[MUSIC PLAYING] SPEAKER 1: I do want to thank everyone for being here. I want to say hello. I got to see a number of you the other day at the faculty senate, so apologies for the repetition. But I do want to start today the same way I started there, by acknowledging, really, the very, very hard work that all the faculty did over the past few months. It was really nothing short of heroic, I think, to move your classes online so quickly and to do so while you were coping with both the professional and the personal stresses of the pandemic. So thank you all again for your dedication to our students and to ensuring that they continue to learn.
Today we're going to be talking all about hybrid online learning and how we get ready for that. As I hope you know, there are a range of options that we're looking at for this fall. Among them, one has our students here in Ithaca, taking some of their classes in person and some online. We're trying to ensure that if our students do come back, then whenever feasible, faculty have the choice of how they teach.
The second option is similar, but the calendar is a little bit different. The students start here, and then they go home at Thanksgiving and complete their courses online, regardless of how they started. And in the third, everything is online from the get go.
Now, look, none of us would want to be in the situation we're in now. I think that's obvious. But it's the hand we've been dealt. And we have no choice given it but to rethink just about every aspect of how a residential university functions, and that includes how we teach.
Personally, I'm make a lemonade out of lemons kind of person. So I think the best thing we can all do is approach the question of how we teach this fall in ways that not only sort of get us through, not only allow us to fulfill our academic mission and provide our students with the best possible education we can, but to go beyond that in ways that may lead to new and even better ways to teach and to learn.
I doubt it will surprise you to hear me say that, given how enthusiastic I've always been about teaching, innovation, and about educational verve. As we move towards the fall semester, we're going to do everything we can do, everything we can, to provide support for new ways of teaching. We'll use CTI, we'll use eCornell. You'll have resources in your schools and colleges.
That doesn't make it easy, but they are there to support you. They're there to provide guidance about best practices for online teaching. So for example, if you know about online teaching, one of the things you know that you can do really well on online teaching is present material in ways that students-- it enables them to move at their own pace.
We should be exploring that. We're going to have to explore new ways to teach material online that doesn't seem naturally suited for that. I know some of you in the physics department did that this past spring with physics labs.
I also hope and I believe that we're going to learn about ways to use online teaching to complement and enrich face-to-face teaching. So for example, I mentioned self-paced learning. Maybe this never happened to any of you, but I know when I've been in the classroom, so often you have some students who are doodling and looking at their phone out of boredom, other students are completely lost, and you're sort of teaching to that middle.
And I think that there may be ways to enhance the classroom experience to make use of online modules so that everyone is getting the most out of the classroom time. Or as another example, I understand that it's been very difficult to proctor exams online, and so our faculty have been looking at new ways to assess achievement. And that's something that serves our students really well, in particular students who come to us from diverse backgrounds and with various kinds of preparation.
This fall, even if we're able to teach face-to-face, social distancing requirements are going to force us to change the way we do things. I'm not yet sure what we will learn from that. Maybe Julia has some ideas. But I bet one way or the other, we will learn something new.
So here's the lemonade. We're an academic institution. We're here to create knowledge, to disseminate knowledge. And maybe I'm just being overly optimistic, but I hope that this fall, we can actually learn from the range of new and creative approaches to teaching that we're going to be forced to use. We have experts on this campus. We have our DBER, our Discipline-Based Educational Research Faculty. They can help us assess what works.
And then my hope, my dream, is that assessment is going to have us throw out some things we've tried, but also identify other things we've tried that we really want to keep using even after the virus is under control. Keep using because they're effective, because they help students who come to us with all different kinds of preparation succeed. And sometimes, believe it or not, because they turn out to be even more fun as ways to teach for the faculty and for the students. So with that, I will open things up to my colleagues. And again, thank everyone for all they're doing in this lemon of a situation.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: I will start us off. My name is Katherine McComas, and I am Vice Provost for Engagement and Land Grant Affairs, and I have the pleasure of serving as today's moderator. I'm joined here by Julia Thom-Levy, our Vice Provost for Academic Innovation, Lisa Nishii, our Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education. And provost Mike Kotlikoff, as well as obviously Martha, our president.
So we received many, many questions, and perhaps more than we're going to get to today. But it's my role to try to get us through as many as possible. So thank you for all of you who submitted questions ahead of time. And there are questions that are coming in on the Question and Answer chat. And so please feel free to submit questions during the session too.
But why don't we go ahead and get right at it. Lisa, we'll start with you. There are several questions that we've received that address issues related to course structure. So one of these is should I plan on designing a course that can accommodate both in-person and online instruction. Perhaps you can address that one.
LISA NISHII: OK. So I'm going to just begin by clarifying the terms, because I think there are a lot of terms that people are using. Sometimes they use them differently. And so let's just set the stage for today's conversation by clarifying what we mean by in-person and online.
