Beginning the Academic Year

By La Jerne Terry Cornish, Rosanna Ferro, July 17, 2020
Student move-in information and health, safety and prevention on campus.

Dear Students and Families:

We are writing today to provide you with details on the plan for opening the Ithaca College campus for the 2020-21 academic year, including information on the student move-in process and how the college intends to provide for the health and safety of all members of the campus community. It is important to note that even these plans may need to be modified as we remain responsive to the evolving pandemic situation and any updates to local or state health and safety guidelines.

While this message may be lengthy, it contains critical information regarding what you will need to know both before coming to campus and once you arrive here to begin the academic year. Where appropriate, we are also including links to the respective sections of the Return to Campus website that provide more in-depth information and instructions.

Impact on Students from States on New York’s Travel Advisory List

First, we want to make you aware of a recent decision by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that will negatively affect the ability of many of our students to return to campus for the foreseeable future. On June 24, Governor Cuomo signed an executive order requiring individuals traveling into New York State from states with a high incidence of COVID-19 transmission to quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival in New York. This has presented a significant challenge for our Return to Campus Task Force as we have considered many different approaches to managing this mandatory quarantine. Unfortunately, the college simply does not have the resources or infrastructure to manage quarantining either on campus or off campus for the large number of students affected by this order.

As a result, we have made the difficult decision that students who have not remained in New York during the summer and whose permanent address is in a state on New York’s mandatory quarantine list will need to take their classes remotely until the state of their permanent address is removed from the New York mandatory quarantine list. No exceptions will be granted.

Students from these states will not be permitted to move into residence halls, or to engage in in-person instruction or other campus activities, regardless of whether they reside on or off campus. We know that this is greatly disappointing, and we hope that continued practicing of appropriate preventive measures will lower the spread of COVID-19 and allow these states to be removed from the list. This list of restricted states is updated regularly on the New York State website.

You will find more details both below and on the Return to Campus website regarding the move-in process and our health and safety program. We want to make sure you are aware of several points right up front:

  • Prior to coming to Ithaca, students are being asked to voluntarily quarantine at home for 14 days and to be tested, if possible, for COVID-19. Any student who tests positive should stay home until they have fully recovered.
  • All students will be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival in Ithaca, by staff from Cayuga Health System. Students will have the opportunity to sign up for move-in and testing dates, as outlined in the schedule below.
  • All students who plan to be on campus for in-person instruction will be required to sign the Ithaca College Community Agreement agreeing to abide by all campus safety standards.

Phased Move-in Plan Details

As we previously announced, Ithaca College will begin the academic year on Tuesday, Sept. 8, with remote, hybrid, and in-person instruction, with the in-person portion phased in over a period of several weeks. This means that the move-in process for students will also be phased in, both prior to and during the first several weeks of the academic year. Students will be invited back using the prioritization process listed below. Every student will receive an email from the college on Aug. 10 indicating which move-in group they have been placed in and identifying when they will have access to sign up for their move-in and testing appointment. The email will include students who reside off campus but must schedule a testing appointment.

Both testing and move-in will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the dates listed.
  • Group 1: Graduate physical therapy students who need to participate in PT Boot Camp.
    Friday-Saturday, Aug. 28-29
  • Group 2: First-year students and transfers, as well as students who have been requested to arrive by their academic department because they are in a class or major that includes hands-on learning starting the first week of instruction.
    Friday-Sunday, Sept. 4-6
  • Group 3: Students who have been requested to arrive by their academic department because they are in a class or major that includes hands-on learning starting in week two.
    Friday-Saturday, Sept. 11-12
  • Group 4: Students who have been requested to arrive by their academic department because they are in a class or major that includes hands-on learning starting in week three.
    Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 17-19
  • All others: Additional dates for which students may schedule move-in and/or testing appointments.
    Friday-Saturday, Sept. 25-26; Friday, Oct. 2.

Critical Move-in Considerations

  • Students who have NOT been requested to return a specific week due to their academic program will be invited to go onto the system and sign up for any available move-in and testing appointment on the day that their building has access to the sign-up system. As noted above, students will receive this date in the email they will receive on August 10.
  • Students who are sharing a double bedroom with a roommate will need to arrive on different days. This will allow time for the college to test both roommates to make sure they both test negative before having them share a room.
  • Move-in dates for fall sport athletes have not yet been finalized. A communication will come out next week with updated information.
  • We are asking students to significantly limit the items they bring with them to move-in. Students in traditional halls can bring two suitcases (or equivalent) and a backpack. Students in apartment units can bring two suitcases (or equivalent), a backpack, and two additional boxes (or equivalent). Students will need to move their own belongings into the building as no visitors/guests will be permitted in the residence halls or apartments. Students can ship additional items ahead of their arrival to campus. We once again recommend significantly limiting items that students are bringing to campus as we will be asking students to take their belongings home with them when they leave for Thanksgiving Break. If they cannot take their items home, they will need to box the items, so they are ready for storage or shipping in case we are not able to resume in-person instruction in the spring.

