FAQ (COVID – 19)
Below please find a collection of FAQs developed from recent graduate and professional student and faculty questions. This FAQ will update frequently, please check back if you don’t find your question answered.
For the Cornell community:
Cornell University COVID-19 Updates
COVID-19 information for the graduate and professional student community:
- Graduate School COVID-19 Updates
- Fall 2020 Student FAQs (7/31/20)
- Reactivation FAQs
- Faculty Information
- Health Information
- Mentoring Remotely During Disruption
- Remote Working, Teaching, and Learning
- Resources (COVID-19)
Academic and Registrar
When are courses open for pre-enrollment, and when are the new deadlines for add, drop, and submitting my thesis/dissertation?
The university is working through these details now. We will post them in Announcements as soon as they become available. Please monitor Announcements and Cornell’s COVID-19 pages for more information.
Since Cornell will have a hybrid fall semester, can I still take my A, B, or M exam remotely?
Students who are able to take exams remotely are encouraged to do so. Your advisor or special committee chair can help you schedule your exam. All participants, including the student, can participate remotely from different locations.
- Conduct Exams Remotely All exams should be conducted remotely until notified otherwise. This includes exams scheduled previously. All participants, including the student, can participate remotely from different locations.
- Proctor Requirements The proctor requirement for remote exams (A, B, and M) has been waived. Although we believe a proctor for A exams continues to have value for fields where the model has been an on-site, no-notes, monitored exam, we also believe that it is essential that we adhere to social distancing guidelines and remote work practices for those who may be asked to proctor. Under the current circumstances we ask that special committees design and administer the A exam in a way that will not require proctoring while preserving standards of academic integrity.
- Exam Scheduling Please encourage students to schedule exams seven days in advance using the online scheduling forms available on Graduate School Forms page. Once digitally signed and submitted by the student the schedule form will automatically be routed to the field and special committee for approval.
- Students should enter Remote via Zoom in the Exam Location field on the form.
- Faculty should indicate Remote Participation using the checkbox provided for participating remotely.
- Fields may assist with setting up the remote meeting or request that students do so directly.
- Announcement of Exams Because the campus is moving toward a model of mostly remote work, please announce exams to all field faculty via email at the time of the scheduling via email. Include the date, time, and the Zoom link. This should still take place seven days in advance so faculty have time to plan to attend.
- Exam Results In lieu of ink signatures the Graduate School will accept an email approval of the results. Use the Exam Results Template on the Forms page to provide the outcome of the exam and attach all email approvals. Send to email@example.com. The Graduate School will be flexible with the three-day deadline but please adhere to the deadline unless otherwise not possible.
- Postponement of Exams The Graduate School will offer flexibility if petitions for delaying an exam are needed.
I am wondering if any classes in my program will provide “online” versions for international students who are unable to travel back to Cornell. How do I find out?
As President Pollack noted, Cornell will offer “hybrid teaching, with some classes online and some in-person.” If you will be enrolling in courses, more information will be provided about the modality of each class before you need to finalize your course selections for the fall semester. You’ll receive additional information when it is time to enroll in Fall 2020 courses. At that point, if you have any questions about which courses are appropriate for you academically or in a certain modality, contact your degree program for guidance.
Will the Graduate School be flexible if students need extra time to complete academic milestones?
The Graduate School has signaled flexibility with how milestones will be met, depending on individual circumstances related to COVID-19 disruptions and transitions. All exams (master’s, A exam, B exam) may be taken remotely. Petitions for time extensions associated with milestones (e.g., forming a special committee, A exam, etc.) should explain the reasons for the extension request and the amount of time extension requested related to those reasons.
Research degree students and their special committee chairs should use the annual Student Progress Review to reflect on the past year’s achievements and progress, consider and document COVID-19-related disruptions and how the student’s scholarship has been affected, consider what reasonable pivots could be made in the focus of research directions and academic plans as a result of those disruptions, and identify realistic plans for the future to continue to make progress toward degree completion. As indicated in prior communications, including the March 30 communication to the Graduate School community, graduate students and graduate faculty should identify approaches for graduate students to remain productive remotely and continue to make academic progress.
