Faculty and Field Information (Updated 8/31/20)
Information for Faculty and Fields
- CTI Resources for Remote Teaching and Class Administration
- CTI Webinars for Teaching Online
- Student Disability Services
- The Research Office
- The Library
TA Teaching Modalities - Clarification - 7/9/2020
Dear DGSs and GFAs:
Please forward this to the department chair(s) related to your field, as relevant.
It appears that there is a misperception among some departments, faculty, and graduate students that graduate Teaching Assistants (TAs) are, by default and university-wide, being required to teach in person. That is incorrect. Curriculum & pedagogy rest with the departments and faculty; departments and faculty should be determining teaching modality for Fall ’20 courses.
What should be happening regarding Fall ’20 TA assignments is that the department makes (at least tentative) assignments of graduate students to TA positions, and communicates with the TA about the intended modality for the TA assignment. This could be online, in person, or “either,” depending on the needs of the department. If the graduate student has any reason for wanting to TA only remotely, and if the TA appointment modality as described by the department is “either” because the modality does not matter for the pedagogy/curriculum, or is “online,” then the TA teaches remotely and there is nothing more to decide.
If, however, there is a mismatch between the modality the graduate student needs/prefers to teach in (e.g., remote) and the modality the department has identified as required (e.g., in person), then this process pertains, as communicated earlier.
Additional detail was shared with graduate fields (and via fields with graduate faculty) in this 7/2 message (click on the 7/2 message to expand to see the content). First bullet: Communicate with your graduate students about expectations for on campus vs. remote activity for Fall semester. Third bullet: … Let graduate students know what course they will be assigned, and the modality. If it does not matter to the appointing department what modality the TA operates in, then indicate that to all of your TAs and let them make the choice, no questions asked, no reasons provided, no registration with SDS needed, etc.
Faculty are very much in the driver’s seat to provide great flexibility to graduate TAs regarding teaching modality, if the modality of the course does not matter for the department curriculum. It is only in cases where the demands of the department regarding teaching modality don’t match the preferences/needs of the graduate TA for teaching modality (or other needs of the student) that either of these processes (SDS if personal health or talk with TA supervisor, etc. as needed for non-health issues) get invoked. For example, if assigned to remote teaching, some TAs may require assistive technology as an accommodation for a personal health condition; in these cases, the student should register with SDS to gain the appropriate accommodation support. Or, if assigned to in-person teaching, some TAs may require accommodation for personal health protection, as determined through SDS.
The process communicated earlier for TA accommodations and options pertains regarding teaching modality only when there is a mismatch between the graduate TA’s preference/need and the teaching modality of the TA assignment determined by the department to meet the needs of the curriculum. The process is intended to provide protections for the graduate student when there is disagreement between the graduate TA’s preference/need and the required teaching modality of the department’s course.
As a useful example, one department has communicated language similar to the following to its faculty instructors. You may wish to encourage your relevant department chairs to communicate similar information, if indeed your department curriculum modalities are flexible:
“Dear Department X Instructors,
COVID-19 will continue to be a major concern for many people during the next academic year. The University administration has made it clear that instructors will not be required teach in any manner that makes them feel uncomfortable. Those who do not want to come into direct contact with students can elect to teach online.
As instructors, we need to show the same level of concern for our TAs. Some TAs will be fine with teaching in-person within appropriate social distancing guidelines. Others will not want to teach in-person. Others may be willing to teach some components in person (e.g., small discussion sections) but other components only remotely (e.g., group lectures). Our department is leaving decisions about TA teaching modality to the TA; we are not pre-determining the teaching modality. Now that TAs have been assigned for each course, you should talk to the TAs for your course as soon as possible to find out what teaching modality they prefer, because our department curriculum is not modality-dependent. Then you can plan their duties for this modality.
Please keep in mind that you cannot do any of the following:
- Demand that your TAs justify or defend their modality preference
- Ask TAs for information about their health
- Threaten to rescind TA appointments for those who do not want to teach in person
Online teaching will be prevalent, especially in the fall semester. Even courses that are taught in person must have a parallel remote component. It should not be too difficult to design remote teaching components for those TAs who do not want to teach in person. If you believe, however, that it is not possible to provide your TA with their preferred teaching modality, or if they have need for personal health accommodations unrelated to the agreed teaching modality, then the TA should follow this process so that the graduate student’s interests are protected.”
