Cornell announces return to campus, citing ‘public health’ benefits of in-person classes

In an email to students, Cornell President Martha Pollack stated that the university plans to have in-person classes with remote options for students who cannot return.

Cornell recently announced that students will return to campus this fall.

Cornell University has announced plans to “reactivate” its Ithaca campus for the upcoming school year, with primarily in-person classes. 

On June 30, President Martha Pollack announced that the Ivy League school will reopen in the fall.

“The key consideration in our decision to reopen is public health,” Pollack wrote.

Cornell will have in-person instruction and offer students who are unable to return to Ithaca the ability to take courses online. According to the email, students will return to their “permanent residences” after the Thanksgiving break and complete the remainder of the semester online.

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Pollack cited an analysis conducted by Operations Research and Information Engineering Professor Peter Frazier and his team, which she noted found, “residential instruction, when coupled with a robust virus screening program of the form we intend to implement, is a better option for protecting the public health of our community than a purely online semester.” 

According to the university, students were planning on returning to Ithaca regardless of whether or not in-person instruction occurred, and without a reactivated campus, the administration would not have the ability to regulate and prohibit activities. 

Hudson Scanni, an undergraduate student at Cornell University’s College of Engineering told Campus Reform that the news is very much welcome. “It’s great and a huge improvement over online classes. If the university can seamlessly integrate the hybrid environment then this unique semester will be an enjoyable one for all.”

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Weston Barker, president of the Cornell Republicans, told Campus Reform that he also has confidence in the plan.

“The reopening plan seems by all accounts to be the result of a solid mix of epidemiological research and community input,” said Barker, adding that he is “looking forward to the release of more information concerning the university’s approach to monitoring the behavior of its students.”

But the format of the plan has left other students unsure. Quinn Otto-Moudry, a rising senior in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, is supportive of Cornell’s decision to reopen but is skeptical of the logistics. 

“I’ve personally been supportive of Cornell reopening - albeit with some changes to campus policy to accommodate the complications of COVID,” Otto-Moudry told Campus Reform. “With that said, I do have some concerns about the logistics of a half in-person and half online semester.”