So I'm going to talk about those as the two primary modes. So either a course is all online, that is a priori, all elements of the course are designed to be delivered online, and the students take the course from anywhere. And they're online, and the faculty member can also teach from their office or a recording studio, perhaps, or in their own home. But everyone is joining together for the course online.
And then there's in-person teaching and the way that we all know it, in the classroom. The difference for this year is that for the in-person classes, we also need to provide a way for students who are not here in person, that is they might be off-campus because they couldn't make it back to campus, or they chose not to return, or they're in quarantine. We need to provide a way for them to remote into the classroom, so to speak. So when we use the term remote, we're talking about remote access into the classroom where the faculty member and students are having the kind of class that is, I think, more typical in the way that we think about it.
I think there are a lot of questions that people have about, well, how do I provide that remote access to students who aren't in the classroom. And that's going to be a decision that is unique, I think, to the particular course and to the faculty and the goals. But there are a number of different ways to do it. And probably the most familiar for people would be to think about using Zoom, both for the students who are in the classroom and also students who are connecting remotely.
And so you can use Zoom for discussions or like we are now. You can show your slides through Zoom. You can also even project a chat right within the classroom, so that students who are joining remotely can be part of the conversation.
There are a few considerations. Audio is really important. So we're going to have to make sure that faculty have good mikes, and that way the sound will be picked up for the students who are joining remotely. And that could pose some challenges if the classmates, the students in the class, ask a question, students who are joining remotely might have a hard time hearing that, unless there are mikes in the room, which there might be in some classrooms, but not all.
But there are ways around that too. For example, the instructor or faculty member can repeat the question before they answer it. And that way, the students who are joining remotely can also take advantage of the questions being asked in the classroom.
And then for a visual, I've gotten this question too. Well, what should I be projecting? Should the camera be pointing at the students in the classroom or at me as the instructor or my slides? And that too really is up to the faculty member. What is the priority? What's the most important thing for students who are joining remotely to see? That's what you should project.
And then there are ways to help students engage together in discussion. You could think of creative ways for students who are joining remotely and students who are in the classroom to work on projects together, for example. So that's the remoting into the in-person. And I think that's where some people are getting the two confused and thinking of it as a fully online course that I have to develop in addition to teaching in person, and that's not the case.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: So Lisa, just to follow up on that, and we've gotten several questions that are looking at creative approaches to try to perhaps engage with students in-person maybe early on, when the weather is lovely in Ithaca, holding the class outside, maybe even in a tent, before moving indoors. And I guess the question is, what sort of flexibility might instructors have to use some different ways of structuring their classes, or do they really need to commit to a particular way and then work with that throughout the semester.
LISA NISHII: It's a great question. There's a question about can we teach outdoors, but I don't think that's the essence of the question here, which is do I have to make up my mind and stick with it, or can I start in person and then go online. And the answer is that we do need to make up our minds, make a decision. Because the course roster this year is going to indicate for each class the primary modality of the course. And then students can choose their courses based on the modality.
So obviously, students who are not here could not participate in-- well, actually, that's not true, because they'll have remote access, right? But they'll be taught differently, and it'll be a different experience. And so with the huge caveat that any course or all courses could go online, all online, at some point in the semester, depending on how the pandemic progresses, other than that, the primary modality, as printed on the roster, is what faculty should intend on doing for the whole semester.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: And one more follow-up, and then I'll give you an opportunity to catch your breath. When do you anticipate instructors needing to formally commit to an in-person or an online course?
LISA NISHII: So I can't provide an exact date, but my best guess here would be pretty soon. You know, end of June, beginning of July, or as soon as we have a decision from Mike and Martha about our plans for the fall. Because so many other things have to happen. And it'll be an iterative process where faculty preferences get combined with the instructional needs of the department.
And I anticipate that there could be a period too where the department chairs may need to work with faculty and TAs to figure out a solution that works, given classroom constraints, but also given the varying preferences of faculty to teach in different modalities. And it may even be-- and this would be entirely a department-level decision-- but it may even be that there are changes in teaching assignments for the academic year, just to make sure the department can really deliver on its academic mission.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thanks, Lisa. There's a lot of opportunities, again, of questions people have about TAs, et cetera. But I think you provided a wonderful segue. I'd like to turn back to Martha then and ask this question that is sort of the burning question. How are you thinking about making the decision about how we're going to proceed in the fall, and when do you anticipate making that decision? There's a--
LISA NISHII: You're muted.
MARTHA POLLACK: I cannot tell you how many times I've said in the last few days, you're muted, you're muted, and I finally did it myself. That is the burning question. It is what I'm spending pretty much all of my time on these days, thinking about. And when you say how are we thinking about it, I want to give two different sorts of answers.
