Cornell College Phonecast for students and parents, March 18, 2020

Text from the transcript has been paraphrased and grouped by theme.

Welcome from President Brand

Just to introduce who is on the phone with you this evening. We have John Harp, our Vice President for Student Affairs, Pam Perry, who's our Director of Financial Aid, Nancy Reasland, our Director of Health Services, Erin Davis, our Associate Academic Dean, and I, we're all here together. And I want to thank you in advance very much for joining the call this evening.

I'd be remiss if I didn't say that over the last week now, over a week, we've heard from many of you, and your questions and your responses have been nothing short of incredible. The grace and patience that you have shown us has really been very moving, and I want to thank you.

As you all know, and you've heard this over and over, we are in uncharted territory. We've never had to confront something like this. And every day, we learn a little bit more about the spread of the virus, and of course, future predictions related to it and its duration. So no surprise, our steps have also had to evolve, as the environment has changed so dramatically.

And I recognize, there's probably no one right answer, other than to get rid of the virus entirely. So we have, in the absence of certainty, we've tried to stay very focused on our absolute highest priority, which is, which even precedes educating you, our students. It's really your safety and the safety of our faculty and staff. And of course, we also feel very strongly that we have a role to play, that we have to play our part globally, alongside the rest of the world, in stopping the transmission of this virus to others, especially when we recognize that there are so many people around the world, who are at much greater risk than our students.

No doubt, as you know, and I hope you know this, we are extremely student-focused, and we're also committed, because of that student focus, we're also committed to continuing to operate absolutely to the fullest extent possible. And all of us here on campus and at Mount Vernon have really rolled up our sleeves and rallied to make all of the necessary adjustments so that classes can continue.

Our faculty have really taken up the task in the support around our classes and students. Everyone is just really motivated to make this an incredible experience for our students. And I'm thankful, I have to say now, more than ever, that we're on the block system. Because you, and again, our students, when I say "you," you only have two classes to complete when students at most other schools still have to complete four, all four or five of their courses.

So with that, we're going to turn to some questions. And again, I just want to say thank you for your patience and grace and understanding. And thank you for being on this call this evening.

What offices on campus are open to help students and families?

(President Brand responding) Campus offices are all currently open. At the same time, we are discouraging everyone and anyone from having in-person meetings, again, practicing that healthy social distancing. So, if you go to our website, you should be able to find an a phone number, and office email addresses. [Here is our A-Z directory.]

Let me also say, as a catchall, if you cannot find that contact information and you have questions, you can always email us at, and when you do that, just include your phone number, if you prefer a personal call back. And what we're doing is we are monitoring that e-mail address all the time.

And for ongoing updates and answers to frequently asked questions, of course, you can also go to the student web portal for additional information. But if you e-mail that address we will make sure that you get a personalized response. If you want a phone call, we will call you back. But we always want you to know we are available.

(Erin Davis responding about academic support) The staff for the Writing Studio, the Quantitative Reasoning Studio, Academic Media Studio, Brooke and Amy in Academic Support, those people are all available to help out. Again, you can e-mail them or give them a call, and they will get back in touch with you, and figure out a time to have an appointment.

And they can work with you through Zoom, or through phone calls, or through Google Docs, or various other technologies, to get the support that you need. And so, all of those services that you would have on campus, we are still offering all those services. We still have all the people, it just won't be face to face. 

When will students hear from professors about Block 7 & 8?

(Erin Davis responding) So the professors teaching Block 7 classes have already begun reaching out to students. If  students have not yet heard from that professor, and you have questions, please feel free to reach out to them directly using their e-mail. They are working to get the classes set up, and like I said, many of them have already reached out and talked to students in their classes.

In addition, Jen Rouse, from the Center for Teaching and Learning, sent out an e-mail to all students [March 18], telling the students how they could get into contact with people in the Center for Teaching and Learning, for academic support, for content tutors, for any other needs. So be aware of that e-mail, and there's more information that can be found there.

