President Pollack, Cornell Admin Discuss COVID Readiness and Anti-Racism as Unconventional Semester is Set to Begin

The Sun spoke with President Martha Pollack, Provost Michael Kotlikoff, Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi, Vice President of Facilities and Campus Services Rick Burgess, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Presidential Advisor for Diversity and Equity Avery August and Vice President for University Relations Joel Malina about Cornell’s reopening plan and anti-racism initiatives.

GUEST ROOM | Cornell Should Pay Closer Attention to its Own Reopening Model

The Cornell reopening model hinges on two factors: Students will return to Ithaca, as found in survey results, and Cornell has no jurisdiction over students who live off-campus, making testing for COVID-19 difficult if the campus is closed. Testing is integral to their model, as it should be, and inability to test off-campus students would mean COVID-19 could and would spread, potentially largely undetected. These factors are contestable, but let’s assume for a moment the model works, at least within its own framework. The model demands testing, testing and more testing within the Cornell community to keep the virus from spreading. It, of course, takes into account the relationship of the campus to the broader area: “We were surprised to see that the outside infections had such a large effect on results.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Re: ‘The Paradox of Fall Semester’

To the Editor:

Sun writer Anil Oza quotes from President Martha E. Pollack on the scientific basis for opening Cornell and Andrew V. Lorenzen highlights some important issues with that decision in his column.  On a broader scale, science often involves making a model and testing it. Cornell leadership has, under very difficult circumstances, overseen the development of a COVID-19 model and plan in which the Provost and President strongly believe. As many Cornell students are taught, confidence in a model depends on how well predictions of the model have been tested and supported. The Cornell model has not been tested, but the first test involving all of us is imminent. Maybe the outcome will be in accord with the model (hopefully!) and maybe not.