Cornell suspends classes; virtual instruction begins April 6

Dear Members of the Cornell Community,

Each day brings us new information about the evolving pandemic. I appreciate the grace that so many of you have been demonstrating as we adjust to difficult changes to our lives. Things will continue to be difficult for a while, but by working together we will come through this, as we have with other crises in the past.

While the decisions we made earlier this week made sense at the time, we have been continually reevaluating them in light of the rapidly changing national situation, and today we are announcing additional decisions that speed up the implementation of our plans and also change the way in which our faculty and staff work. These new measures are listed below and are all intended to accelerate and to increase the social distancing that public health experts recommend as the best way to mitigate a pandemic.

Classes Suspended at 5 p.m. Today

Effective at 5 p.m. today (March 13), we are suspending all classes on the Ithaca campus for three weeks. We are doing this for several reasons. First, as noted above, it accelerates social distancing. Second, travel may become more difficult in the coming days, and we want students to be able to get to their homes. And third, we recognize the significant stress that students are under currently, making classroom learning difficult.

All undergraduate students and most professional students are strongly encouraged to return as soon as feasible to their permanent home residences; you must leave campus no later than March 29, unless you receive an exception to stay in on-campus housing. This does not apply to Cornell Tech students, research degree graduate students (e.g. Ph.D. and M.S. degree candidates) conducting research that requires access to campus facilities, or to professional students on required clinical rotations, who will continue to have campus access. Undergraduate students with research or other projects and professional master’s students will not be able to continue these projects in campus facilities. Other students will be permitted to stay in campus housing only if they meet certain criteria; for example, international students who are unable to return home. Graduate assistant and fellowship stipends will continue, as will all Federal Work Study compensation. Importantly, students who remain in Ithaca must be prepared for severely curtailed activities and services.

I implore each of our students to comply with this directive. You can do your part to help de-densify the campus and make it safer for those who need to stay by leaving as soon as possible. And as I mentioned in my March 11 message, once you return home, please practice social distancing there as well, avoiding large gatherings.

Following this three-week pause, virtual instruction will begin for all classes on Monday, April 6. Cornell Tech, which has already transitioned to virtual instruction along with some of our other NYC-based programs, will continue to conduct classes online.

I know that many students are concerned about the impact that this disruption and transition to remote learning might have on their academic progress. This is foremost in our minds, and faculty will provide flexibility and alternatives as needed to students.

Remote-Work for Employees

The public health imperatives of social distancing apply not just to our students but to our faculty and staff as well. The university remains open, but units across the university are in the process of finalizing their remote work plans. Those plans must be implemented no later than Friday, March 20. As soon as a unit’s remote work plan is finalized and approved by the college/unit leader, employees whose responsibilities can be carried out remotely are expected to transition to remote work. We expect that, with few exceptions, all employees will continue to receive their regular pay during this time.

More Details to Follow

The above measures will raise numerous questions, and we will follow up with additional communications to students, parents, faculty and staff by members of my leadership team. All of these communications will be posted, along with the most up-to-date information and FAQ, on Cornell’s coronavirus website.

I truly appreciate your ongoing attention to this unprecedented situation and have confidence that our community will make good choices, which will help to protect everyone.


Martha E. Pollack