Dear IC faculty, staff, and students,
I know the last several weeks have asked a lot of all of you, and I want to begin this message by expressing my gratitude for your tremendous endurance and your willingness to collectively support one another as we walk through this new reality for IC and our world. I sincerely wish that you are reading this in good health and hopeful spirits, as this pandemic wears on and continues to affect our lives in such a profound way.
I am writing today to share some important updates with you about college operations for June and July, as well as some additional specific decisions and approaches around how we are handling the college’s response to our current public health crisis.
As we look ahead to the summer, it is clear that this crisis will continue to impact the college and our lives. On Tuesday, the college’s senior leadership team made the difficult decision to cancel all on-campus classes and events for the months of June and July. This decision came after consultation with campus constituents and a realistic look at what would be feasible for us to offer and support with so much short- and long-term uncertainty around public health as well as local, state, and federal restrictions.
I want to point out that this decision relates solely to on-campus classes and events — not to faculty and staff and their ability to return to campus for work. We will continue to follow government guidelines around what is advisable related to our workforce on campus. This includes decisions around student summer employment.
Regarding our plans for summer academic programming, I want to share that a group of campus faculty and staff leaders are currently working on a creative slate of virtual summer opportunities for new and returning IC students. I am very excited about the innovative and lively ways in which these programs will engage our students in their education and enable them to be connected to one another. More details will be coming soon about these programs, so please stay tuned.
In keeping with our nimble, phased approach to decision-making, we are not making a determination at this time about on-campus classes and events in August. As many of you know, we have targeted Saturday, August 1, and Sunday, August 2, for Commencement activities on our campus. We are optimistically moving forward with that plan, and will make the final decision around an August Commencement no later than the end of June.
For our students who are reading this message — I know that many of you have concerns about coming back to campus to retrieve your belongings. Vice President Rosanna Ferro will be in touch directly and soon around next steps and a move-out schedule. Keep in mind that the college must continue to comply with state and federal regulations regarding mass gatherings and the level of allowable activity at non-essential businesses and organizations.
For our faculty who are reading this message — Provost Cornish continues to work with her team in the provost’s office, deans, and additional college leaders to address your concerns about retrieving materials from your offices as well as identifying opportunities for those of you who have research in process to be able to access your resources on campus. You will hear directly from the provost as those decisions solidify.
Next Academic Year
As you can imagine, planning for the next academic year is a tremendous challenge, and members of the senior leadership team continue to collaborate with deans, governance councils, and campus leaders to work through possible scenarios for 2020-21. Next year represents the second year of our strategic plan implementation, and all of our planning—regardless of the specifics — continues to support and align with the goals and objectives of Ithaca Forever.
We are being creative, thoughtful, and realistic as we work through options for next academic year, not only in formulating responsive strategies, but also in making sure the members of our community will have what they need to be successful in any scenario.
Again, we are intentionally approaching our decision-making process in an incremental, deliberate, and patient way, to allow us the opportunity to adjust our practices appropriately and effectively to the shifting realities around this pandemic, and to make major decisions that greatly impact this community with as much certainty as possible.
Keeping this in mind, I do want to announce that the college is suspending support for all college-sponsored international trips for faculty, staff, and students for the next academic year. This decision is driven by two factors: a prioritization of the safety of our college and local communities by mitigating the risk that comes with international travel during a pandemic, and cost savings to the institution.
This remains an incredibly difficult time for all of us, and on behalf of the senior leadership team, I want to thank all of you for walking through this as a community. I know this crisis is affecting all of us in very real and unexpected ways, and I want to end my message with a reminder about two key resources: our employee assistance program and our IC food pantry. Please don’t hesitate to access these resources to support your health and wellness — and please don’t hesitate to reach out to and lean on one another.
I look forward to seeing all of you again on South Hill. And, for our faculty and staff, I urge you to attend our virtual All-Faculty-and-Staff Gathering during the noon hour on Tuesday, and submit your questions in advance so we can make the best use of our time together. Tuesday will provide an opportunity to discuss key decision points and our approach to various scenarios.
Again, all of you have my deepest thanks for your incredible commitment to our beloved Ithaca College.
Shirley M. Collado