm wondering if you can give the high level or perhaps, some specifics around whether students will have access to these spaces if they're in Ithaca.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: So we're in the processes, as many of you know, of reactivation of research and scholarship [? or ?] laboratories, studios, and other areas. And that is going well. We'll have a communication next week from the schools about continuing to provide access to those facilities for individuals that need those facilities to be able to do their work.
I want to stress that if you don't need facilities at the university, we're asking-- whether it's faculty or graduate students, professional students, or undergraduate students-- to operate remotely in that way if you don't need the facilities, you don't need to be in the laboratory to be able to pursue your project, et cetera.
But if you do, we're trying to accommodate that throughout the university. And the guidelines there now are we need to be able, for the protection of all of us, to maintain social distancing. So to maintain 6 feet distance. During all activities in the laboratory, during all research components, or studio components, we need to maintain that 6 foot social distancing. If we do that and maintain that, we will comply with state regulations around how much we can occupy our buildings.
And we'll enable as much of the research and scholarly activity as we can. And our aim is to try and provide graduate students, and professional students, and faculty, and undergraduate students the ability to do those things outside of the classroom, in the laboratories that are such a critical part of our educational process.
On facilities, we will see the library beginning to open. I see the question around gyms, et cetera. There will be some access to gyms and other social facilities. They will be different. There's no question, they will-- again, for all of our public health, we will require the kind of social distancing that you don't normally see in a basketball game, et cetera, So there will be differences, but we are trying to provide as much of that social and healthy activities and community building activities as we can.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thanks.
ZEBADIAH HALL: Can I just add something really quick?
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
ZEBADIAH HALL: As we think about the research, as we think about the labs, we are accommodating in those spaces, as well. I know we have approved a couple of interpreters because our students need it. I know there are certain times where a student might need an extra desk so they can have access to a monitor and things like that.
We can't say what we can and cannot approve at this point in time. But we are exploring those things. And we have approved some accommodations reopening in the labs and then some of the research. So I want to put that out there, as well, as another chance just, if there's some ambiguity there, if we can help with some accommodations, please let us know.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Terrific. So Wendy, there are many, many questions around international issues. And I know that you have a very comprehensive website on your side, and perhaps, you can you can give that information. But we'll start off with a question that was quite common around the US embassies issuing visas to international students. There are some students who have been concerned that if they're not able to get a visa due to a closure of an embassy, what are their options for this fall in terms of their graduate or professional program?
WENDY WOLFORD: Thanks, Katherine. So there are a ton of questions. We held an international student town hall a week ago, and posted many of the FAQs from that town hall. We held an international graduate student town hall on Friday, and that's posted. And I just posted to the chat that website. If you don't have it, you should have it. That's the International Service's website.
We're holding another town hall this Friday, specifically related to health and wellness issues for international students. Whenever we do a town hall, we take all of the questions. We try to find the most common ones, and we put those on the FAQ list . So the FAQ list is intense. It's long. It's pretty detailed.
If you don't find an answer to your specific question, the advisors in international services are fantastic. And should hopefully be able to answer your questions. You can always contact me at [INAUDIBLE] email, and I will also try to do my best.
So the visa issue for international students is a really difficult one. We, of course, we're watching the embassies, the consulates, and hoping that they would open up for routine visa service earlier. We've just gotten word-- which all of you probably know and are consulting-- that the consulates are starting routine visa service, again. And the Department of State has said that they will prioritize students and student visas, but the actual timing of reopening and of appointments for visas does appear to be really variable by country and even by the sub-country office.
So you all know this. It's still very difficult to get appointments. And we hope that people will be able to get those, and then come to Ithaca on time.
The options that people have are to hope that those visas do come through, of course, and to be in touch with their supervisor, your DDS, your advisor about being able to come to campus later in the semester, so after the semester starts. To figure out what that means for the classes that you're enrolled in or the work that you're doing.
There is, of course, the possibility of remaining in your home country and taking classes online. And also, there are a study away options in a few different regions. And so some of those are available if you're able to get to those sites and fit the eligibility criteria. We're making offers for those sites now, but we will be advertising when we have more availability in the future, coming up soon.