One thing is that we're doing an awful lot of listening. We're going to faculty town halls. We're going to the assemblies, to Faculty Senate and the Employee Assembly. We're talking with our peers. I have phone calls at least every other week with the other ivy league presidents. We're listening to Public Health guidance, including from the state, but elsewhere. And we're doing our own modeling with epidemiological experts and data scientists.
So we're really trying to make a decision that's driven by data and by our best understanding of what's going to happen in the fall. Priority number one is public health. There's just no question about it. That's what drives everything.
Beyond that, we always go to the [INAUDIBLE]. We want to care for our students. That is in particular, we want to ensure that every student has the financial resources to complete their education. We want to safeguard Cornell's future as a world-class academic institution. We want to maintain our staff, and we want to use this opportunity to seek new knowledge and also contribute to knowledge about the pandemic.
So as we're thinking about these decisions, we're always returning to these principles and saying, OK. If we make this decision or we make that decision, how does it relate to these principles? Now, the big questions are do we invite students back for online education in the fall? One thing we know is that a lot of our students are going to be coming back to Ithaca no matter what, but do we invite them to come back and take classes person to person.
Secondly, if we invite them back, do we invite all of them back, or only a subset? Some [INAUDIBLE] around the country are talking about [INAUDIBLE] only bringing in the freshmen or only bringing in the freshmen and the seniors. And then the third big question is what does the academic calendar look like.
Obviously, if we can at all, we want to have them back. I think everyone on this call understands why residential experience-- education-- why the experience of residential education is so important, right? Going to a university like Cornell is not just about preparing for a career, important though that is. It's about being prepared to be a good citizen. It's about preparing to grapple with the difficult issues of the day. It's about being able to communicate across difference and contribute in meaningful ways to your community and build on the knowledge of others.
And these things are developed in classes for sure, but they're also developed in that broad residential experience, which includes a tremendous amount of human interaction, inside and outside the classroom. And so if we at all can, we want to bring our students back. But we need to let the primacy of public health considerations guide that.
So as I say, we're getting lots of information. We're getting lots of guidance. And we're looking at a whole lot of questions. Testing and contact tracing, what's feasible, how effective is it, what's the capacity of our local medical facilities, what's the capacity that we have for quarantine and isolation, what's the risk profile of our community, and how can we take steps to mitigate that risk with things like mask wearing and social distancing and reconfiguration of our facilities and travel policies and visitor policies and behavioral expectations for students. We're asking is it realistic to have behavioral expectations for students. Can you really expect 18 to 21-year-olds to do social distancing? Ways to monitor for early outbreaks, ways to protect vulnerable populations, and on and on.
The planning [INAUDIBLE] are working on this. We've been in touch with them all along. They're going to submit reports and recommendations to me early next week, and we'll take it from there. We expect any day now, literally, I have to get off this phone at 5 o'clock to get on the Zoom with the [INAUDIBLE] state commission.
I'm [INAUDIBLE] we're waiting to get guidance from the governor's office. As soon as we get that, we can begin the planning that we need to submit to the state. And our hope is to bring a concrete set of recommendations to a special board meeting in late June.
I guess the last thing I want to say is even after all of that, [INAUDIBLE]. At that point, we're still going to have a framework, and we're going to continue to work with constituents across campus over the summer to fill in the details of that implementation.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thank you, Martha. And I could have imagined that you'd written most of the questions that came in from people in the audience, because indeed, many of the things that you mentioned as questions and points to address were deep questions that people sent in.
So I'd like to turn to Mike then to do some follow-up. Because I know that you've been thinking a lot about the testing capabilities and the issues of at-risk populations. And we've got a number of questions around testing and around how we're defining at-risk populations and concerns about the lack of a vaccine, for instance, for a period of time. And so perhaps I can just start us off with one question. Will robust testing capability be available on campus, and will all faculty, students, and staff be tested.
MIKE KOTLIKOFF: Thanks, Katherine. That's a lot of questions. And the answer to the testing question is that yes, if we have a residential campus, we will absolutely be doing surveillance testing. All of the information that we have so far suggests that is key to identifying individuals that are pre-symptomatic and don't have symptoms, but are positive and could transmit the virus, as well as the very important immediate testing of individuals that have symptoms, and quarantining those individuals.
So a key to any strategy that we have will be a significant testing scheme. And that will include faculty and staff as well as students. We're having conversations with Hugo Medical Center and also with Ithaca College about how to coordinate this testing and do this in an efficient manner.
And I would also point back to one of the points that Martha made, which is the fact that even today we're starting to see students come back. As some of the leases start in June in college towns, some in July, some in August. We also have plans in place to try and test individuals coming back as they come back, before school starts, to get a sense of where we are in terms of prevalence.