Faculty and fields are working hard to identify appropriate future plans and funding streams to support graduate students’ academic progress and completion given the pivots that everyone will need to make given COVID-19 disruptions, and the Graduate School is supporting those efforts.
For the fall semester, I will be funded on an assistantship and I am very concerned about my health if I am TAing an in-person class. What should I do?
First, don’t assume that the course you will be TAing will be in person. Course modality (online vs. in person with remote options for those not able to be in person) will be determined at the local department level. That process is ongoing. If your department has not yet communicated with you about the modality of the course you are scheduled to TA for the Fall, reach out to your department to inquire about the anticipated plans. Many courses will be fully online, and behavioral modifications will be made in all in-person courses (e.g., classes will be limited to no more than 49 students; masks will be required; physical distancing will be enforced).
If you determine that the anticipated modality for the course you are assigned to TA is concerning for your own personal health reasons and you wish to seek accommodations, register through Student Disability Services(SDS); additional details are in this chart. The process is designed to be straightforward and respectful of student privacy. Faculty have been reminded that they should NOT discuss medical issues with students and should refer students to SDS if they express concerns about their personal health, without probing for any details.
Zebadiah Hall, director of SDS, has provided assurance 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.”
If you are scheduled to TA this Fall, you may have already received an invitation directly from SDS to register for accommodations. Follow the instructions in that invitation and SDS will work to support your needs.
I am very concerned about in-person activities. What should I do?
Some students have expressed concerns about returning to campus for a variety of reasons (e.g., concerns about a household member).
Speak with your committee chair, assistantship supervisor, and DGS to explore other options for fulfilling your research, scholarship, and assistantship responsibilities and continuing to make academic progress. Faculty have been instructed that if a graduate student asks for help identifying options because they have concerns, faculty should not probe for personal details about the student or their household members. Rather, faculty should acknowledge the student’s 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.
Faculty have also been reminded that Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, creating additional stress for many of our students, and should be aware of this context as an additional compounding factor when identifying potential options.
If a graduate student and faculty advisor and DGS are not able to reach agreement regarding possible options to address their concerns and enable the student to continue to make academic progress or fulfill their assistantship responsibilities, the protocol in the chart should be followed 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.
As a TA, how do I stay connected with international students who have returned to their home countries?
Students in countries that block access to Google may be having trouble accessing their Cornell email accounts without using a VPN. You can access Cornell email without a VPN through Outlook, and it can be used as email during this time.
Students in mainland China cannot access: Google products (including Cornell student email accounts), Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Box/DropBox, Slack, Skype, LINE, Kakao Talk, Instagram, Whats App, or FlipGrid.
Students in mainland China can access: Zoom, Canvas, Schoology, OneDrive, Office Online, iCloud, Wechat, Panopto, and Piazza.
For more information, see the Knight Institute’s Guidance for International Students: Getting & Staying Connected to Cornell and Guidance for Faculty: How to Get and Stay Connected with International Students.
If I see people working on campus without approvals, how can I report my concerns?
To report behaviors that you have reason to suspect are occurring without appropriate university approvals, in violation of current university or New York State protocols, you may report your concerns via the anonymous EthicsPoint Hotline.
Funding and Finances
Cornell leadership announced additional measures to address Cornell’s FY21 budget deficit. Those actions include reducing for one year salaries and wages in contract college units, with reductions up to 5%. I am a Ph.D. student on a teaching assistantship in a contract college. Will my FY21 stipend be reduced?
No, graduate student assistantships and fellowships are not included in employee pay reductions. In addition, just for information, annual reductions range from 0% to 5% based on the rate of annual pay. Annual pay for employee salaries up to $39,999 will experience no reduction. In early spring the university announced that 2020-2021 academic year assistantship stipends would be increased by 3%, following the long term trend of 2-3% annual increases. The university has reaffirmed that there will be no reduction.
Do I need to take vacation time if I get COVID-19?
To take care of your physical health, follow Cornell Health advice. Please let your supervisor know if you become ill and need to have time to get well, including if you are directed by a primary care physician, health department, or other health professional to self-quarantine or isolate, and you are temporarily not able to conduct activities associated with your academic progress, or to conduct duties associated with your assistantship.