So we really hope that the visa service does resume, again, quickly. We've been watching it closely through our foreign relations folks, and hoping that it does.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thanks, Wendy. So a follow-on question, and I'm imagining that you've got some additional resources dedicated to this on your site. But there's a lot of questions about having an online semester in fall 2020, and how that counts toward a student's OPT if they're working toward that. And so questions about if they were online or if the university were forced to close and move entirely online in the middle of the semester, what is your general guidance around how students are thinking about how online factors into an OPT application?
WENDY WOLFORD: So it's a great question. Let me just back up a second, and answer that in relation to a broader set of guidance around the July 6th ICE guidance that was withdrawn last week. So everybody's been following this-- international students, domestic students.
The ICE guidance from July 6th was withdrawn, which is really good news. We were thrilled. What that means is that the guidance from March holds for the fall semester. So the flexibility that we got from the administration in March will hold for continuing students through the fall semester, through the end of December.
So continuing students will have flexibility in their course load, in their online versus in-person courses. And the March guidance also allows OPT to be accrued by enrolled continuing students, whether they're in the US or outside. So that also holds for the fall. That's good news.
The problem is, is that the March guidelines do not apply to incoming or new students. So new students who did not have a [? CVIS ?] record in March and who still require F1 sponsorship may only be allowed to take three credits of online coursework. So they're still subject right now to the guidance that was standing before COVID, which says that international students can only take three credits online. The rest of their coursework should be either hybrid or in person, to the extent possible.
So this is tricky to figure out, and I'm going to have a set of recommendations. But we think that all incoming students will be protected to a significant degree by the fact that, as a university, we're hybrid. So the fact that we're offering a hybrid semester, unlike Harvard-- which you may have heard about. of course, you've heard about Harvard, but the fact that they're all online has very different implications for their students.
There is a possibility though that students who are in violation of this online policy could later have difficulty obtaining an H1B or permanent residence. Our International Services Office says that the risk is not high, but it's also not zero.
There's a lot of political pressure on the administration right now to extend the March guidelines to new students. So we don't yet know what the final rule will be. And I totally understand that that's quite stressful.
So we're waiting to find out what happens, and what the implications are for courses. But at present, our advice for new students is to, first of all, talk with your program directors and talk to your DGS, talk to your department chairs as to what they think about the in-person courses. Whether or not they'll be mounting sufficient in-person courses in your first-year program.
And the second point is to stay in touch with International Services, to watch the web page. We will be putting out emails or announcements if we hear anything, if [? this ?] changes at all. But stay in touch with International Services. And check the FAQ page, and reach out to them with specific questions.
The third thing is when you do enroll for classes, if you are taking classes, to find as many in-person classes as possible without hurting your degree progress. And so for those of you professional students who are starting a program with a specific required core curriculum, be in touch with your program director. Those program directors are also in very close contact with global learning on these issues.
The fourth thing is to download a copy of the letter on the International Services website that is your attestation, basically, that Cornell is under a hybrid academic plan this fall. And keep that with you when you come into the US.
And the fifth and final thing is that if you decide not to come to campus, you can still take all of your classes online from home or join a study away site. So the difficulty for incoming students here in the US, where you have to take more of your classes in person at this point, doesn't hold while abroad. You can enroll, and you can take your classes online from home.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thank you, Wendy. Extremely detailed and a wonderful resource, lots of information. So please do check out the resources that Wendy named, which will help with these details.
I guess, I want to go into it to a broader question that touches back to domestic and our international students. And perhaps, this is a good one, Mike, for you to start off with. There's a lot of questions about arrival on campus. Both the timing of arrival, but also in relation to quarantine. And how that quarantine would happen if, for instance, you're from a designated state now that New York is named. But in international, there's also questions about an international student and quarantining.
And so, what are the general policies that students will need to follow when they come to New York and Ithaca to in regards to quarantine?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: This is a very rapidly changing area. I'm sure many of you know that yesterday, Governor Cuomo increased the list of states that are on the quarantine list 31. So 31 states now, require a 14-day quarantine upon entry to New York. That's a self-quarantine. It's not monitored by the state.
We're talking with the state about how to handle this in the student context. And what quarantine means in that context. But I, again, repeat that our plan is have everybody tested as they enter. If you are positive, we will put you in isolation facilities-- hotel rooms that have full isolation, provide meals, et cetera. Being positioned to really make sure that you are isolated and removed from the general population. Not a risk to public health.
