College Activates Return to Campus Task Force

By President Shirley M. Collado, May 26, 2020
Group will guide plans for safe Oct. 5 campus opening.

Dear Ithaca College Community and Families:

As I announced in my May 18 message about our hope and intent to begin on-campus instruction for the fall semester on Oct. 5, we have created the Return to Campus Task Force, a group that will thoughtfully and thoroughly guide our efforts and provide detailed health and safety plans aligned with state higher education guidelines for what the upcoming academic year will look like. This will include contingencies and alternative scenarios, so that as this pandemic crisis continues to evolve, Ithaca College will be able to remain nimble and adapt our plans, as necessary. Our goal is to both create a smooth, safe transition back to campus and provide a positive ongoing experience for our students, staff, faculty, and community members.

Aligned with Governor’s Mandate ​​​​​​​

As I explain the work of the task force, I want to first remind the campus community of something that is critical. Our intentions for an Oct. 5 opening have been — and will continue to be — in strict accord with guidance provided by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his New York Forward plan. Governor Cuomo has provided extraordinary leadership in helping ensure that the reopening of the state takes place in a data-driven, well-thought out and coordinated way — and only upon the successful achievement of metric-based milestones that rely on research and reports including prominent national and international organizations.

The guidelines for higher education are still being developed, and once those are finalized, we will incorporate them into our plans and abide by them for the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff as well as the greater good of the community.

Task Force Charge

In that vein, today I officially charged the Return to Campus Task Force, comprising a group of outstanding leaders from across Ithaca College, with ensuring that the appropriate health and safety guidelines are incorporated into all aspects of our college operations as we move ahead. The task force will develop protocols, practices, and guidelines in accordance with federal, state and local regulations that we will implement for as long as is necessary to restore residential and in-person instruction for the fall that is as safe as reasonably possible. This will include determining the answers to such questions as what classes, teaching, work, living, dining, and other campus interactions might look like in keeping with the ongoing guidance of state and local officials as well as national public health experts. The task force will start its work immediately, and work through August to be prepared to begin the launch of its plans in September, so we are ready to open in October.

Academic Success and Student Engagement Coordinating Committee

The task force will also work in close collaboration with the previously formed Academic Success and Student Engagement Coordinating Committee, a group of faculty and staff providing faculty development around online learning and open educational resources, and supporting the experiences of both our new and returning students beginning this summer and through the 2020-21 academic year.

The task force will be guided by a steering committee composed of key leaders from across campus who bring expertise and experience in areas critical to a smooth and safe reopening process. They will be accountable for ensuring the committee charge is met.

The task force will empower nine subgroups that will be focused on specific critical content areas and populated by faculty and staff who bring deep knowledge and subject matter expertise to their assigned group. Each subgroup will be guided by a member of the Steering Committee, ensuring connectivity and alignment with the broader goals of the task force.

Health & Safety Advisory Group

Given that the primary concern of our return to campus is the safety and well-being of all members of the IC and greater Ithaca community, a Health & Safety Advisory Group has also been formed. This advisory group, which includes some members of the task force steering committee, will serve as a resource to all the subgroups as they develop their recommendations; they will be critical in the final review for all health and safety plans for the college. They will be responsible for collaborating with local, state, and federal health organizations; providing testing as appropriate for students, faculty and staff; developing a plan for testing, containment, surveillance, and contact tracing; assessment and treatment of active illnesses; and developing a plan for quarantine and isolation procedures, as needed.

Key Community Partnerships

We are fortunate here in Tompkins County to have high-quality medical care, facilities, and expertise led by the Cayuga Medical Center (CMC). While our partnership with CMC was already strong, the public health crisis brought about by COVID-19 has only deepened our collaboration and expanded the frequency of our communications. Our relationship adds a level of confidence to our work as we plan our return to campus, and we are grateful that CMC will play an invaluable role in the months ahead, serving as advisors and members of subgroups. In addition, our plan includes having other community partners serve on relevant subgroups to help align our efforts.

Steering Committee

Our Return to Campus Task Force Steering Committee will be led by two members of our Senior Leadership Team, Rosanna Ferro and La Jerne Terry Cornish. These two leaders already co-chair our Core Emergency Response Team and I have tremendous confidence in their combined knowledge and understanding of academic and student affairs at IC. I’m grateful for the willingness of all members of the task force Steering Committee and subgroups to serve in this time-intensive capacity that is so critical at this moment in time. The steering committee members are:

