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
- Faculty Information
- Health Information
- Mentoring Remotely During Disruption
- Remote Working, Teaching, and Learning
- Resources (COVID-19)
Will I continue to receive my stipend this semester?
Graduate assistantship and fellowship stipends will be maintained, as communicated by the Provost on March 15, and by the Graduate School on March 13. The salaries and stipends of staff, students, and postdocs will continue on grants or other sources as usual. (See COVID-19 Update: Conduct of Research from 3/15/20 and the FAQs from the Research Division for more information.) Work on your academic, research, scholarship, and teaching responsibilities remotely, and stay in touch with your faculty advisor/supervisor to gain their guidance on how to plan your activities over the coming weeks to be most productive.
Faculty supervisors and graduate students should remember that University Policy 1.3 is still in effect, with the hours/week limits on assistantship duties as required in that policy. (See Additional Guidance for Faculty from 3/13/20.) Cornell’s Research Division emphasizes: “It is important to remember that under no circumstances should graduate students or postdocs be required to go into the laboratory or perform any essential research tasks against their will. Students with concerns should contact their Director of Graduate Studies, Department Chair, or the Dean of the Graduate School.”
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.
Is the university pushing back the drop deadline?
The last day to drop courses or change grading basis has been extended to be Tuesday, May 12.
Due to the rapidly evolving situation, students should continue to monitor their email and the university websites for future updates.
Can I take my A, B, or M exam remotely?
Below are answers to these questions and guidelines to follow during this time when all exams (A, B, and M) should be conducted remotely using Zoom or other video platforms.
- 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 for tests occurring during the remainder of Spring 2020. 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 7 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 7 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 3-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.
Do research students need to return to Ithaca if they are currently out of the area or can they stay where they are?
As Cornell has moved to remote instruction and most campus facilities are no longer open to students there is no requirement or expectation that students who are out of the area will return to the Ithaca area for the spring 2020 semester. We encourage students to move quickly to the location where they feel safest, and then plan to remain there for the duration of the disruption. All A, M, and B exams can be completed remotely.
Given current restrictions, is the deadline to form a Ph.D. special committee postponed or can it be more flexible?
The Graduate School will be flexible if students need some extra time to meet their milestones due to the COVID-19 disruptions.
However, we encourage students to be creative and persistent in working to finalize their special committees even in the coming weeks. For example, you may try having conversations with faculty via Zoom or by phone.
Students may effectively use the coming weeks to review literature or pursue other activities suggested by committee members. We’re trying to find the silver lining to a very unfortunate situation!
Will the Graduate School extend the thesis/dissertation submission deadline?
The thesis/dissertation submission deadline has been extended to Friday, May 15. Refer to the Thesis & Dissertation Planning Timeline for detailed information on deadlines and submission requirements.
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.
Can graduate classes be taken S/U?
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.
What can I expect with my TAship if I am asked to isolate?
Speak with your TA advisor ahead of time to develop a contingency plan in case you become ill during the course of the semester. Talk about how much notice is ideal and how they prefer you communicate with them if you become ill. You may want to include an appropriate back-up plan for course instruction (who will be teaching, what material will be covered, etc.). A little bit of planning and having this conversation now could help make things go much more smoothly in the future.
If you become ill: communicate with your TA advisor about your illness and the directions that you received from your health care professionals; take the time you need to recover and get well, as detailed in the March 23 Graduate School update; and when you are ready to return, make sure that you alert your TA advisor to be able to pick up on your assistantship responsibilities. You will continue to receive your assistantship if you need to quarantine or isolate yourself as a result of COVID-19. If you have any questions or concerns about this process, please work with your Special Committee Chair, DGS, or the Graduate School.
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
Will research and conference grants, including planned (or cancelled) summer attendance at conferences and confirmed travel, still be supported by the Graduate School?
Related to the travel ban, we will strive to continue to make Graduate School funding available for our research travel grant program for graduate students after general pandemic-related travel restrictions are lifted. It is quite likely that conference travel grants will not be available until Cornell’s travel ban is lessened or lifted.
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.
How do I get Access Funds?