Individuals that test negative, this is where we're questioning with the state and working with the state about what's the degree of quarantine there. Is it requiring individual rooms? Requiring individual bathroom? There's a lot of discussion-- does it require 14 days? A lot of discussion about [INAUDIBLE]. We're not exactly sure where that's going to shake out, but we'll have full plans at that time.
I would add one thing, and that is really, for me, a request to all of our professional students and graduate students. And that is to please-- I know many of you are back on campus-- please wear masks. There has been a certain amount of looseness here as the campus has been unpopulated. We need to make sure we send the right message-- all of us-- to our community. The thing that we can do-- the single thing that we can do above all to protect all of us is to wear a mask.
So we've had reports of students in Duffield, [? had ?] students in physical sciences not wearing masks. Working together, studying, not physically distanced. All of us really need to comply with these very, very reasonable public health recommendations. Please wear masks.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thanks. Wendy, are there any specific follow-ups in regards to international students? Or is it generally, the same as Mike has described?
WENDY WOLFORD: Well, so international students fall under the same, I guess, policy, or not policy-- rule as people coming from those 31 states. All people coming from abroad are expected to quarantine for 14 days because we're under a global travel advisory level three.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thanks for that clarification. So maybe we can say on travel for a little bit. There were some questions regarding the policy for travel for graduate students, both who live off campus and traveling to places. Can we travel outside of Ithaca? Can we have people visit us from outside of Ithaca?
And, I guess, we should really own, perhaps, the different circumstances that our graduate and professional students may have versus an undergraduate that's living in a residence hall. And so, what are-- I guess, in relation to visitors and interactions-- but what are the general travel policies, domestic and international-- what are some of that specific guidance around visitors and interaction with people outside of the Cornell community, say, in one's home or surrounding community?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Let me take that. We will issue travel guidelines. I believe they will come out next week. And let me just run through the high points of those guidelines. There's some specifics.
But, first of all, for business travel, all business travel will need to be approved. We'll have significant restrictions on visitors coming to campus on a professional basis, for business activities. We'll have rules that are associated with New York state around deliveries to campus, et cetera. But business travel is something now that will need to be approved locally by departments and individual colleges.
Personal travel will not have specific requirements. I see a question here about if my family lives outside of town Tompkins County, what do I do? Well, I live outside of Tompkins County, and there are no requirements for quarantine, anything if you are in the area.
But we do ask individuals who have gone to areas of higher prevalence to be cautious about that. And you may be subject to the mandatory quarantines that the state is requiring. So if you go to one of these 31 states, you will be required to self-quarantine. And that may affect your ability to work, and be in the lab, or go to classes, et cetera. So you need to consider that and really be your own guide as to how to do that.
Now when you travel, we recommend social distancing, masks. All the kinds of sensible precautions that you can imagine. And we suggest the same thing, Katherine, for visitors.
My brother came and visited us last week. The entire time-- he came from an area where he had been exposed. He wasn't symptomatic. Wasn't sick at all. But we social distanced the entire time he was here. The three days he was here, he wore a mask. And we were not less than 6 feet apart or only briefly.
So I do want to urge all of us, we are not able to be the social distancing police for you, but we all need to protect each other here. And that's what these guidelines will basically say.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: That's helpful. I know we're coming up upon the hour. There were, obviously, more questions than we've been able to get to through this. But we are looking at every question that comes in, and we'll work questions into FAQs and others. Because your input is very important to helping us to understand the trends, and the patterns, and really, the priorities that you all have.
Maybe I just have a couple of questions in regards to two of the ways that we're also helping to ensure the safety, for instance, of graduate students that might be teaching assistantships. What sort of PPE, masks, or support will graduate students be provided if they are TAing for an in-person class? And perhaps, Mike, that's a question for you?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Yeah. So we will have PPE available in classes. We're working through making that available for both students and instructors, faculty, et cetera. We will have cleaning supplies. The ability to clean in between classes. We're going to have distanced classes.
