Planning efforts for fall 2020 semester

Dear Cornell Community,

The health and well-being of our community remains at the forefront of our COVID-19 response. We understand that the spring semester has challenged our faculty, staff, students and their families, and that ongoing concerns for public safety are creating uncertainty for the fall semester. Whether your college or program is based in Ithaca or New York City, current and newly admitted students alike are wondering what the fall semester will entail in a time of continued social distancing. As we engage in detailed planning, we are very mindful of the ways in which residential experiences are a hallmark of campus life and provide students with crucial opportunities for formative personal growth. Significant efforts are being devoted to planning aimed at enabling our residence halls to reopen in the fall.

As President Pollack noted in her message from last week, the university has established four planning committees to help us to determine the best path toward reopening. We remain hopeful that, working with public health and other scientific experts, we will be able to resume campus operations and welcome students back to our campuses for the start of the fall semester; however, it is simply too soon to make that guarantee. New York state is developing guidelines to reopen by region, which will play a key role in our timing. We are currently working with local and state public health partners to develop protocols for testing and monitoring that will be necessary to operate safely.

Even when we reopen our campuses, the virus will likely remain a part of daily life and social distancing measures will need to remain in place until that threat passes. The planning committees are also developing recommendations for how to accommodate faculty, staff and students who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, as well as exploring accommodations for international students who may face challenges traveling to the U.S. due to visa or government-imposed travel delays.

While we look forward to returning to our regular daily routines and reconnecting with friends and colleagues on campus – or, for our newly admitted students, beginning their academic careers – much will depend on the progression of the virus, availability of testing and guidance from New York state officials.

We appreciate your grace and patience during this time of uncertainty and look forward to welcoming everyone back to campus as soon as it is safe to do so.


Michael Kotlikoff

Visit Cornell's official information page for all COVID-19 related messages.