July 30, 2020

Cornell Doubles Down on In-Person Semester as Quarantine Orders Complicate Move-In

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This post has been updated.

In a reversal from previously announced plans, Cornell said that it would no longer provide quarantine housing arrangements for all students living on-campus, Provost Michael Kotlikoff and Vice President of Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi announced on Thursday night.

Now, international students and students returning to Ithaca from one of the 34 states on New York’s 14-day quarantine list must either find a place to isolate off-campus or take courses online until their state is removed.

If a student is unable to quarantine off-campus due to “personal hardship,” they can request an on-campus quarantine arrangement; the exact criteria to qualify for such an exception remain unclear.

As coronavirus cases continue to spark across the country, the message signaled that, for now, Cornell would not back down from its promise of an in-person semester — even as New York-mandated quarantine orders now cover well over half of the country.

According to the email sent by Kotlikoff and Lombardi, the University remains committed to having students return to Ithaca, but acknowledged that mass travel advisories will necessitate some changes to procedures.

Continued delays to course pre-enrollment had prompted fears among some that Cornell would backtrack; Cornell said it would update the course roster by Aug. 7 and course enrollment would take place during the last week of August.

The behavioral compact — originally slated to come out July 28 — will now be released sometime next week, Kotlikoff and Lombardi wrote. Originally only required for students returning to Ithaca, now, all students — including those spending the fall semester at home — have to sign the compact.

Cornell’s sudden backtracking for August move-in came as a surprise to many. University Assembly Chair Prof. Robert Howarth, ecology and environmental biology, wrote that the new plan was “disturbing” in a tweet.

In the past week, the University of California, Berkeley, George Washington University and Duke University have all moved away from their in-person plans in reaction to the climbing coronavirus crisis in the country.

Kotlikoff and Lombardi will host a town hall on the matter Friday at 12:30 p.m.

Meghna Maharishi ’22 contributed reporting. 

Read the full statement below. 

Dear Cornellians,

As we all have been witnesses to, the past several weeks the country has seen a significant increase in COVID-19 cases. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued a travel advisory mandating that individuals traveling from states with high prevalence rates quarantine upon their arrival in New York state for 14 days. The number of states on the travel advisory continues to grow and, as of today, includes 34 states plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.

The past six months have been exceptionally trying for all members of our community. The increases in COVID-19 cases across the country, coupled with the growing travel restrictions, have caused ongoing delays and frequent changes in decisions about the fall semester, move-in process and development of the course roster for enrollment in ways that we could not foresee. Please know that we both understand and share in your frustration and very much regret the challenge this has posed in trying to finalize plans for the coming semester.

Despite these challenges, we continue to plan for a residential experience this fall and remain confident about our abilities to safely reactivate campus. In order to do so, however, we must now make some changes to our plans and deadlines given the growing number of students affected by the New York state quarantine mandate.

Students who plan to live on-campus and are traveling from a state on the NYS travel advisory need to follow these revised guidelines:

  1. Prior to coming to Cornell, quarantine for 14 days in New York, or in a state not currently under the NYS travel advisory. Absent a hardship exception (see below), due to the expansion of the states now under entry quarantine restrictions, we are no longer able to provide quarantine housing arrangements for all students. This is a change from what has been previously communicated.
  2. If you are unable to quarantine for 14 days in New York or in a state not currently under the NYS travel advisory, you should prepare to begin the semester online. As states are removed from the New York travel advisory list, or quarantine requirements otherwise change, you will have the option to return to campus. Cornell Housing will monitor the travel advisory and communicate arrival options as states are removed.
  3. If you are unable, due to personal hardship, to arrange for your own quarantine accommodations, and you cannot remain at your permanent residence and engage effectively in your Cornell education, you may request an exception in order to quarantine on campus. Impacted students will be sent a communication from Cornell Housing next week explaining the exception request process. If you are approved for a hardship exception to quarantine on campus, you should plan to arrive on August 17.

Students who plan to live on-campus and currently reside in states that are not on the NYS travel advisory should do the following:

  1. Prior to coming to Cornell, quarantine at your current residence for 14 days.
  2. If at all possible, obtain a SARS-CoV-2 test prior to departing, and travel to Ithaca only after confirming that your test is negative.
  3. Arrive at Cornell on your assigned move-in date and time. Students will receive their assigned move-in date and time on or around August 7.
  4. Plan for a staggered move-in process to begin on August 23.
  5. Testing will be arranged for you as part of your on-campus move-in.

Students who plan to live on-campus and will be returning from an international location should do the following:

  1. Prior to coming to Cornell, international students should make every effort to quarantine for 14 days in New York, or a state or other low-risk location not currently under the NYS travel advisory.
  2. If at all possible, obtain a SARS-CoV-2 test prior to departing, and travel to Ithaca only after confirming that your test is negative.
  3. Students arriving from an international location who need to quarantine will be assigned quarantine accommodations by Cornell Housing. Plan to arrive on campus by August 17.
  4. Testing will be arranged for you as part of your on-campus move-in.

As a reminder, those students who plan to live off-campus should still do the following:

  1. Prior to coming to Cornell, quarantine at your current residence for 14 days.
  2. If at all possible, obtain a SARS-CoV-2 test prior to departing, and travel to Ithaca only after confirming that your test is negative.
  3. Depending on which state or country you are traveling from, you may also need to quarantine for 14 days upon your arrival in Ithaca. Please note: you are required to quarantine in accordance with New York state guidelines, which includes a requirement to complete a traveler health form.
  4. Schedule an arrival test through the re-entry checklist prior to your arrival. If you are already living in the Ithaca area and have not done so already, schedule your test through the re-entry checklist today.

If your plans change as a result of these revised guidelines, please update your fall housing and arrival information on the re-entry checklist. If you have not yet submitted your housing information as part of the re-entry checklist, please do as soon as possible.

Housing contract extension

To provide students and their families with more flexibility in making the important decision to be on campus this fall, we are extending the deadline for housing contract cancellation to August 31. You must contact Cornell Housing to cancel your housing contract. Updating your arrival information in the re-entry checklist is important but does not automatically cancel your housing contract.

Undergraduate course roster and enrollment

A list of courses and their modalities will be released on August 7. The roster will indicate the modality of a course but will not specify meeting location or times. Online courses are courses in which all students and instructors will interact virtually. In-person courses will meet on campus but will also provide remote access into the classroom for students who are off campus or are in Ithaca but in quarantine/isolation, with the exception of a few courses which, due to the nature of instruction, remote participation may not be possible. The following week, times of courses will be added to the course roster and enrollment will take place during the last week of August. For technical questions about course enrollment see the University Registrar website. For questions about course selection or mode of instruction, contact your college or program’s advising office.

The Cornell Student Behavioral Compact will be posted next week in the re-entry checklist. We are now requiring all students to review and attest to the Behavioral Compact whether or not you plan to live in the Ithaca area this fall. Vice President Lombardi will send another email once it is live.

We continue to appreciate your patience and flexibility as we prepare to begin this extraordinary semester. We know that you are likely to have continued questions specifically about the move-in and quarantine process. Therefore, Vice President Lombardi will host a forum specifically on this topic on Friday, July 31 at 12:30 p.m. EDT.


Mike Kotlikoff

Ryan Lombardi
Vice President for Student & Campus Life