And we are having-- you may have seen faculty, you may have seen a number of experiments scheduled. The first testing experiment was at the vet school, for vet school faculty and staff, who have been working throughout this period. And about 360 individuals were tested. There was one positive, one confirmed positive out of that group. We'll now test CALS-ILR and Human Ecology individuals next week and get a sense of prevalence that way. So all of this is giving us some confidence in our ability to surveil the population, understand where prevalence is, and then make decisions based on that.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thanks. And there's a couple of points that you made that I'd love to follow up on. And perhaps one we can handle fairly straightforwardly, in terms of how the University is thinking about mask wearing. Will instructors wear masks as they teach? Will students need to wear masks in residence halls, visitors on campus? Are we confident that the 6-foot distancing will suffice in terms of keeping the public health concerns at bay?
MIKE KOTLIKOFF: Yes. So I like to think of any strategy here as one that is a series of barriers to risk, to disease amongst our students, faculty, and staff. One of the first barriers that I've talked about is testing. Testing the students as they enter our population. They've been around the country, hopefully around the world. Hopefully we'll be able to welcome international students back.
They have a different prevalence where they are than in Tompkins County, where the prevalence is really quite low. And that presents some risks, so we'll test them as they come in to try and identify anybody that's positive before they have the opportunity to interact with others and spread the virus.
A second is of course constantly monitoring symptoms and testing people once they have symptoms. Removing them from interaction with others. A third is social distancing, PPE. We'll have recommendations. These committees will make recommendations about how to conduct a teaching interaction in a safe manner. We'll be modifying our class sizes.
If we decide to have in-person instruction, we'll be modifying our classes. We'll be lowering the density in those classes. Students will be wearing masks. Faculty will be wearing masks. I had a discussion today with a public health expert who was saying, we really should be making sure that our students' interactions in the community, as you know, Katherine, one of the things that we so much value must be carefully calibrated or eliminated during the fall period so that we don't risk others in the community.
The vulnerable populations that were mentioned. Any individual in that population, as defined by the CDC, with certainly seniors. So individuals 65 and older are in a vulnerable population according to the CDC, but also people with co-morbidities. Other risk factors would be in those populations. We would urge them not to engage in face-to-face teaching, even with masks on both sides and with social distancing.
And then as has been intimated, we want to give faculty the choice to be able to mount a course online or to teach in person. I've heard from many faculty that they want the opportunity to teach in person, but there are many other faculty who are concerned about it. And we want to give those faculty the option to start now. Think about designing the most valuable educational experience that you can using technology online, as Lisa described.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thank you. That was definitely a question that people had, in terms of whether they will get a choice to teach online or in person. Maybe I'll ask you one more, and then I'll let you take a breather and turn to Julia.
You mentioned Ithaca College, and you mentioned our local community. And there were several questions that talked about the level of regional coordination, whether it be coordinating with Ithaca College around when we're bringing back students or perhaps exchange programs. Whether it be our Ithaca School District and what they're thinking in terms of bringing students back in K through 12.
Some of this relates to specifics about the community. If we have time, we could also get to this question about regional travel and this idea about how far people can go and how the university is thinking about these aspects. So if you wouldn't mind saying a few things on--
MIKE KOTLIKOFF: Sure. Let me take the last part first. So part of-- one of these barriers that I referred to will be guidelines around travel. Because of course if we do everything that we can to keep prevalence low in the community and make sure individuals coming into the community are free of virus and that our interactions don't spread those viruses, and that we get people out of circulation if they are positive, then an additional risk is leaving this community and going to a place with higher prevalence and coming back and starting this again.
So there will be guidelines around travel. We'll issue really detailed guidelines around that. And that will both the students, faculty, and staff that try and preserve safety in the community. And we are all in this together. Really it is a community action that preserves our safety.
In terms of community interactions and interactions and coordination with Ithaca College, with the Ithaca public school system, Lansing public school system, we're having a number of conversations. We'll have more of those conversations once we decide what to do.
If we decide to be residential, as Ithaca College has already announced that they will do, we will make sure that we coordinate things like testing. And we know already that Ithaca College is-- their move in will be delayed. Lisa's been thinking in her terms of our calendar modifications, thinking about what Ithaca College has announced and making sure that we're consistent and don't step on each other's feet.
We will also be coordinating with day care and our school systems to understand what they're thinking about, what they're doing. I'm very hopeful that we can take a community-based approach to this effort that includes the partnerships of Cornell, Ithaca College, the school systems, other community organizations, plus Hugo Medical, plus our Tompkins County Public Health, and all work together to try and mount the safest kind of environment that we can mount.
Now, there are a lot of issues that have to be worked out. The logistics to this are really daunting. And we're working on them. But what we've said at this point is we don't really need to solve every problem, have a solution for every problem at this stage.
What we need to do to make a decision, for Martha to make a decision, is to know that these problems are solvable. That with our partners, we can make sure that we have the right coordination to solve these problems. And that's what we're working on now, and we've made a lot of progress.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thank you. I'm sure it's comforting for people to hear the process that you're using to make these difficult decisions, and along the way, how you're involving many different voices in that. I'd like to turn to Julia now and ask for some of your advice and also guidance for instructors as they're planning for the fall. So what resources will be available to help us prepare for teaching online in the fall?
