Updated March 23, 2020

Based on the most recent news about COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) spreading across the United States and the identification of community spread in the state of Iowa, we have determined that all Block 7, as well as all Block 8 courses, will be delivered through distance learning to ensure everyone’s personal safety and to avoid potential travel restrictions. Today, faculty who were originally planning to teach on campus have been working with the Dean to change their plans.

Transcript of the March 18 Phonecast with students and parents.

COVID-19 Update: March 16 communication

How will the change to distance learning affect my ability to graduate?

If you are unable to complete courses due to changes to course options this spring, we will work with you, on a case-by-case basis, to find the right courses to ensure that you have the credits you need to qualify for graduation.  Regardless of when Commencement is held, degrees will be conferred at the end of this semester and mailed to you.


Over the course of the last week, I have heard from a number of you who are seniors regarding Commencement.  I know that many of you have been looking forward to the excitement that comes with culminating your Cornell experience--celebrating with your friends, walking the Ped Mall for that last time, gathering on the OC, and saying goodbye to those faculty and staff who made a difference in your life. The list goes on and on. And, I don’t blame you. Regrettably, at this time, we have decided to postpone the on-campus commencement ceremony scheduled for mid-May. I am not yet sure when it will occur, but we will continue to plan an in-person commencement ceremony at a later date, once the COVID-19 virus is in decline. We may also coordinate a virtual celebration at the end of this academic year.

Your move out of the residence halls and storage

There is no immediate need to move out of your residence halls; we will store your items in your room through the end of the semester.  Ideally, we would like to monitor the situation through Block 7 and schedule time for you to pack up and move out of your residence halls in Block 8 or the end of the semester.  If you need your belongings sooner, contact res_life@cornellcollege.edu to schedule a time to come to campus or have essential items shipped to you.

International students and others who can’t move off campus

If you are able to return home at this time, you should consider doing so. If you cannot return due to travel restrictions into your home country, or you have concerns about returning to campus for fall session, you have the option to remain on campus. If you have other circumstances that make returning home a hardship, consult with the Office of Residence Life.

Refunds/credits of room and board

We have been cautioned by financial aid governing bodies to wait for government guidance on how financial aid awards will be affected by refunds/credits. For this reason, we are waiting to finalize our process to ensure that you are not penalized in any way we can avoid. We will communicate the process for refunds (or credits) in Block 8 and begin processing them after the end of the semester. 


We are scheduling a phone-based Q&A on Wednesday, March 18 at 6:45 p.m. Central (please note the time change from our communication last week) for you and your families. Please call in to 877-295-7701 to participate. We will be sending an additional message to invite your families (if we have permission to do so) to this phone conversation as well.

If you have questions, email covid-19response@cornellcollege.edu; please include your phone number if you prefer a personal call back. We plan to monitor this email address during business hours. For ongoing updates and answers to frequently asked questions, visit the student web portal for additional information.

Ongoing engagement with the college community

We are working on methods to help keep you connected virtually for the rest of the academic year. Keep checking in to your student portal for new information and options. If you have suggestions for ways we can help you connect, email covid-19@cornellcollege.edu with your ideas.

COVID-19 Update on athletics: March 12 communication

After watching what has been happening with athletics teams in our conference, and across the nation, we have had to make the difficult decision to suspend our spring sports season until further notice.  The student-athletes who have been on the road should make plans to return home, or request an exemption to stay on campus into Block 7 by Monday, March 16, at 11 a.m.

COVID-19 Response: March 11 communication

Fortunately, we are in a unique situation on the block plan to act swiftly and nimbly to change our plans, course by course, and support you to ensure that you get a quality education while minimizing the risks of virus exposure to you and the entire community.  

With the spread of COVID-19 into Iowa, we need to move quickly to protect your well-being and that of our faculty and staff. While there are no confirmed cases at Cornell or in our local community, we have determined the need to shift our course model to distance learning via online classes for Block 7 to keep everyone safe. This will allow us to reduce exposure by limiting the size of the campus population. 
While we hope to welcome everyone back to campus at that time, we are also facing the reality that Block 8 may need to happen via distance learning. We will make a decision about Block 8 by April 3, and I will communicate that to you.