Please let me know if you have questions. As a reminder, under no circumstances, should a student be asked to share personal health information with a faculty member. Thank you.
Barbara A. Knuth
Dean of the Graduate School
Options and Accommodations for Graduate Students - 7/2/20
Dear DGSs and GFAs: (Please distribute to graduate faculty in your field.)
On June 11 we communicated the general process for identifying accommodations and options for graduate students, including a chart summarizing the processes for addressing COVID-19 concerns of graduate students related to academic progress and assistantship responsibilities. I am following up with additional guidance for you and for your graduate faculty, as DGSs and faculty have important roles to play in this process:
- Remote vs. on-campus activities: Please communicate with your graduate students about expectations for on-campus vs. remote activity for Fall semester. If a student’s academic progress and/or assistantship responsibilities can be performed remotely, please emphasize to them that they should continue to conduct those activities remotely. As the university leadership has indicated, even as the campus reactivates, any work that can be done remotely should be done remotely to help meet de-densification goals on campus.
- International assistantships: Students on assistantships may be able to perform duties remotely from within the US but are generally not legally allowed to be on an assistantship while outside the US. There are very limited exceptions available, and those require careful documentation in close coordination with your department or college HR lead.
- Expectations for Fall TAs: For graduate students who will be appointed as Teaching Assistants for Fall, let them know what course they will be assigned, and let them know the plans for that course (e.g., Online only? In-person and remote? If in-person, explain what that may look like in terms of numbers of students and size of room, distancing protocols to be followed, etc.). Having information about the conditions in which TAs will be working will help them consider whether they need to pursue alternative accommodations or options in relation to their personal health status or other COVID-19 concerns.
- Accommodations for students with personal health concerns: Graduate students concerned about their own health and wishing to seek accommodations should register through Student Disability Services (SDS). Faculty should NOT discuss medical issues with students; refer students to SDS if they express concerns about their personal health, without probing for any details. As described in the preamble to the chart, a range of accommodations and options may be explored. For a TA, for example, accommodation might include remote teaching for a course otherwise scheduled to be in person, revised assistantship duties (e.g., assignment to a different course), additional PPE, etc.
- SDS social justice approach: Zebadiah Hall, director of SDS, assures us that “SDS takes a student’s social, environmental, emotional, and biological context into account when making determinations about accommodations. In fact, SDS strives to engage with students in a way that is empowering and that discusses the needs for support within the context of the students’ lived experience. SDS acknowledges that for many students, this experience may include painful instances, or daily reminders, of ableism, racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression. SDS counselors do not share with faculty members, staff, or others, any information that a student does not wish to share.”
- Options for students with general concerns about in-person activities: Graduate students concerned about returning to campus for other reasons (e.g., concerns about household member, general concerns about the global pandemic) who may be expected to return to campus may seek faculty and DGS assistance and approval for other options for fulfilling their assistantship responsibilities and continuing to make academic progress. If a graduate student asks you to help identify (and approve as relevant) options because they have concerns, do not probe for personal details about the students or their household members. Rather, acknowledge their general concern about returning to campus, and work with them to identify options. The chart provides examples of what options might look like, such as conducting assistantship duties at different off-peak shift times, pivoting research activities away from lab-based to computation-based, teaching remotely, or otherwise revising assistantship duties.
- Consider context: Please keep in mind that Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, creating additional stress for many of our students. Be aware of this context as an additional compounding factor when identifying potential options.
- Enable remote work as possible: Please be creative and accommodating when exploring possible options with students, allowing remote work whenever possible, and avoid probing for any personal details about a student or their household members. (Again, remember that students with personal health concerns should register with SDS to identify accommodations.)
- Help resolving concerns: If you are not able to reach agreement with a graduate student regarding possible options to address their concerns and enable them to continue to make academic progress or fulfill their assistantship responsibilities, please follow the protocol in the chart to bring in others to assist in finding a solution, such as the department chair, the college dean’s office, or Jan Allen for the Graduate School as outlined.