Graduate students are not required to use vacation time available to them under University Policy 1.3 to cover time away because of illness. Graduate students on fellowships and assistantships who experience illness and need time to get well, including if you are directed by a health professional to self-quarantine or isolate because of pandemic-related issues, will continue to receive their assistantships. This includes assistantships funded by sponsored awards.
The approval process normally required by University Policy 1.3 (p.14) is not required when a graduate student has been directed to quarantine or isolate by an authorized health professional. Take the time you need to recover and be well, and to continue to practice social distancing (or isolation/quarantine) from others.
Will conference grants still be supported by the Graduate School?
While University travel is restricted, the Graduate School is modifying our Conference Travel Grant program to help cover the cost of student participation in online conferences. To be eligible, student must be accepted as a presenter. The grant will cover up to $200 towards the cost of conference registration. Students are eligible for one conference grant per year. Forms are available on the Graduate School website.
Will summer funding as detailed in the offer of admission continue under the current circumstances?
There are no current or planned disruptions to Cornell fellowship or assistantship stipends, and all students should still expect to receive summer funding as long as they are making progress towards their degrees. If you are unsure about whether you’ll be able to make academic progress over the summer speak with your special committee chair or DGS to identify academic goals that can be pursued remotely.
What do I need to do to be able to access campus since I am already living in Ithaca?
If you are seeking to be approved to resume on-campus research activity, contact your faculty advisor or research supervisor so they can begin the process of requesting approval from their department and college for your return to on-campus research. If you are approved to conduct on-campus research activity, be sure to first complete the online training EHS 2019: Return to Campus Health and Safety COVID-19 (this can be completed at any time), complete the Daily Check each day before coming onto campus, and wear a cloth face covering/mask when inside campus buildings and maintain physical distancing. If you are in Ithaca and seeking to resume on-campus activity related to coursework, you should not come to campus until the University issues specific guidance on required virus testing and campus return procedures.
Is Cornell Health planning on staying open?
Cornell Health is temporarily reducing hours and limiting in-person services. In-person services are now limited to urgent care needs and pharmacy services, and routine medical and mental health services are being provided via phone or secure online portal. Cornell Health also developed telehealth and telecounseling services for students that leave Ithaca. Please call to schedule all visits and phone or virtual appointments, as unscheduled walk-in traffic is no longer allowed.
Should students go to Cornell Health if they feel sick?
The situation is extremely fluid. For the most up-to-date information, visit Cornell Health’s Coronavirus News and Updates.
Cornell Health has reduced hours and are limiting in-person services.
- Cornell Health’s in-person services are now limited to pre-screened urgent care needs and select pharmacy services, in keeping with CDC guidelines for Pandemic Operations.
- Please CALL (607-255-5155) to schedule appointments and be pre-screened for visits (including visits to the pharmacy). Cornell Health is unable to receive unscheduled walk-in traffic into the building at this time.
- Many routine medical and mental health services are being provided via phone consultation or secure messaging. Cornell Health now offers video or phone telehealth appointments.
Does the Student Health Plan cover COVID-19 testing and treatment?
The Student Health Plan (SHP) covers testing at no cost and treatment will be covered with cost shares. Please see the SHP website for more info.
The SHP covers tests anywhere in the world, and the plan year ends on July 31, 2020.
There is not yet information on the location of testing centers but you can contact Cornell Health if you have symptoms or believe you were exposed. They can identify testing facilities if that is medically indicated.
You can also monitor local information at the Tompkins County Health Department.
As a self-pay student, do I qualify for a no-cost Student Health Plan (SHP)?
We know that many students will be dealing with exceptional financial pressures in the coming months. If you are a self-pay student and will reside in New York State for the 2020-2021 academic year you may qualify for Student Health Plan Plus (SHP Plus). The plan has no premium costs, no copayments, and no coinsurance. SHP Plus is an option for qualified students with modest household incomes under a partnership with New York State. Many graduate and professional students meet the income and residency requirements, even if they have just arrived in NY.
