Cameron Pollack / Sun File Photo

The Ithaca College Library will remain empty this fall, after the college reversed its plan to hold a residential semester.

August 18, 2020

Ithaca College Shifts to Remote Semester as Cornell Sticks to In-Person Fall

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Ithaca College will hold all online classes this fall, reversing its plan to welcome students back to campus by October.

Cornell’s neighbor said the severity of the pandemic and the hampered on-campus student experience that public health measures would have created pushed the college to flip its fall plans, President Shirley M. Collado said in an email Tuesday morning.

Even as cases remain low in New York State, Collado wrote that the reality of COVID-19 is “deeply concerning.” The virus has infected more than 5.4 million people and killed over 170,000 in the United States, and cases remain high in most of the country.

“We have been fortunate in New York State, and specifically in the Ithaca area, to currently have a low prevalence of infections,” Collado said. “These numbers are encouraging, but we have learned from watching other communities how delicate this equilibrium is, and how quickly it can be disrupted.”

Collado added that as the community’s public health trajectory remains uncertain, bringing students to campus could mean sending them right back home, causing unnecessary havoc.

This message comes the day after the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill abruptly shifted to remote learning as the University’s rate of positive cases rose from 2.8 percent to 13.6 percent after the first week of classes.

Cornell has no current plans to follow suit. As Ithaca College tells students to study at home this fall, Cornell has reiterated that a residential semester is safer than a remote term. The University is largely sticking with the model it first announced in late June.

“We respect the decision made by Ithaca College. Every college and university’s situation is different and they need to be able to make their own fact-based assessments,” University spokesperson John Carberry told The Sun. “We remain committed to our science-based approach to a hybrid semester, with its aggressive surveillance testing protocol, as the best way to promote the health and safety of our faculty, staff and students and the greater Ithaca community.”

Ithaca College’s fall semester flip comes as Cornell students are already settling into campus. While Ithaca College required students from travel advisory states to start the semester from home, Cornell has only encouraged these students to study remotely until their state is removed from the list.

After Cornell announced it would no longer provide quarantine housing for on-campus students, Cornellians are now isolating in Airbnbs and hotels across New York. Students from travel advisory states who received housing exceptions are already quarantining in residence halls. Families are driving and flying to Ithaca in the coming week, and the first official on-campus move-in date is five days away.

“I know this decision to continue remote learning through the fall is disappointing, and it does not reflect what any of us had hoped for,” Collado wrote. “But I sincerely believe this is the correct and responsible choice for Ithaca College to help protect the health and safety of our students, their families, our faculty and staff, and our Ithaca-area communities.”