- Above all: Please keep in mind that a key guiding principle is to strive to foster graduate students’ abilities to complete their degrees.
Please share this guidance with the graduate faculty in your field. Let us know if you have questions. Thank you for all you are doing for your field and graduate students in these challenging times.
Barbara A. Knuth
Dean of the Graduate School
Campus Reactivation Accommodations and Options for Graduate Students – 6/11/20
Dear DGS and GFA Colleagues:
As Cornell gears up for broader reactivation of on-campus research and scholarly activity, there may be concerns raised by graduate students regarding returning from remote activity. The chart below outlines the processes to follow regarding how to address various scenarios for graduate students related to COVID-19 concerns vis-à-vis academic progress and engagement, including coursework, dissertation and thesis research, and assistantship responsibilities.
The processes in the chart will be used to discuss and determine appropriate accommodations (for personal health conditions, via Student Disability Services), or other options (via the campus offices described in the chart). A guiding principle is to strive to foster graduate students’ abilities to complete their degrees.
In summary, graduate student personal health concerns (including quarantine required by Tompkins County Health Department) should be addressed through Student Disability Services, whether related to coursework, dissertation/thesis research, or assistantship responsibilities. Graduate student general concerns (not personal health) about returning to campus in the midst of a global pandemic, including concern for vulnerable individuals in the household, will be handled either by (for coursework and dissertation/thesis research) discussion with faculty advisor, then faculty DGS, then Jan Allen/Graduate School, or (for assistantship duties), discussion with supervisor, then faculty DGS, then department chair, then college/school deans office, then Jan Allen/Graduate School.
Possible Accommodations (disability/health-related) or Options for Graduate Students May Include the Following, as Appropriate for the Situation (this is not an exhaustive list):
- Remote/online learning, teaching, and/or research opportunities.
- Revised responsibilities (e.g., revised learning assignments; pivoted research – e.g., change from lab-based research to computation-based research; revised assistantship duties with same funding source).
- Revised funding source (e.g., change from TA to RA/GRA; change to different TA with different teaching responsibilities).
- Additional PPE – personal protective equipment – provided by the university/department/PI (e.g., N95 masks, protective gowns).
- Being on campus in different shifts during de-densified time periods.
- Rescheduling on-campus duty times to enable getting to campus in a way that avoids public transportation (or uses public transportation, depending on what the barrier is).
- Issuing parking space close to location of academic activity if required to be on campus at non-standard times.
- Taking leave of absence (health leave, personal leave) from academic program.
Funding Accommodations for Graduate Students - 4/13/20
Dear DGS and GFAs,
The Graduate School is announcing several funding accommodations to support students who have had their funding plans disrupted by COVID-19.
Emergency summer fellowships – The Graduate School has created a fund to provide emergency $3000 summer fellowships to students who lost planned summer funding due to the public health emergency. These special fellowships are available only to students who have no other form of funding, are in good academic standing, and are within the period of guaranteed funding. Students must be nominated by their DGS using the attached form, indicating how the summer was planned to be funded prior to the COVID-19 disruption. Funding is limited, so fields should actively explore additional funding options. Nominations are due by May 1st.
Fellowship extensions – Graduate School fellowships, including Sage, SUNY, and Dean’s Excellence, may be delayed into the 13th and 14th semesters, via request to the Graduate School by the DGS, specifying how the student’s academic progress was delayed by the COVID-19 disruption. Normally fellowships must be used by the 12th semester of study.
Sage summer fellowships – Students who have not yet passed their A exam will be awarded their 2020 Sage summer fellowship as long as they complete their academic activity report and have plans to make degree progress over the summer. Students and special committees are expected to make necessary adjustments to research plans and summer goals.
Advanced use of Sage dissertation writing fellowships – Students are normally ineligible to draw on their Sage dissertation writing fellowship prior to the successful completion of their A exam. However, students who must delay their A exam due to COVID-19 may request use of their fall 2020 Sage dissertation writing fellowship as long as the A exam scheduling form is submitted to the Graduate School prior to August 15, and is scheduled to occur before December 18, 2020.