JULIA THOM-LEVY: Yes. So preparing for any of these ways to teach that we talked about takes time, and it's clearly a big challenge during the summer and the current circumstances, so to acknowledge that. And we have a lot of information from the spring of where the pressure points were. We have feedback from students, from instructors, from TAs. Very clearly teaching equipment and stable internet connection are at the top, often.
Assessment was very tricky and continues to be tricky. Academic integrity issues. You know, how to structure the material to optimally involve students, how to handle the tools, the new tools we are teaching with, expertly. And then how to support students and to build community in a really new mode of teaching.
And all those will continue to be challenges, and we'll have to prepare as best we can. Now, we're getting several resources ready, and those are also being discussed in the committees. So again, going through Center for Teaching Innovation, we'd like to offer training sequences that run throughout the summer. Teaching elements of good online design that could be implemented and adopted by instructors through webinars. Facilitating faculty discussions.
You know, there were a lot of creative solutions that were discovered, and it would be interesting to bring faculty together. This is already happening, but it's best, if we can, to facilitate and help with that. And also to having self-guided resources, of course, for specific elements. For example, assessment in an online environment, to really engage with that as best we can.
We are servicing software and equipment needs and are looking at ways that we could perhaps pool those needs and do orders together. For example, Lisa mentioned microphones. I'm teaching in person, I need to, as best as I can, involve students who are remote, then I may need a good microphone. It depends on the class, it depends on the space and so on. But trying to think about those needs early and then do orders together.
Remote access to tech, to software, was an issue and continues to be. And we're trying to come up with the best tools we can to help instructors and then do training early. Maybe it'll come up later, but we have to develop course materials that are accessible or designed to be accessible for individuals with vision and hearing disabilities, noting that SDS continues to be there to support our students. But we have to make best efforts to try and make those materials accessible.
And so we've acquired university-wide licenses to make that as easy as possible, to identify where we are in a certain course, which, you know, to-- it generates automatically accessible formats and then also helps the instructor understand for materials that are not easily made accessible of what to do next. And so those will be rolled out and will be ready for people to learn. We're training staff volunteers at the college level and doing everything we can to really help instructors. Because we know it's a tricky and challenging time.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thank you, Julia. And you're right on. There was a question about the accessibility and how do we meet our students ADA requirements. And so I think you've addressed that. And I think that the bottom line is that there's help available. Please try to get started as early as possible.
So we have another set of questions about exams. A lot of people have questions about online exams and what we've learned from this past experience. Some people have worried that online exams haven't worked as well as they would have liked them to. And questions related to how to proctor these exams have come up. So what are your thoughts about giving exams in person, even for all-remote classes?
JULIA THOM-LEVY: Yes. So assessment and then related academic integrity issues were identified as key challenges in the current teaching situation. And I think that the online teaching situation has amplified existing challenges with assessment. And it's a good time to look at this carefully. There's no one-size-fits-all solution, unfortunately.
We have in many cases, especially in smaller classes, and most instructors already do this, one can consider alternate assessment, trying to get away from the high-stakes traditional exams to more creative solutions or asking for more creative expressions from students, such as team projects and so on or breaking up assessments into smaller. So there are certain best practices in an online environment that can be implemented.
But having taught very large courses myself and gateway courses, I know this is not always possible. And so we would like to, if at all possible, give instructors an option to give an in-person exam even if what we're teaching is an all online course. So that may not always be possible. It depends on availability of rooms and making it safe. But it's something-- and maybe Lisa can talk more about that-- that we are very interested in.
You talked about the calendar option. Going through Thanksgiving would be an opportunity to maybe have an in-person exam at that point. So I'll stop here. Let maybe Lisa comment also.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Lisa, do you want to add anything?
LISA NISHII: I was answering a question in the Q&A. But I think you're talking about in-person exams. Right? Yes. We know that there's a big demand for that and a huge preference that has been expressed, certainly by faculty for us, to build in a significant number of days before transitioning to online instruction so that in-person assessment is possible. And even for courses that might be taught online throughout the semester. Of course only the students who are here in Ithaca will be able to take the assessment in person, but yes, that is our thinking right now. Did that answer your question? OK.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thanks. So Julie, I have another one for you. And this is one that is also on the tip of everybody's tongue, is teaching a lab or a studio class. And so how should instructors think about delivering content in courses that have lab sections?
Now, some of this might be that they're indoor labs. There have been some questions about outdoor labs. I'm not sure how much into the weeds you want to get, but perhaps some broad based understandings about how instructors should think about that and what tools might be available.
