Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

A student rolls her belongings out of Dickson Hall on March 15, 2020.

March 17, 2020

Student-Generated Spreadsheet Provides Safety Net for Those In Need

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Amid the tumult resulting from Cornell’s March 13 announcement to suspend classes , students created their own safety net through a spreadsheet that features resources ranging from housing to transportation and even plant sitting.

Over 200 students and faculty members have entered their contact information onto the sheet, which was generated on March 11 by Jeff Pea grad and Manisha Munasinghe grad, who is also the graduate and professional student trustee.

The spreadsheet provides space for peoples’ names, contact information and their ability to help lift heavy objects and drive students to airports. It also asks if they have space in their homes for guests.

Munasinghe said she noticed that undergraduate students were unsure where international and low-income students would go if the University asked them to leave, especially if they are not comfortable returning home. Now, as students scramble to book flights as borders close, help is welcomed wherever it is offered.

“I was watching a lot of my grad student friends post about how they had extra housing spaces and were willing to take anybody who needed a place to stay, but I wasn’t seeing a lot of crosstalk between those two groups,” Munasinghe said.

Munasinghe took inspiration from the spreadsheet created by Simone Fried, a Harvard graduate student. Fried generated the sheet after the school announced on March 10 that it would transition to online classes for the rest of the spring semester. Harvard students were given until March 23 to vacate their dorms.

Their peers at Cornell are now expected to do the same as soon as possible, following Friday’s announcement that classes in all forms would be suspended and online instruction would begin April 6.

“I guess I am disappointed but unsurprised,” Munasinghe said regarding the University’s choice to move classes online for the entirety of the semester. “I recognize that they are trying to act in a way that minimizes the spread.”

However, the students were concerned that the suddenness of this decision and the lack of resources provided alongside the announcement “might cause a lot of anxiety,” Pea said.

“The recommendations from the University policy [at the time] didn’t really stipulate any additional resources that students [could] go to,” Pea added.

On Friday evening, Ryan Lombardi, vice president of student and campus life, sent an email to students outlining additional information regarding housing, dining and financial support. He linked the University’s page regarding the virus for resources, which provides a phone number for Cornell Health, international travel information and pay guidelines for employees.

Lombardi also stated that students in on-campus housing will receive a rebate for housing and dining if they were not staying in their housing after March 29, but the amount of compensation is unclear. Additionally, PE and swim test requirements were waived for seniors who have not yet completed them.

In the email, students were also encouraged to reach out to Cornell’s counseling services if necessary.