Graduate student funding at Cornell is a shared commitment between fields, departments, faculty advisors, and the Graduate School. Finding solutions for students in need during this exceptional time will also require collaboration. The Graduate School offers as much flexibility as we can within our finite budgeted resources. I urge fields and departments to continue exploring all funding options for students who are encountering hardships this spring and summer. Please don’t hesitate to contact me directly with any questions.
Associate Dean for Administration
Extension of Spring Assistantship Period, Stipend Supplement - 4/8/20
Dear DGSs, GFAs, and Grad Awarders,
As you know, Cornell’s spring 2020 academic calendar has been adjusted to accommodate the COVID-19 disruptions. The revised schedule now extends regular instruction through May 12, with the exam period ending on May 23. Many graduate Teaching Assistants (TAs) provided support for course instructors during the weeks between March 13 and April 6 when classes were paused and content was moved to an online delivery format and will now be asked to extend their service later into May as well. To account for the extra time commitment the Provost and academic Deans have approved extending the spring appointment period for all graduate assistants by 5 days, with a corresponding increase in stipend.
You may recall that appointment period dates in Policy 1.3 (pp. 10-11) were planned to be adjusted in Fall ’20 anyway, so this shift of 5 days represents an acceleration of that planned change. The appointment dates are:
|Spring 2020||1/1 - 5/15||1/1 - 5/20|
|Summer 2020||5/16 - 8/15||5/21 - 8/20|
|Fall 2020||8/16 - 12/31||8/21 - 1/5|
|Spring 2021 and Beyond||N/A||1/6 - 5/20|
The change moves the appointment period into closer alignment with the regular academic calendar. Although this consideration is most acute for TAs, the shift will apply to all assistantships (TA, GRA, RA, GA) in order to keep the appointments consistent and to recognize that students frequently move between appointment types.
The Workday support team has confirmed that a systematic adjustment can be made to all spring appointments so units will not need to manually change appointment dates. This is scheduled to occur on April 22. The additional stipend compensation for this spring appointment period will be $456.33 for students receiving the base of $13,609/semester. The cost for this increase will be applied to the current funding source, or can be shifted to another account in the funding unit by manually adjusting the costing allocation in Workday. Units that have already processed summer appointments will need to adjust the start date to May 21.
A communication will be sent to graduate assistants by Friday, April 10 to explain this change. Questions about the policy can be directed to me (firstname.lastname@example.org). Questions about modifying appointments in Workday can be sent to the HR/Payroll helpdesk: email@example.com. Thank you for your patience and flexibility as we worked through this issue.
Associate Dean for Administration
S/U for Graduate/Professional Courses - 4/6/20
Dear DGS and GFA Colleagues:
You may have received directly or seen the April 5 message from the Provost and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education that was apparently sent to all students, including graduate/professional students. The message addressed changes in the course grading policy for Spring 2020.
Details for graduate/professional degree programs are below. Please share this information as appropriate with your graduate faculty and directors of professional degree programs (if any) related to your fields. We’ll post a note about this for graduate/professional students in our Announcements this evening.
For graduate/professional degree programs and courses:
Instructors for courses taken by graduate/professional students may offer an S/U grading option unless not permitted by internal degree program requirements or external restrictions imposed by relevant accreditation or oversight bodies. Essentially, graduate/professional students should inquire with (1) their graduate program to make sure there are no prohibitions from the degree program level to taking S/U, and then (2) ask their instructor if it is okay to choose the S/U grade option. Graduate degree programs may want to be proactive on this, and communicate to your graduate students whether your degree program(s) will permit S/U grade options for students’ records.
Logistically, when a faculty member enters a grade in PeopleSoft’s Faculty Center Grade Roster, they select the letter grade value or S/U. Letter grades are still tracked in the faculty member’s grade book, not PeopleSoft. Faculty have the option, if the degree program allows it, of assigning S/U grades to graduate/professional students in their courses.