Please refer to the Residential Life Move-In website for more details and any updates.

Option for Remote Learning 

Given the increasing number of COVID cases across the country, we will provide students with the opportunity to elect to attend classes remotely for the fall semester. We will be in touch next week with more information regarding this option. 

Campus Health, Safety and Prevention

Ithaca College is relying upon guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), New York State Department of Health, and Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) in developing its operational plans. In addition, we are working closely with Cornell University and Tompkins Cortland Community College, as well as county government officials, to ensure that our plans consider the health and safety of our broader community. Our local hospital, Cayuga Medical Center, has been a critical partner in our discussions and will play a significant role in our testing strategy and medical response, as needed.

The title of each section below provides a link to the appropriate section of the Return to Campus website that contains additional information.

Testing and Screening

A cornerstone of our return to campus strategy is ongoing testing and regular self-screening for symptoms.

Contact Tracing, Isolation, and Quarantine

Any student who tests positive for COVID will be notified directly by TCHD, which will also notify our campus medical director. COVID-positive individuals will be isolated and are expected to fully participate in contact tracing efforts. Anyone TCHD identifies as a close contact of a COVID-positive case will also be notified by TCHD and must go into quarantine for 14 days. TCHD will retain the primary responsibility for contact tracing efforts and for setting the timeframes for isolation or quarantine.

Distancing, Density, and Traffic Flow

Individuals will be expected to maintain a six-foot distance from one another whenever possible on campus. We will be implementing changes to campus spaces to facilitate compliance by reducing density, increasing distance, and addressing traffic flow.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The college will supply personal protective equipment (PPE) depending upon the situation and in compliance with CDC, OSHA, and NYS guidelines. Face coverings will be required for students, faculty, and staff in nearly all circumstances in indoor spaces on campus.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

The college will be following cleaning and disinfecting best practices as recommended by the CDC and using Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved disinfectants. Restrooms and high “touch points” throughout the campus will be cleaned on an enhanced schedule.

Visitor and Travel Guidelines

The enhanced health and safety protocols require significant changes to our visitation and travel policies. While it is impossible to entirely close off our campus, there will be critical changes that will be implemented for the fall semester. This includes limiting access to our campus to current members of the Ithaca College community (students, faculty, and staff) and those who have been invited by the college as approved by a vice president.

We want to impress upon our campus community the significant impact our actions have on the Tompkins County area. While the health and safety guidelines described above delineate what will occur on campus, our expectation is that individuals associated with Ithaca College also demonstrate behaviors that are consistent with public health guidelines while off campus. All members of our campus community will be required to sign the Ithaca College Community Agreement mentioned above, which acknowledges this commitment to abide by health and safety guidelines. Noncompliance by just one person can have tremendous negative consequences for all. Through our individual and group behaviors, we will be able to achieve our common goal of successfully completing the fall semester and opening once again in the spring semester for on-campus instruction.

Stay Tuned for Further Updates

We know that there is a great deal of information to absorb from this message and from the Return to Campus website. We will be in touch again next week with an update regarding tuition, room, and board. We hope to provide additional details regarding move-in and other critical topics at a virtual student gathering scheduled for Thursday, July 23, from 7 to 8 p.m. (ET). To participate in the upcoming meeting please register.

The college’s formal Return to Campus plan will be completed and submitted to New York State in early August. Copies of the plan will be made available to the public at that time.

The Return to Campus Task Force welcomes your feedback and questions. We encourage you to visit the online feedback form to share your thoughts with task force leadership.

We thank you for placing your trust in Ithaca College to not only provide you with the high-quality education you seek and deserve, but to also do so in an unprecedented time of change and upheaval. We also must thank the many members of our faculty and staff who have worked so hard over these past months to provide you with this opportunity. Your health and well-being will always be at the forefront of our decision-making, and we will continue to communicate our plans as we all adapt to this new environment.


La Jerne Terry Cornish, Ph.D.
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Rosanna Ferro, Ed.D.
Vice President for Student Affairs and Campus Life