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  Cornell University

The University Faculty

Office of the Dean

Snow Days FAQ

Some of these questions have detailed and official answers in the Policy 8.2 document. The to-be-answered (TBA) questions point to areas where we can improve or where we can offer greater clarity. This will be our focus over the summer and into the fall. You can track our progress by returning to this page from time to time.

You are encouraged to post a comment below if you have thoughts about the questions and the answers. Unless you “sign” your posting, your identity will not be revealed.

What is  the “operating status” of the University?

The University is either open, partially closed, or closed. There is is also the notion of a delayed opening.

What does it mean to be partially closed?

Roughly, this means that most administrative offices are closed but that classes continue.

What is a delayed start?

After bad weather ends it may take a while for the roads to be sufficiently cleared. In these situations the University may indicate (for example) that it is opening at 10AM.

Who makes the decision to change the operating status?

The Vice President of Infrastructure Properties and Planning is responsible for making the final decision assisted by the Weather Incident Leadership Team. That group consists of the Vice President Human Resources, the Vice President University Relations, the Vice President for Student and Campus Life, the Dean of Faculty, the Associate Vice President for Environmental Health and Safety, and the Cornell Police Chief.

How is the situation on campus assessed?

The Weather Incident Leadership Team is assisted by the Associate Vice President Facilities Management, the Grounds Department, the Department of Transportation and Mail Services, the Associate Director of Emergency Management and Business Continuity, the EHS Emergency Manager, and University Communications.

How does the shutdown team get  its weather information?


Are there snowfall-per-hour guidelines that factor into a shutdown decision?


Are local school closings taken into consideration? Is so how?


Is there an awareness of what other universities and colleges are doing in our geographic area?



Is it true that many of our employees have  a significant commute to work?

The approximate where-you-live distribution is as follows:  Ithaca (3100), Dryden (600), Lansing (280), Trumansburg (290), Cortland (310), Groton (290), Newfield (230), Candor (230), Spencer V-E (170), Moravia (150), Newark Valley (140),  Owego (60),plus others. For faculty its Ithaca (1200), Dryden (50), Lansing (40), Trumansburg (20), plus others.

What  communication is there  between Cornell and the area bus services when bad weather sets in? In particular, with TCAT, Cortland Public Transit, Tioga County Public Transit, and Chemung/Schuyler Public Transit.


The authority to close  the roads in a particular county rests with that county’s sheriff. How does  communication  work between Cornell and the sheriffs of Tompkins, Tioga, Broome, Chemung, Schuyler, and Cayuga counties work?


Suppose while I am at work that the roads close in the county where I live. Will I get in trouble if I drive home and how would my insurance company react if I get in an accident?


What is an “essential employee”?

An individual needed on campus to meet the needs of students, research programs, or general operations when the university and/or local roads are closed.

How does one acquire “essential employee” status?


Are there special rules about parking when the University closes?

Essential employees should use the parking structures or one of the designated overnight winter parking areas.

How can I find out if the university is closed?

As described in Policy 8.2, the operating status can be determined by following a link on the Cornell home page. Local radio and television announce closings and delayed starts. It is also possible to be notified via text or voice message.

What are the rules about compensation during a shutdown?

In general, non-essential staff are paid at their regular rate when the University is closed. Essential staff are paid time-and-a-half plus paid leave for the hours worked during the closing.

How does compensation work if the University closes midday?


What are the compensation rules if I am able to work from home during a shut down?


Policy 8.2 says  that all employees should remain at home if they deem it too dangerous to travel or if a local school closing creates a child care situation. What if my supervisor questions my decision to stay home?


Will the University help with lodging if I am unable to travel home after a midday closing?


I teach a small class and was able to determine that everybody could make it in.  Am I allowed to hold class even if the University is officially closed?


Is there a contingency plan that makes it easier to reschedule weather-cancelled evening prelims?


I teach a large course that has labs scheduled every day of the week. Thus, if we have a one-day weather event it knocks out the  lab component of our course for the entire week. Is there anything we can do about this?





Last Updated: April 30, 2017 at 1:36 pm