LORENZEN | The Paradox of the Fall Semester

As Cornell administrators face rising concerns from the Cornell and Ithaca community over their reopening plans, they have repeatedly argued that their plans are supported by research which proves there will be fewer infections in a hybrid semester than online. This conclusion relies on a foundational assumption which has been invoked time and time again — that students will return to the Ithaca area regardless of whether Cornell is in-person or online, and Cornell can only properly test and monitor its students if the semester is in-person. By arguing that Cornell must reopen because students will return anyway, the administration has crafted a central paradox for its reopening plans this semester, which has been reflected in its recent convoluted messaging to the student body. For the administration, both the problem and the solution to managing the virus this fall is students returning to Ithaca. Before we consider the paradox wrought by the administration’s logic, let’s first consider the assumption itself.