Cornell plans to return students to campus for fall semester


ITHACA, N.Y. (WSYR) — Cornell University announced Tuesday students will return to the Ithaca campus for the fall semester that begins September 2. But, like other colleges and universities that have announced reopening plans, campus life will be very different.

Cornell sent students home in the spring after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and switched to a distance learning model for the remainder of the semester.

“From classrooms to residence halls to dining facilities, no aspect of campus life will be quite the same as before the coronavirus pandemic abruptly forced a shift to virtual instruction in early April,” Cornell  President Martha E. Pollack said in a message to the Ithaca and Cornell Tech campuses.

Pollack said students would be expected to follow strict behavioral measures and take part in a comprehensive testing program aimed at detecting and limiting the spread of COVID-19.

Among the changes students can expect to see on campus is the requirement for masks in classrooms, classrooms with assigned seats and modified to promote safe distances, residence hall rooms limited to single or double occupancy and assigned bathrooms, and dining halls that will provide to-go meals or accept online reservations to seat students at socially distanced tables.

“I am asking all of our returning Cornell community to adopt a culture of shared responsibility for our safety and well-being,” Pollack said. “That will necessitate behaving, both on-campus and off-campus, in ways that at times will be difficult and may feel constrained but are crucial both for Cornell and for the greater community in which we live.”

Cornell officials say they concluded that students would be safer attending classes on campus rather than virtually.

The university learned from surveys that if it pursued online learning only, many students would return to the Ithaca area anyway and take residence in off-campus housing.

In such a scenario, university researchers concluded that 2 to 10 times as many students could be infected or seriously ill than if it reopened campus.

The university concluded that it would not be able to control student behavior in that situation, nor administer a large-scale testing program.

Cornell’s plan has to be approved by New York state officials.

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