JULIA THOM-LEVY: Yes. So labs and studios are really a challenge. Being in the physics department myself, I know much creative work has been done in the spring semester just to try and think about labs in a way that allows for doing it remotely or doing elements of it online or pivoting to think about it as a data analysis or self guided experiments and also in the studio space, of course. But some labs are just not-- it's not going to be possible to achieve central learning outcomes in a way that is completely online.
And so I think we want to prioritize for those classes to provide some sort of in-person delivery. And it may require spacing out labs. Now, I know this is very, very challenging, for example, for the big chemistry courses, where you already have so many labs, and trying to space them out even more is hard. But we will look at all options to try and make that possible.
Having said all that, I think I want to encourage-- and everybody is already thinking about it that way-- but encourage lab instructors to think about ways that remote students could be optimally included. Maybe if somebody is missing for two weeks, to make it possible for a lab buddy, another student, to link them in as much as possible through an iPhone or sending data their way to work more on that during this time.
So it will need a lot of creativity at the local level. And just to say that there are local IT teams. And of course the CTI will be there to answer questions and try and support as best as we can.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thank you. And CTI is such a valuable resource. So thank you so much for all of that. Lisa, I'd like to turn it back to you. We talked about different types of course structures, from labs to lectures, but maybe we'll get down to a question that came across a lot is how do we determine the limit on size for an in-person class? You know, should we have in-person classes in the fall?
LISA NISHII: So I am hoping that there will be some guidelines for this when the governor does put out comprehensive guidelines for higher ed, as Martha indicated earlier. Our best guess so far, based on a number of different sets of guidelines, is that 50 is a good number for us to be anticipating. And to be honest, even if the number were higher, that is if it were allowable for us to have more students in the classroom, it would be really difficult for us to accommodate classes that are that much bigger and that many of them, just because of the need for us to maintain six-foot distancing.
And so that's what we've been planning around is a max of 50, but of course you have to count the faculty members. So. And if there's a TA, maybe it's 48. If it's one faculty member, it would be 49 students who could be in the class. Of course it could be possible for enrollment to actually be higher than that, because there are students who are participating in the class remotely and don't actually take up classroom space.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thanks. So another question I came across. And I think that this might be a question for you. It might be a question for Mike. But there's been a lot of wondering about the role of graduate teaching assistants. And what are we thinking currently, or how are we thinking about the expectations of teaching assistants being in the classroom or supporting and supporting instruction in the fall?
LISA NISHII: Yes, this is a great question. So student and disability services, Student Disability Services, SDS, is putting together a process of mechanism for students, undergraduate and graduate students, to register if they have health conditions that put them at elevated risk for COVID-19. And so this process, it works well.
We have a great office, and it's been in place, as you know, for a long time. And so that's the process that we'll use. For graduate students, that means that if they register with SDS, then the SDS counselor would work with them to figure out an appropriate accommodation, which for TAs might mean teaching remotely, TA'ing remotely. Or it might be a change in their assignment to another class that is being taught online.
Or it may be that their TA appointment becomes an RA appointment. I think it's a case by case and department by department decision, what the solution would be. And as usual, there is an appeal process in place that is available to students.
There is another category, which is TAs who may be living with somebody who is at elevated risk. And in that case, SDS is not an appropriate process, because it is not about the student's own health condition. So for that we'll have to put into place a different system.
And the system will be that students can discuss their duties with their faculty advisor or supervisor and try to come up with a resolution to the situation. And if that's not possible, then there'll be a series of follow-up conversations, first involving the DDS, then the department chair, and then the dean's office, and it can then go up to the graduate school to get resolved.
Then there too, there will be a process in place for graduate students to file grievances if needed. And that same process could be used for graduate students who just simply don't feel comfortable teaching or TA'ing in person. But like I said earlier, all of this is going to be-- we have all this information we need to collect, about classrooms, about the courses, about TAs, faculty, and put it together to try to come up with a solution that works.
And so I think we're going to have to go back and forth several times to get all the pieces in place. But in a short time frame, right? To create the roster.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Many, many moving pieces.
LISA NISHII: Many, many, many, many.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Many moving pieces. So if I can turn to another topic. And Lisa, I'll ask you, but maybe this is-- somebody else wanted to chime in on this too. So we talk a lot about what happens inside the classroom.
What is-- there are some questions about-- well, students spend a lot of their time, obviously, outside of the classroom. And even within the classroom, what are we thinking about consequences if students don't follow the health protocols that we've established if we're having a resident semester? What's some current thinking about that?
LISA NISHII: I'll answer about the classroom. So the expectation is that we will have assigned seats that are clearly marked. And every room is going to be examined, and the seats will be marked. Because we have to ensure that there is six-foot distancing between students.
So that's number one. Students will know their assigned seat, and that's the seat that they'll sit in every single time. And that will facilitate contact tracing and also help faculty notice if there are students who may be absent because maybe they're sick.
