May 26, 2020

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Re: ‘Cornell Needs to Postpone the Fall Semester’

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To The Editor:

Deepti Talesra ’21 and Paula Amols ’75  both make great arguments for not opening the University this fall. There are issues regarding the quality of education online, issues of comradery, and significant financial burdens to Cornell University, Ithaca and the student body. We do not have a crystal ball; we have flawed changing models of the pandemic’s progress and a ton of unknowns as to what will or may happen this fall and coming winter.  Coming out of shelter-in-place too early will likely lead to a second wave of disease and death beyond anything we personally have ever experienced.

Physically calling students back from all over the world where the virus is at various stages of infection could present a significant health problem for the Cornell and Ithaca communities. Experts and data suggest that a vaccine will not be available this year and maybe not be fully available until later next year. Lastly, one model mirrors that of the Spanish Flu in 1918 — a fall explosion of infection and death that would be enormous due to a lack of isolation, vaccine and a more virulent virus strain.

So, I hope the University will make any decision to reconvene in-class or person-to-person classes as late as possible and give deep consideration to not calling back professors, staff and students, an action which would ultimately place them in the midst of a potentially huge health catastrophe.  The wisest choice may be to start the semester as California is doing, beginning the education cycle virtually and waiting until the Spring 2021 semester to reopen a vibrant campus.

Harry Wachob ’69,’71,’76