What will the new Block 7 & 8 academic calendar look like?

(Erin Davis responding) Our plan now is that Block 7 starts Monday, three and a half weeks, and then we're anticipating the traditional sort of four-day block break, and then, the start of Block 8, and that also will be three and a half weeks. So we're anticipating that the school year will end a week later than we first planned.

Are all classes moving to credit/no credit or will we get an actual grade for our Block 7 & 8 classes?

(Erin Davis responding)  Ddifferent professors are making different decisions on that. And so, some professors will be reaching out and letting their students know that they're switching to a credit/no credit option.  If your professor is not operating a credit/no credit option, you still have the opportunity to choose to do it as satisfactory/unsatisfactory. And so if you're interested in that, you let the Registrar's Office know within the first three days, that you want that satisfactory/unsatisfactory option.

The policy on that is the same as it usually is, except that if you choose satisfactory/unsatisfactory, that won't count towards your limit of two. So these are sort of two freebies in Block 7 and 8 for satisfactory and unsatisfactory. So that is up to the student.

Professors do, based on their sense of the course, have the option of doing credit/no credit. I know some courses in the sciences are probably choosing not to do that for graduate school and medical school reasons. So there are going to be different decisions made, depending on the content of the course. But if you take the course, you do get credit for taking the course, unless you do not pass the course.

What platforms are professors using to deliver their courses?

(Erin Davis responding) Faculty are basically trying to figure out what different technologies, what different platforms work best for, what the content is, and what they're actually teaching. They're also reaching out to students to figure out what needs students have.

And students are all over the United States, and sometimes, in international places. So some classes will be more asynchronous. There might be some synchronous moments, but faculty are really trying to make it work for the students, and for the content, in the best way possible.

Will students on campus now be able to stay through Block 8?

(John Harp responding) We have communicated directly with each of those individual students. The ones who were here, are here by exemption, and so we're working with each of them, and there's a variety of different lengths of time that they would be here, based on when they could travel. Ideally, they would all be able to make their way home. Some will not be able to, and yes, they will be able to stay through Block 8.

What is being done for 2020 Commencement?

(Erin Davis responding) I know it's a major disappointment, especially for seniors right now, that Commencement won't be held on campus, on schedule. And so we have already started thinking about ways we can have a virtual celebration. In addition, we'd like to, at some point in the future, have an in-person, on-campus Commencement activity for students. So we don't know the details on that obviously, right now, but that's something that we really hope can happen.

In addition, once students have met the graduation requirements, we will be mailing their degrees to them. 

What would the process be for Block 7 & 8 refunds and credits?

(President Brand responding) So obviously, this is a extremely important question, and the information that we've received from our financial aid governing bodies is, they're asking us to wait for formal governmental guidance on how financial aid awards will be affected by refunds or credits.

So for this reason, we want to make sure when we speak, we speak definitively, so we're waiting to finalize our process, to ensure that you are not penalized in any way that we can avoid. Our current plan is to communicate the process for refunds or credits in Block 8, and then we will begin processing them, after the end of the semester.

How would disposition of funds for 529 accounts be managed?

(Pam Perry responding) Good question. I do not know the exact answer to that question. I may direct you back to your 529 plan administrator, and see if they can help you with that question. But if adjustments are made to the account, it certainly could create a credit that could be applied to next year's bill.  So, as long as those 529 funds are going towards educational expenses, the distribution is fine. Allowing that to roll over to next year may be the best way to handle that, but again, your 529 administrator may be better equipped to answer that, than I am.

What will happen with career counseling for the rest of the semester?

(John Harp responding) Our Berry Career Institute staff will be available for students to contact. The easiest way for [your student] to do that is to go to the student portal on the Cornell College website. And there is a button on that page for the Berry Career Institute, and clicking to that page, he will see a button that allows him to make an appointment online with any of our Berry Career Institute counselors. [A comprehensive email was sent to students from the Berry Career Institute March 18.]

