March 12, 2020

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Cornell, Care for Your Community

Print More

To the Editor:

Today as an alumnus, I received a fundraising email for Cornell Giving Day 2020 that concluded with the sentence, “thank you for your understanding, for being a part of our community, and for all that you do to care for each other.”

Over the last weeks and days, many difficult decisions were made as part of an effort to protect the physical health and well-being of those in our community. These decisions lead to potentially disruptive changes to the daily lives of those in our community, and I believe it is the responsibility of the campus leadership to also mitigate such difficulties. I call on the administration to make the following commitments to care for those in the Cornell community who will be most affected by the policy changes:

  1. Room and board must be prorated for students leaving campus, as Harvard has already committed to doing.
  2. The petition process to remain on campus must be transparent, consider students’ unique circumstances including but not limited to their home lives and mental health, and be open to appeals.
  3. For coursework where distance learning would lead to logistical difficulties (such as classes involving studios, laboratories, etc.) that would significantly lessen the quality of instruction, an appropriate refund of tuition must be considered.
  4. Students who live off-campus should not be mandated to return to their permanent residence unless they receive sufficient financial assistance in matters of paying local rent and utilities.
  5. Currently employed Cornell staff, including students employed by the University, should not see a disruption to their income as a result of a decreased population on campus.

I sincerely hope that the University leadership would carefully consider each and every one of these commitments (which in total would cost only a fraction of Cornell’s existing $7 billion endowment) while it asks for further alumni and donor support.

Aaron Chen  ’17