The deadline for enrolling in the fall is June 1, 2020 for an August start, but students who apply in August can convert their regular SHP into SHP Plus beginning in October and receive a refund their plan premium. For more information Visit the Student Health Benefits website. This plan is not available to fully funded students with Cornell fellowships or assistantships.
Are students approved to work on campus required to use face masks?
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order on April 12 instructing all employees present in the workplace to wear face coverings when in direct contact with others. The order went into effect at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 15.
As per the executive order, employees will be provided face coverings by employers. Graduate students who have university approval to be on campus and engaged in essential research or other activities should ask their supervisors for instructions on how to obtain appropriate face coverings.
Social distancing and other efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 should still be practiced while wearing a face covering. For additional guidance, read Cornell’s Workplace Guidance on Face Coverings.
With gyms closed, where do I go for exercise?
If you are in New York State, go to a park!
All year-round state parks, trails, and grounds of historic sites are currently open for outdoor recreation and enjoyment. If you plan on visiting, please wear a face covering and maintain safe social distance. Park density limits are in effect.
To encourage social distancing during this crisis, all public programs and events are suspended indefinitely. Many large indoor visitor facilities, such as nature centers visitor centers, and historic houses, will be closed to the public indefinitely.
State Parks will provide updates periodically on social media and at parks.ny.gov. They will also be available to respond to questions or concerns regarding visitation opportunities at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a list of wellness activities and exercises that can be done at home, visit the COVID-19 Resources page.
Is the library open for research?
Cornell University Library is rolling out services to give scholars and researchers access to physical collections and continues to provide enhanced online resources for Cornell students and faculty. The library is also planning other services over the course of the summer.
Since the library is closed, how do we access news media?
The Cornell University Library compiled a list of sources for accessing daily news. Students may also consider purchasing discounted subscriptions. A few available options include:
- New York Times: $4 per month for students; recent articles are available through the Cornell Library as plain text through Factiva. The New York Times is also providing free access to articles on the coronavirus outbreak.
- Wall Street Journal: $4 per month for students; available to all Cornell students, faculty, and staff through campus membership.
- Washington Post: $5 per month for students; recent articles from the last two weeks are available through the Cornell Library as plain text through Factiva.
For virtual access, visit Today’s News – A Cornell University Library compiled list of news sources and access information.
How do I update my CV to reference a canceled conference presentation?
APA style has just posted the correct way to cite a cancelled conference presentation, including citations for conferences that have gone online. Visit their website to learn more.
What relocation procedures should I be following as I prepare to head back to Ithaca?
If you have not yet returned to the Ithaca area, but intend to do so, please be mindful of your own health and the health of others when planning your return to the local community. Monitor your health, use excellent hand hygiene, practice physical distancing, wear face coverings, and follow the CDC guidelines on safe travel. Review and abide by the New York State COVID-19 Travel Advisory requiring quarantine if you travel from states/regions with high infection rates. On July 2, Vice President Lombardi notified all Cornell students that students should seek viral testing at your current residence 5-7 days before you depart for Ithaca. Cornell plans to have a local testing program beginning in mid-July for all students, including those arriving into the area this summer. Watch for details from the university leadership and on the University’s COVID-19 website and FAQ.
Do research students need to return to Ithaca if they are currently out of the area or can they stay where they are?
Implementation teams working in concert with NY State and Tompkins County Health Department are working out the logistics of a safe return for graduate and professional students. These will be communicated to you soon. Please check Graduate School Announcements or your inbox for special announcements.
If you are a research degree student, keep in mind that if you can continue to work effectively on all or portions of your research activity while remote, you should continue to do so. If you are seeking to be approved to resume on-campus research activity, contact your faculty advisor or research supervisor so they can begin the process of requesting approval from their department and college for your return to on-campus research.
If you are approved to conduct on-campus research activity, be sure to first complete the online training EHS 2019: Return to Campus Health and Safety COVID-19 (this can be completed at any time), complete the Daily Check before coming onto campus, and wear a cloth face covering/mask when inside campus buildings and maintain physical distancing.