How do students retrieve items from their residence hall rooms?

(John Harp responding) I will comment that all of the rooms are locked. We will be continuing to check those spaces, to make sure they remain locked, and essentially serve as storage places, until the end of block 8, or just after the end of Block 8. If you want to come back and get your things, you can make an appointment with Residence Life at  So you can make an appointment to come in and pick up your things, whenever it be convenient for you. It might be a weekday, it could be a weekend, but if you'll give us advance notice, we'll make sure to get you the instructions you need, so you can get in and get your things.

We're going to be taking an assessment later this week with students, about anything they had in rooms that was perishable. So we'll even go in, and take things out, that would have rotted, and would create another health issue. For the time being, [students'] things are safe and sound, locked away, and you can make an appointment with our Residence Life office to come, in at any point you want to, in between now and the middle of May, and pick up those things. If we see that travel becomes an issue, if folks are restricted from getting to campus at some point, we will certainly revisit that, that timeline.

What about gathering items outside of residence halls?

We've gotten that question a couple of times, and as Jonathan mentioned, we are practicing social distancing here, too. We're trying to push that curve down, and indeed instructed a great majority of our faculty and staff to work remotely. So you wouldn't find a lot of the faculty and staff on campus.  So the best thing to do is to reach out to them via e-mail, and if you need to speak with them, to set up an appointment, to talk with them by phone, for a time that would be convenient for you.

What happens to cars left on campus?

We certainly are aware that a number of students departed without plans not to see and have access to their cars for a couple of months. The cars are fine in the parking lots as they are, and until we finish Block 8, that would be fine. If an arrangement for a car to be here any longer than that is necessary, I'd just ask for you to reach out to our Campus Safety Office, and work out that plan with them, if there's some short period of time where the car needs to remain on campus.

Can students continue to make work study  money during the next two months?

(Pam Perry responding) We have received some guidance from the Department of Education, just this week, that we can allow federally funded work study students to continue to work remotely, if they're able to do that. And we've also gotten some guidance, letting us know that students that are not able to continue to work, because they're now at home and their job can't be performed remotely, can be paid for scheduled hours that they would be expected to work, the remainder of the year. So we're working through those details right now, to allow our federally-funded work study students to continue to receive their federal work study funding throughout the remainder of the year.

For institutional workstudy awards, if students are off-campus, and they can work remotely for their job, you can continue to work, make arrangements with your work study supervisor with that. And if there's a need for what you're doing, and an ability for you to do that remotely, then absolutely, we'd love to have you to continue to work and help out the offices, in whatever way you were helping them before.

Should students applying to graduate school expect any delays in getting materials to complete their applications?

(Erin Davis responding) In terms of transcripts, we are not anticipating any problem with delays in transcripts. People are continuing to request transcripts now, and we are getting those sent out. If students are working on personal statements, there are people staffing the Writing Studio. And so, I would encourage [students] to reach out directly to the Writing Studio, through the website, and setting up an appointment. They're using Google Docs and various other technologies, so that they can comment and give feedback.

Whether it's graduate school, personal statements, or papers for classes, reach out to the Writing Studio, and the other Center for Teaching and Learning Studios to get support. 

Will there still be a celebration for the Hearnes for their retirement from the music department?

(Joe Dieker responding) I'm actually a music professor and Dean of the College, and unfortunately, we have had to cancel our concerts for the rest of the year, and our big concert on April 17th, which was, of course, celebrating the final concert of Marty and Lisa Hearne, who have been professors here for many years. It's really unfortunate and sad, but there's just nothing else we can do. We can't get that many people in one space at one time. And with that being toward the end of the year, we won't have any more concerts on campus this year, and they really can't be rescheduled, because those same students will never be together again, we have graduates and so forth.

But I can assure you, I'm going to be conducting the instrumental groups next year. And we have an exciting new choir director coming, and we'll have some wonderful concerts, starting next fall.