(The following dates apply to all Ithaca-campus programs except for the few, like DVM, operating on separate calendars. Cornell Tech students and faculty should follow the Cornell Tech calendar and deadlines.) If the degree program allows S/U grading towards its requirements, students have until May 12, the last day of instruction, to drop a course without a W or change the grading basis of a course to S/U. This applies to any full Spring 2020 semester course, including courses that did not previously offer an S/U grading option, as well as 7-week courses offered in the second half of the semester. Between May 12 and May 23, the last day of the semester, students can still drop any of their courses with a W and petition to change the grading basis to S/U.
Thank you for your flexibility in these challenging times,
Barbara A. Knuth
Dean of the Graduate School
Professional Degree Campus Access Clarification - 3/14/20
Dear DGSs and GFAs with Professional Degree Programs:
I am writing with an important clarification regarding the end date for professional degree students to have access to campus facilities, particularly for those who have materials on campus that they need to take with them as they leave campus, to be able to complete their studies working remotely (e.g., independent or group project materials, capstone project items, project-related lab data or materials, etc.).
President Pollack’s 3/13 message to the community said that professional students must leave campus no later than March 29 (unless they have an on-campus housing exemption, in which case they can still access only housing). My message to the Graduate School community on 3/13 reiterated this information, indicating that professional degree students must not come to campus after March 29 until further notice, unless they have an exception to stay in on-campus housing.
However, the Provost’s message to faculty on 3/13/20 evening, “Additional Guidance for Faculty,” said “professional degree students … will not have access to campus facilities beginning Monday, March 16, to put in place the required social distancing” and mentioned a specific exclusion that “M.Eng. students who are finishing small group projects in laboratories must discontinue these projects by March 27.”
These different messages are causing consternation among some professional degree faculty, and among students who are aware of this mixed messaging (although they did not receive directly the faculty message about March 16, the information has reached some students). This is leading to concerns about large groups of students needing to access facilities all at the same time on Sunday 3/15 or Monday morning 3/16, which is not consistent with the goals of social distancing. And it is producing a great deal of anxiety, not surprisingly.
Thus, the Provost has now clarified that each professional degree program may make, and communicate, whatever arrangements will work for your students, as long as all professional degree students leave campus by March 29. Keep in mind that time is of the essence, as travel conditions and restrictions are changing daily. Ideally, you will make arrangements for students to pick up their materials in ways that allow appropriate social distancing (6’ between people) and have them able to leave campus as soon as realistic, and definitely by March 29.
Please communicate this with your professional degree students and faculty, and make and communicate plans for your program with them.
Thanks for your efforts. Apologies for any confusion. Please let me know if you have any questions.
Barbara A. Knuth
Dean of the Graduate School
Connecting with International Students
- Guidance for Faculty: Getting & Staying Connected with International Students – This page contains suggestions for staying connected with students who have returned to their home countries.
- Access to online platforms for international students in China:
- Students in mainland China cannot access: Google products (including Cornell student email accounts), Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Box/DropBox, Skype, LINE, Kakao Talk, Instagram, Whats App, or FlipGrid
- Students in mainland China can access: Zoom, Canvas, Schoology, OneDrive, Office Online, iCloud, Wechat
- Mentoring During Disruption – COVID-19 has created an environment where faculty need to mentor students remotely, under disruptive circumstances. This page contains suggestions on how to approach this.
- Cornell Store Faculty Resources for Online Instruction – Information on course materials for faculty and students, including access to digital textbooks, custom course packets, and resources from course materials providers.
- Fall ’20 Checklist – This checklist from the University Faculty identifies important issues to consider for the start of the semester as a TA (in partnership with your faculty supervisor as appropriate), including a number of safety-related matters relevant to in-person instruction.
- Fall ’20 Guide for Instructors – This guide includes practical tips that relate to (a) the Behavioral Compact for student, (b) academic integrity, (c) assessment, and (d) effective online instruction.
- The Preparing for Fall Instruction page has been updated with guidance, best practices, and frequently asked questions regarding the fall semester.
- The Cornell University Health and Safety Considerations Subcommittee developed a resource page to inform decision-making for fall semester academic experiences.
- Global Cornell offers Tips for Online Instruction for working with international students, including insights about how masks and physical distance may affect communication in learning contexts.