Lisa Nishii is now working through how to de-densify those classes so we can maintain six feet distancing and maintain distancing from the instructor to the students. So those will be provided as part of this startup.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: And perhaps, Barb, this is a question for you around guidance, but it also might be for Zebadiah. So say I am teaching a class as a teaching assistant. I'm supporting. What are my expectations every day? If I wake up and I have a bit of a scratchy throat, will I be able to cancel my office hours or not go to class? How does the administration expect me to prioritize those concerns versus, say, a concern might be about my not showing up?
BARBARA KNUTH: A great question. And I'll just say that really, as with any assistantship responsibility, even pre-pandemic, you and your supervisor should discuss in advance the procedures for notifying your supervisor when you're feeling ill as much ahead of the teaching assignment as you can. If it's that morning, letting them know that morning, if it's at all possible that you won't be able to do it. So that's just a good practice to interact with your supervisor at the start of your assignment so that you have these procedures identified.
Certainly, if your TA duties are in person, you would not be able to come to campus if you're exhibiting those kinds of symptoms. Because when you get online to do the daily check, it will ask you if you're exhibiting all of these symptoms. And then I will say don't come to campus.
So if you do feel well enough, a little bit of a sniffle, and you feel well enough, and it's something that you are able to do remotely, even though you might normally be in person, or if you're always doing it remotely and you feel physically able to do it, you can go ahead and do that remotely. But if you're ill and you don't feel well enough to conduct your duties even remotely, again, let your supervisor know that according to the procedure you've discussed in advance. And that will be fine.
These kinds of circumstances happen regularly, even pre-pandemic. So, again, it's good communication, setting procedures out in advance. To have a backup plan or at least a communication plan to alert one another as to what's going on.
ZEBADIAH HALL: The only thing that I would add from that is it gives us an opportunity to engage with universal design for learning. And so as you are thinking through your plans, if you're starting from the onset-- how can you engage with the material in different modalities of learning? And I think that will help solve some of that problem. But I would just mimic, if you're not healthy, stay home. I think that's for your community's sake.
But I would also say we are talking about graduate students and professional students that are going to be professionals tomorrow, next week. And so, this is an opportunity for us to all that have never been in a pandemic-- because none of us have-- to change the dynamics of the way that we operate a little bit differently. To give more access to people because we have the fluidity to be in person and not in person.
I would also leave us with there is this thing called Job Accommodation Network. You can type in diagnosis. You can type in how do I talk to my supervisor? You can type in all of this information. I think it's helpful right now as you are graduate and professional students. But it's going to be even more helpful when you guys are supervisors now leading.
Job Accommodation Network. You can type in any kind of diagnosis. You can type in training for your department to do around disabilities. All of those kind of things, really, really important and helpful during these times.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thank you. That's very helpful to learn about the different support services. And we should also give a shout out to the Center for Teaching Innovation, which is also providing workshops to help transition courses into online courses and other types of materials. There were several questions around support for teaching assistance in designing classes. And those are resources that are available.
So we have come to the hour. I want to say, are there any final words or points that any of the panelists feel that they would like to make at this point before we wrap up?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Well, I would just emphasize, as Zebadiah's last point, I do think this is an opportunity for professional students and graduate students really to lead, to be leaders on campus in how we respond to a pandemic. And both model behaviors and use this as a teaching moment for students and a professional moment for how you're going to conduct your professional lives.
So anyway, thank you all for attending. I really appreciate it. Great questions. Sorry we couldn't get to all of them. I tried to concentrate a little bit on the more technical ones, and answered a few. So thank you, all.
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Katherine McComas, Vice Provost for Engagement and Land Grant Affairs, moderated a campus reactivation town hall meeting for graduate and professional students on July 22, 2020. Panelists: Mike Kotlikoff, Provost; Barbara Knuth, Dean of the Graduate School; Wendy Wolford, Vice Provost for International Affairs; and Zebadiah Hall, Director of Student Disability Services.
On June 30, President Pollack announced plans for the fall semester, which include a hybrid approach to a residential semester (with in-person, online and hybrid teaching modalities), robust virus testing, and modifications to the academic calendar that will allow students to begin classes on Sept. 2 and return home for Thanksgiving and finish the semester remotely. These plans apply to the Ithaca campus and Cornell AgriTech in Geneva.