This rapidly evolving situation means that we are making decisions with the information we have at the moment; our plans could change. Here is our current schedule for the remainder of the semester:

Spring Break
In order to prepare campus for distance learning initiatives, we are extending spring break by one week (through March 22) to allow faculty and Information Technology staff time to prepare course formats for distance learning.  

If you are at home now, please stay at home.  If you are off-campus on personal travel, please make arrangements to not return to campus at this time. If you are traveling with a college group or athletic team, your coach or team leader will communicate next steps to you this week.  If you are currently on campus, please make arrangements to return to your permanent residence as soon as possible. All students will need to vacate campus by Wednesday, March 18 at 11 a.m. unless you will experience hardship and request an exemption by Monday, March 16 at 11 a.m.

Personal Items
Knowing that you left campus fully intending to return this weekend, you might have personal items in your rooms that are essential to continuing your coursework or to managing health conditions. Students who cannot return to campus can request that essential items be shipped to your permanent residence. Please email res_life@cornellcollege.edu with your request. Residence Life professional staff will also be making arrangements for students to return to their rooms to gather those items in a way that will minimize potential virus exposure risks. 

Block 7
As I mentioned above, we will be conducting Block 7 courses virtually, and the block will start on March 23. Additional communications and training for students and staff are being developed now to prepare you for distance learning. Your faculty member will be contacting you about course materials and plans.

Two courses, BIO205 and CHEM327 will continue to be held on campus during Block 7, and faculty members will be reaching out to you directly if you are scheduled to take one of those courses.

If you were scheduled to take a course that cannot, for one reason or another, be offered through distance learning, the Office of the Registrar will contact you next week to switch to a different course or make alternate arrangements to fulfill that course credit. We are focused on ensuring that this physical disruption of classes does not impact your ability to graduate on time, and we are dedicated to making sure that all of you can complete critical courses for your degrees. 

Block 8
We will continue to monitor the situation in the coming weeks and, by April 3, we will make a decision and communicate with you about whether Block 8 will be offered virtually or on campus.

We will make a decision regarding commencement by April 23 to allow for adjustments to travel plans. If commencement is held, we will offer a virtual experience for families that do not feel comfortable traveling to campus to celebrate with you. 

Campus offices
All campus offices will remain open during our regular office hours. We remain ready to assist you in any way possible and suggest that the best ways to communicate are via email or phone call. Refer to the campus directory to find appropriate contact information.

Sheltering in place on campus
We realize that some of you do not have the ability to go home at this time for various reasons. You can request an exemption online, and we will contact you to discuss your situation. Those of you who remain on campus will also participate in distance learning from your residence hall rooms, abide by travel restriction guidelines, and realize that campus services will be limited.

There will be a financial impact on everyone related to the decisions that we are making. We are actively working through the logistics to refund room and board fees for Block 7 and will share that information with you once it is finalized. 

We have suspended all non-essential travel in and out of campus at this time. Several of you are on semester-long study-abroad experiences. At this time we encourage you to continue your program until or unless the CDC travel threat level in your location increases. The Office of Off-Campus Studies will remain in communication with you related to any concerns about your situation. If you have any questions contact Anna Butz at abutz@cornellcollege.edu.

Group gatherings
In order to reduce risk, we are canceling most, if not all, large campus events scheduled between now and the end of Block 7. We will also schedule fewer in-person meetings. Our goal is to decrease the number of instances that require community members to gather in large groups or spend extended periods of time in close proximity to each other. We encourage those remaining on campus to use phones and email to conduct business.

If you have questions, email covid-19response@cornellcollege.edu; please leave your phone number if you prefer a personal call back. We plan to monitor this email address during business hours. For ongoing updates and answers to frequently asked questions, visit the student web portal for additional information.

We are scheduling a phone-based Q&A on Wednesday, March 18 at 7:30 p.m. Central. Please call in to 877-295-7701 to participate. We will be sending an additional message to invite your parents (if we have permission to do so) to this phone conversation as well.

No doubt, none of this is ideal as we approach the end of what has been a very good academic year to date, and we regret any disappointment these decisions may cause you, particularly those of you who are seniors and who have been looking forward to a grand finale to your final year at Cornell.