What can I expect with my TAship if I am asked to isolate?

Date: April 2020


Dear Deans,

I have been following all things related to COVID-19 and practicing good social distancing, but I want to be fully prepared to know what to do with my TAship if I get sick? I know what I need to do medically if I am asked to isolate myself, but what can I expect with my TAship?

-Prepared TA


Dear Prepared TA,

Thank you for asking your thoughtful question. I commend you practicing good social distancing; I want to remind you that Cornell has a COVID-19 website that I encourage you to regularly check out as information continues to evolve. In addition, the Graduate School’s website includes updates, resources, and FAQs that pertain to graduate students.

Dean Knuth’s email on March 23 addresses this issue directly.  

“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.”

That said, to be prepared, I strongly suggest that you speak with your TA advisor ahead of time to develop a contingency plan in case you become ill during the course of the semester.  You should talk about how much notice is ideal and how they prefer that 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. Now, if you become ill, here are the steps:

  • If you become ill, please communicate with your TA advisor about your illness and the directions that you received from your health care professionals. 
  • As Dean Knuth stated above, take the time you need to recover and get well.
  • When you are ready to return, please make sure that you alert your TA advisor to be able to pick up on your assistantship responsibilities.
  • We all want to make sure that you have the time needed to be able to heal and for you to be assured that 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 Graduate School. 

This formula could easily be adapted for students with their research advisors as well. If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to let me know. I’m always happy to meet to discuss, if that is helpful to you.

All the best,

Janna Lamey

Janna Lamey
Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Life