Dear faculty, staff, students, and families,
I am so pleased to share with you today that Ithaca College has set a date of Monday, October 5, to begin the 2020-21 academic year in person, on our South Hill campus.
This is a major decision for our IC family, one that aligns with our ongoing, deliberate, and methodical decision-making process throughout this public health crisis. We are continuing to prioritize the health and safety of our college and local communities while being nimble and responsive.
In coming to the decision to open the fall semester on October 5, the senior leadership team and I listened to and collaborated with a variety of stakeholders and leaders, on campus and off. We’ve also clearly heard the voices of our students and their families.
As many of you know, Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled last week the New York Forward plan, which provides thoughtful and strong metric-based guidance on our state’s reopening. As New York Forward unfolds and as this public health crisis evolves and shifts, we will continue to adhere to guidance and regulations provided at the state level.
Locally, we continue to participate in reopening meetings with Tompkins County officials, the county health department, and leaders within our local medical community. Our thinking around our October opening has also been informed by recommendations from select national and state organizations and groups including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, American Council on Education, and Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities of New York, and the state’s New York Forward Re-Opening Advisory Board as well as its Restart Plan for Higher Education Task Force.
To help our Ithaca College community work in unison as we move toward the next academic year, we’ve created the Return to Campus Task Force, composed of members of the senior leadership team and our campus community. This task force is charged with ensuring that the appropriate health and safety guidelines are incorporated into all aspects of our college operations as we move ahead. The provost has also charged the Academic Success and Student Engagement Coordinating Committee to ensure that these two critical components of the IC experience—academic success and student engagement—are cohesive and complementary in the 20-21 school year.
As time passes, I know that other institutions and schools may announce that they are planning to open the fall semester sooner than we are. But by putting a stake in the ground—right now—for an October 5 start at Ithaca College, we are intentionally delivering necessary time for all of us to plan, prepare, and thoughtfully align toward a common goal as this public health crisis continues to evolve.
An October opening gives our returning and new students the space they need to get ready for the upcoming year, to engage in a creative slate of undergraduate summer session classes and experiences and remain engaged with IC to make sure no one misses a beat in their learning.
This carefully thought-out timeframe provides our faculty with the opportunity to fully prepare to deliver the strongest educational experience, and for our staff to fully map out their work and put solid, responsive plans in place around our emergency health and safety management.
The senior leadership team and I will unpack this major announcement with faculty and staff this week, during our All-Staff Gathering later today, and our All-Faculty Gathering to be held on Wednesday. We are also planning to hold a few virtual student gatherings, to focus on our move-out plan and discuss the new academic year.
Finally, I want to be very clear that our 2020-21 academic year will be a full academic year, which begins on Monday, October 5. I know you will have specific questions about the academic calendar and the student experience, which will be answered as we continue to hone and finalize our plans to return to campus. I also know many of you will have questions about our athletics programs this fall. Please be assured that our athletics department staff, sports medicine staff, and the director of medicine for IC are working collaboratively to determine a plan and process to re-engage in intercollegiate athletics and recreational sports, and that IC will continue to follow NCAA, NATA, and Liberty League guidelines.
Ithaca College has weathered many storms since we began as a small music conservatory in 1892, and survival in the face of significant challenge is in the DNA of this place. Throughout this particular storm, our community has continued to demonstrate creativity, grit, and solidarity as we’ve pushed forward and continued to serve our students. It’s this type of innovative, student-centered approach that makes us so distinctive as an academic institution.
I thank all of you for being a part of the IC family, and I am proud to walk alongside you during this critical time as we build the future of Ithaca College.
I look forward to seeing you all back on South Hill soon.
Shirley M. Collado