The mask wearing is the other thing. And this is really important, that people wear masks. And I realize that not everyone is used to wearing a mask, and they'd prefer not to. But I think if we tell students, you are expected to wear masks in the classroom and in public, and they show up, and they don't have a mask, I think the faculty member says, oh, OK. Go back and get your mask, and then return to the classroom.
And I don't think it'll happen very many times. Right? I think it will just be one or two examples of that, and students will then learn that this is for real. I need to make sure I have my mask before I leave my room to go to classes. And I think we have an obligation to do that, to care for each other and keep our community as safe as possible.
MARTHA POLLACK: Let me jump in and say a word about outside of the classroom, because this is something I worry a lot about. And I do worry, as I said, at the outset about how realistic it is to assume that young people, between the ages-- you know, most of our students are between 17 and 22, 23, are going to observe social distancing requirements. It's something I talk a lot with Ryan Lombardi about.
I think we all agree that if we're going to be able to do this, there are going to have to be behavioral expectations first. And as you mentioned, Lisa, they might forget to bring a mask. But that's not the big worry. You can address that. The big worry is what are we going to do about big parties, for example.
And Ryan's best thinking on this is two things. One, we've got to do this culturally. We've got to start from the get go and get our students to begin to recognize that life is different, and they have to monitor each other. The whole notion of bystander intervention that we've used in other contexts will become relevant here.
The second thing we're going to have to do is have parents involved from the beginning. We usually-- not that we don't interact with our parents, but the parents send students off to school, and they're at school. And if there's a real problem, we go to the parents, but for the most part, they're adults, they're young adults, and we leave them on their own.
In this case, we're going to have to start upfront by telling parents that these are the expectations we're going to have. And if the students are in violation of this, we're going to have to contact you and get you involved. There's just no way around it. We'll have to see. We'll have to see if it works.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thank you. Mike, I'd like to turn to you then. And it's a nice follow-on in many ways to this line of questions and answers. And it's thinking about how we might also limit transmission of the virus or exposure in residence halls. What is the thinking about this. And this has been raised again as something that could come back and affect the wider community.
MIKE KOTLIKOFF: Yeah. This is one of the toughest problems, because I'll just sort of map out the general thinking about how we would do this. But I'll start by saying that we don't have the ability-- we don't have the capacity in terms of our own dorms, for example, to have one person in a room. So we can eliminate triples. We can eliminate some doubles. But by and large, we're not going to be able to have a single room.
We also have issues of bathrooms. And there is a group looking very carefully at how to modify behavior to create a safe situation. But again, upfront from that is first of all, making sure through testing that people are virus-free when they come in and continuing to test that population and make sure that they stay virus-free. So we are relying much more than one would in virtually any other situation on continuing to ask the question, do we have virus circulating in the population, and continuing to get people out of the circulation as quickly as possible.
So in the beginning, we're thinking about testing everybody before they come, immediately after they come, and then anybody that is tested as positive and has to quarantine, we would quarantine away from the dorms, so people going in the dorms, to the best that we can ascertain, are free of virus.
Then we will also have these behavioral alterations that I discussed and continue to survey and test for the virus and remove people and put them in quarantine if they are infected. But it is a real significant challenge. I mean, it is the biggest difficulty that we face. And Martha has stated and others have stated that in some ways, a college campus is like a giant cruise ship. And in some ways it is, and that's why we're looking very carefully and with the best epidemiologists and public health officials in terms of whether we can do this safely and making the determination based on that.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thank you for that. So Mike, I have a couple of more questions for you. To pivot a little bit, it's related to teaching, but it's thinking about some of the financial implications that the university is facing. And there are several questions that came in about whether or not the financial situation will affect differing levels of support for teaching, such as support for teaching assistantships, or such as the hiring of adjunct faculty. And perhaps you could maybe give some insight into that.
MIKE KOTLIKOFF: Thanks, Katherine. Yes. Martha and I went to the Faculty Senate yesterday and talked about the financial challenges that COVID-19 imposes on us. We haven't discussed that today, but they are significant. They scale with the solution.
So if we have a residential campus, we have the smallest financial challenge. If we have a partially residential campus, and we bring some students back, but not others, we have more of a challenge. And if we bring no students back, we have the biggest financial challenge.
We've looked very hard at ways in which we can address the budget gap, particularly for fiscal year 2021, to try and address these issues. Let me say that as Martha mentioned in her overall goals, every one of these solutions or remedies has been designed to try and preserve all of our positions and jobs and staff as much as possible in this crisis.
There has been no consideration of a reduction in TA stipends or numbers of graduate student stipends. There's been no discussion or consideration, and there will be none, of eliminating some class of faculty, some class of teaching faculty versus other faculty. We're treating this as a community in which we try and have shared pain. And Martha and I outlined some of that shared pain yesterday. But I can reassure individuals that I know feel like they're in a vulnerable class, and that the first thing that the university will do will be to eliminate people in class A or class B, that is not the case.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thank you for that. I'm sure that that has put a lot of people at ease. Another question, and this kind of goes a little bit back to regional travel, but one that we specifically didn't touch on, and that is several people have questions about our interactions with New York City. You could say specifically will the campus-to-campus bus be running. We miss the campus-to-campus bus.