The COVID-19 Access Fund application, which offered limited financial assistance provided by the GPSA (Graduate and Professional Student Assembly) and GPSAFC (Finance Commission) to support needs associated with these pandemic-related circumstances, closed on April 1. Beginning April 2, students can apply for Access Funds through the online form.
If Commencement occurs after I’ve left Ithaca, can the money for my robes be refunded?
According to the Commencement office, students who can’t return at all and who have placed an order will get a refund. Reach out to the firstname.lastname@example.org office directly for further questions concerning the refund process.
Will I still qualify for the stimulus payment if I did not file a tax return last year?
The recently passed law provides economic impact payments up to $1,200 for single adults and $500 for children under 17. Payments start phasing out for those with income above $75,000 in adjusted gross income for individuals, $112,500 for heads of household (often single parents), and $150,000 for married couples.
According to the IRS website, if you have not filed a tax return for 2018 or 2019, you can still receive a payment as soon as you file one. They suggest including direct deposit banking information on the return. People who filed a return for tax year 2018 or 2019 don’t need to do anything else to receive the funds. If you filed a return in 2018, but not 2019, they will use the information on the 2018 return to process the payment.
Is Cornell Health planning on staying open?
Cornell Health expects to remain open during the remainder of the spring semester and beyond. However, 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 is also developing 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 expects to remain open during the remainder of the spring semester and beyond. However, 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 is working through legal/regulatory/insurance barriers toward being able to introduce video visits soon.
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.
Parking and Transportation
Does Cornell provide transportation if you need to go to Cornell Health for an appointment or to pick up a prescription?
Unfortunately, Cornell Health cannot provide transportation at this time.
Can students who are remaining on campus and working in labs that are conducting essential research park anywhere on campus?
Cornell Transportation will not enforce regular parking permit restrictions, with the exception of a few areas, between March 17 and April 10. For more information, visit parking on campus.
Can I be reimbursed for my parking pass?
Students who no longer need to park on campus may return their parking permit by March 31 for a pro-rated refund. Return your parking permit via campus or US mail to: Transportation Services 116 Maple Avenue Ithaca, NY 14850.
Please include your full contact information in the event Cornell Transportation needs to reach you in order to process your refund. The refund amount will be calculated on the day they receive the permit. See: Student Parking.
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. Governor Cuomo has waived all entrance fees during the current COVID-19 public health crisis.
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 email@example.com.
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?
Virtual research help and online resources continue to be available and are quickly evolving to reflect the situation; however, library buildings are closed and physical books are currently unavailable. Check the library’s website for status updates and make use of the following alternatives:
- Access extensive online collections; use Passkey to get through the paywalls
- Place an online purchase request, and the library will order what you need
- Place a course reserve request
- Contact your instruction coordinator for online library instruction and for redesigning research assignments for the online environment
- Library Support for Remote Teaching guide – expanding daily, and includes a wealth of material on electronic resources, open educational resources, and other instruction aids
- Schedule a Zoom meeting with a librarian
- Real-time assistance from virtual reference staff
- Email questions to the Ask a Librarian service
- Consult our COVID-19 & Copyright at Cornell guide
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.
Is Cornell preventing students from leaving Ithaca during the pandemic?
Cornell has no restrictions on students’ leaving Ithaca; however travel restrictions have tightened worldwide and are changing daily.
While we encourage students to relocate wherever they are most comfortable and supported, we are advising students that their return travel to the United States may be difficult, especially if the university resumes normal operations before borders are fully open. We are also anticipating long backlogs at consulates and embassies so it may be slow to get visas.
There is another potentially significant consideration. Although there will be no suspension in spring semester assistantship stipends it seems unlikely that the university will be able to appoint students on summer or fall assistantships if they are outside the U.S. We’ve been working on this, and there are some challenging laws and regulations that may make this impractical. As you consider your options you should be aware that this is an unresolved issue that presents a risk if you plan to be supported on an assistantship (TA, GRA, RA, or GA) in the summer or fall.
Students supported on fellowships are generally not required to be in the U.S., so the above restriction only applies to assistantship support.