We hope you have opportunities this summer to relax and enjoy some time with family and friends, and that you are beginning to feel restored after an incredibly challenging academic year. We are writing today with some important announcements and reminders about the upcoming fall semester. Please be advised that guidance could change depending on the course of the pandemic.
Faculty and instructional staff, along with all other university employees, are understandably apprehensive about pandemic-related health risks. As has been repeatedly demonstrated over the course of the pandemic, the university has taken a careful and rigorously scientific approach to such risks, aimed at pursuing its academic mission while placing the highest priority on campus and community health. Our plan for the fall semester is designed to minimize the risk of virus transmission and provide a safe environment for learning and discovery. While some transmission has been observed elsewhere among groups of people with substantial vaccination rates (for example, the CDC reported on a cluster in Provincetown, Mass., where roughly three-quarters of those involved were vaccinated), our on-campus vaccination rate of 94% is higher than those other instances. Moreover, the populations in which these outbreaks occurred were not protected by regular testing, nor did they use masks at the level that they will be used by the Cornell community. Modeling from the Cornell COVID Modeling team suggests that Cornell’s testing and masking interventions will prevent such outbreaks, even with pessimistic assumptions about social contact and masking compliance. More details are available on the COVID-19 Response website.
As such, the university has determined that it is appropriate to return our students, faculty and instructional staff to campus in order to resume normal in-person residential instruction. During such normal operations, in-person teaching is considered essential for all faculty members and instructional staff with teaching responsibilities. Accordingly, the university will not approve requests, including those premised on the need for a disability accommodation, to substitute remote teaching for normal in-person instruction. For individuals with disabilities, the university routinely works to explore a wide array of possible workplace accommodations. Any faculty member in need of any disability-based accommodation should contact the Medical Leaves Administration office (MLA). For individuals who are not able to perform the essential functions of their position because of a disability, MLA can advise them of other options, including the availability of a medical leave. Any faculty member who may need to take a leave of absence in order to care for an ill family member may contact the MLA office to understand their available leave options.