But also just in thinking about, say, people who might have commuted between the two. And maybe you could just share a little bit about how the university is thinking about our One Cornell campus during this period of time.
MIKE KOTLIKOFF: Yes. Well, I can say there's lots of One Cornell stuff going on, and there's lots of great collaboration between [INAUDIBLE] in Ithaca, Cornell Tech in Ithaca. Martha and I were on a call today with a great presentation about diagnostics for SARS COVID too.
The fall will be an unusual fall. We will not have the campus-to-campus bus almost certainly, in any case. And we will restrict travel to and from. I mean, we really have to rely on certain of these barriers to make sure we have a safe campus, and we can't compromise that in ways that put us all at risk. So as I've said, as Martha has said, and others, there is there is no perfect solution here. There is no risk-free world that we're in currently.
There are going to be cases in Tompkins County, whether or not we bring students back. As Martha said, students are coming back anyway. And they're going to bring cases with them. And we have to address that reality and try and limit the risk to our populations as much as possible. And all of the-- I know that Lisa's committee, Gary Koretzky's committee, is working on testing and health remedies.
Those committees will recommend a number of steps that will guide our decision about whether or not we can do this safely. And almost certainly those will impose restrictions on our normal academic life. We won't have seminar visitors. We won't be going out to universities to give seminars. We'll have more Zoom meetings. All of those things that we hold dear, we're going to have to compromise somewhat.
MARTHA POLLACK: Excuse me. On that sobering note, I am going to have to leave, because I've got to get on this Governor's call, but thank you. I want to thank everyone for participating. I'm sorry to jump off a couple of minutes.
MIKE KOTLIKOFF: Thanks, Martha.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thank you, Martha. We just have a few more minutes. And we've had so many wonderful questions that have come in, I wish that we had the opportunity to answer them all. Clearly, there's a lot of questions around sizes of classes, the ability to teach very, very large lectures of hundreds of people, as well as the continued questions around labs, continued questions around exams, questions about some specificity around PPE and the types of masks or face gear. So again, I know that there's so many more questions than we're able to answer, but I hope that it's come across that there is a lot of people working diligently on answering these details.
But perhaps I'll ask one more. Lisa, do you have an estimate of when pre-enrollment will happen? Is that-- or how are you thinking? It that contingent upon the governor's decision? And so are we in a waiting game for that? Or perhaps you can allow people to understand some of the factors that are understandably going through your head right now.
LISA NISHII: So not this week or next week. I can tell you that. And the exact date is-- I can't grab this fact from my brain right now. I think it'll be, hopefully, some time in maybe late July or so. A lot of things need to be put into place beforehand, but I really don't want anyone to quote me on this. But we will try to map out what we think a realistic timeline might look like in our report.
MIKE KOTLIKOFF: Katherine, can I say one final thing? And that is [INAUDIBLE], I want to echo Martha's initial comments about the grace and diligence with which the faculty have responded to this crisis. But I also want to urge faculty to start as soon as you can. If we know that courses are going to have-- if they are in person, they're going to have an online component at the end of the fall semester. That's almost certain, that they'll either be all online or partially online.
I really urge everybody to start thinking about that now, to take advantage of CTI. They're a fabulous group. We've put in place support systems. So really take advantage of that as soon as possible so that we're in the best possible position relative to a fall semester.
KATHERINE MCCOMAS: Thank you. And on that note, I think I would like to thank all of our panelists for their thoughtful remarks. And to our audience members, I hope that you've found answers to some of your many questions. I think the level of activity that I see in the question and answer session as well as what came through the survey shows that faculty are thinking. We're thinking about this now, which is exactly when we should be asking these questions.
And we know that some of the best minds in the world are here at the University. And if we put thought to it, I believe we can come up with these creative ways to address this. But I again want to thank all of the work that Lisa and Julia and Mike and Gary and members of the committees are doing to plan for the reactivation of the campus. So please join me in thanking our panelists. And I think it is 5 o'clock, so I will officially end the session. Thank you.
MIKE KOTLIKOFF: Thanks all
LISA NISHII: Thanks.
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For the last month, committees comprising faculty, staff, and students have been working on planning for the upcoming semesters. Should the campus re-open for in-person instruction in the fall, we are likely to operate with blended instructional modes that contain online components.
Introductory Remarks: Martha Pollack, President. Panelists: Mike Kotlikoff, Provost; Julia Thom-Levy, Vice Provost for Academic Innovation; and Lisa Nishii, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education. Moderator: Katherine McComas, Vice Provost for Engagement and Land-Grant Affairs.