  • Co-Chair: Rosanna Ferro, Vice President for Student Affairs & Campus Life
  • Co-Chair: La Jerne Terry Cornish, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
  • Guilherme Costa, Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary to the Board
  • Bill Guerrero, Vice President for Finance & Administration
  • Odalys Diaz Pineiro, Chief of Staff, Office of the President
  • Dr. Ellyn Sellers-Selin, Medical Director, Student Affairs & Campus Life*
  • Bill Kerry, Director of Public Safety & Emergency Management, Student Affairs & Campus Life*
  • Tim Ryan, Assistant Director for Environmental Health and Safety, Student Affairs & Campus Life*
  • Christina Moylan, Associate Dean, School of Health Sciences & Human Performance*
  • Tim Carey, Associate Vice President for Facilities, Finance & Administration
  • David Weil, Associate Vice President for Information Technology, Finance & Administration
  • Bob Wagner, Chief Communications Officer, Office of the President
  • Doreen Hettich-Atkins, Director for Strategic Planning & Administration, Student Affairs & Campus Life

*Health & Safety Advisory Group Member

Task Force Subgroups and Leadership

Academic and Classroom Planning:

  • Christina Moylan, Associate Dean, School of Health Sciences & Human Performance
  • Sean Reid, Dean, School of Business

Residential Life and Housing:

  • Bonnie Prunty, Dean of Students, Student Affairs & Campus Life
  • Marsha Dawson, Director of Residential Life & Judicial Affairs, Student Affairs & Campus Life 

Faculty and Staff Return to Work:

  • Brad Hougham, Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs, Academic Affairs
  • Michelle Hammond, Associate Director of Talent Acquisitions, Human Resources & Planning

Athletics and Recreational Sports:

  • Susan Bassett, Associate Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics & Recreational Sports, Student Affairs & Campus Life

Campus Programming, Events and Student Engagement:

  • Michele Lenhart, Director of Student Engagement, Student Affairs & Campus Life                        
  • Margie Malepe, Director of Conference and Event Services, Finance & Administration

Counseling, Health and Wellness Services:

  • Dr. Ellyn Sellers-Selin, Medical Director, Student Affairs & Campus Life
  • Brian Petersen, Psy.D., Director of Counseling & Psychological Services, Student Affairs & Campus Life


  • Bob Wagner, Chief Communications Officer, Office of the President
  • Melissa Gattine, Executive Director of Marketing Strategy, Marketing and Enrollment Strategy

On Campus Dining:

  • Dave Prunty, Executive Director of Auxiliary Services, Finance & Administration

Facilities Management & Operations:

  • Tim Carey, Associate Vice President for Facilities, Finance & Administration

Task Force Next Steps

Our subgroup leaders will be working over the coming days to identify other members of our campus community with the knowledge, skills, and willingness to immerse themselves immediately in what will be an intense summer, to join them in the work. If you believe you can commit to this immediate work, I encourage you to reach out directly to the leader(s) of the subgroup to which you can offer meaningful contributions. The time commitment will be particularly intense in the next month.

Updates / Information Sharing

Regular updates will be provided to the Office of the President, to college leadership, and to community partners, and we have created a website that will ensure information sharing for our community as the work of the task force progresses. In addition, leaders from the task force will share updates at upcoming virtual student sessions and at ongoing summer staff and faculty meetings. If you have any questions or thoughts you would like to share with the task force, please send an email to

Academic Calendar Framework

I know that one of your most pressing questions has to do with the new structure of the academic calendar. I want to thank our community in advance for understanding the importance of embracing a new reality as we restructure what our academic year usually looks like.  It’s imperative that we navigate this historical time with openness, with creativity, with decisiveness and with our students’ success at the core of all we do. While we will be starting six weeks later than the fall semester would normally begin, our planning will ensure that there is enough time to complete coursework while also providing critical opportunities for recharging and refreshing, not only for our students but for our faculty and staff, as well. 

The framework for the 2020-21 academic calendar is as follows, with the understanding that all of these dates are tentativeand are based on evolving state and federal public health guidelines:

  • Fall semester in-person classes start Oct. 5
  • No Fall break
  • No classes on Thanksgiving or the following day, but incentives for students to remain on campus / in Ithaca rather than travel home
  • A two-week Winter break, with fall semester classes resuming on Jan. 4 and finals the last week in January (possibly virtual, and informed by state and federal public health guidelines)
  • Spring semester beginning Feb. 4 (informed by state and federal public health guidelines)
  • A four-day weekend break in March, with incentives for students to remain in Ithaca
  • Finals the week of May 17, with Commencement tentatively scheduled for May 30

I want to, once again, emphasize that we will build into the calendar appropriate opportunities to have “off” days—in order to take a break from academics, refresh, safely engage, and enjoy our beautiful South Hill campus with great down-time programs.

We are in this new reality for the long haul this year.  I ask for your patience, strength, and hope. Our amazing community has demonstrated over its 128-year history, and in particular during the past few months, just how resilient, determined, and innovative it is. Despite unprecedented challenges, our faculty, staff, students, alumni, and members of our community have continued to push on and progress, demonstrating grit in the face of adversity and empathy in the midst of both individual and communal grief. I have been awed, inspired, and humbled by all that I have witnessed and am confident that working together, we will develop a thorough, thoughtful plan that will allow us to once again connect with each other on our beloved campus this fall.

Be safe and well,

Shirley M. Collado