President Martha E. Pollack’s long-awaited Tuesday announcement welcomed Cornellians back to campus, but described a Cornell that faintly resembles the one students left in March. Many say they are still thrilled to return to Ithaca in September, while others were skeptical of the reopening message, wary of what social distancing will mean in an environment built for socializing.
In light of the circumstances that come with COVID-19, Cornell has decided to commit to a reopening plan that will include, in part, an in-person semester. For the incoming freshman class and transfer students, their first Cornell experiences will look different.
The reports — which “provide a clear sense of the considerations that will go into final decisions about whether … we are able to invite our students back to Ithaca,” Pollack wrote in a Monday afternoon email — offer the most comprehensive look yet at what college in the era of COVID-19 may entail.
All three Reactivation Committees chartered by President Martha E. Pollack have submitted their reports on time, an announcement slid onto Cornell’s COVID-19 FAQ page reads. It is the ‘hope’ of the administration to announce the status of the fall semester in Early July.
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.
The COVID-19 pandemic has already upended our lives at Cornell and beyond. It will undoubtedly continue to do so into the fall. The question Cornell students are yearning to know is: How different will this fall be for us? We are almost uniformly dreading any decision that would make the fall 2020 semester much different than it has been in the past. But … would a little change really be that bad?