Committee on Research and Operations Re-activation

Final Report

Professor Chris Schaffer (Biomedical Engineering) is the Faculty Senate representative.

Comments and suggestions can be posted below. Totally anonymous unless you share your identity in the posting itself.


The committee should develop a plan for a phased campus re-activation, using metrics that are consistent with federal and state recommendations, and also appropriate for our campus setting. The focus should be on operational activities, including research, but excluding classroom teaching and (undergraduate) student life activities; there are being considered separately. Recommendations should be made to the president, not later than May 15, and should address the questions below. Note that some of these questions, e.g., about policies around travel and visits to campus, are also relevant to the committee looking into re-activating the campus for teaching, so discussion between the two committees is strongly encouraged.

  1. How and when do we re-open research activities, taking into account public health criteria as noted above?
  2. How do labs and research centers operate in a safe way, e.g., with appropriate public health measures, such as testing and social distancing? How will this be monitored?
  3. When can faculty routinely occupy their offices? What accommodations will need to be made to ensure appropriate public health measures?
  4. How do we move quickly to analyze the success of remote working and continue it where it is successful, and what kinds of changes do we need to make to have this continue indefinitely (e.g., any technology issues; establishment of “hoteling” space on campus, etc.)?
  5. How and when do we transition back from remote working to in person working, and again, how do we ensure appropriate public health measures?
  6. When do we open the library? The museums?
  7. When do café’s and other campus amenities open?
  8. How and when do we make decisions about alumni events on and off campus?
  9. Once we re-open? policies do we need to put into place regarding travel by faculty and staff and/or visits to campus

What changes do we need to implement social distancing, for as long as that is required, beyond those specifically identified with each activity above?

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10 thoughts on “Committee on Research and Operations Re-activation

  1. Feel free to volunteer to sacrifice as much of your individual salary as you like. It has already been made clear you are welcome to do this. But don’t dare to presume to tell me that I am mandated to sacrifice my pension. How do you know whether I can manage on a reduced income, either now or in my future? How do you have the right to make this decision for me? I accepted my position on the basis of known salary and benefits. I didn’t realize that it was even possible that I, AS AN INDIVIDUAL, would be required to make financial sacrifices because the University has been mismanaged over long periods of time and isn’t apparently willing or able to plan for long-term financial stability.

  2. This question may be out of place but since there was no student representation on the committee for closing I will ask it here. Does the university have any plan to refund or extend parking passes for students? Graduate students pay twice as much for parking as faculty and staff yet make significantly. Many of us were deemed essential during the pandemic but only faculty/staff were allowed a refund according the the FAQ section of the corona virus section of the schools website. At a rate of $2.00 per day this is outrageous.

    Grad students produce much of the data that goes into grant proposals and considering that the 57% indirect costs Cornell receives from those grants (140k a year on average for an R01) hasn’t stopped coming in it wouldn’t it would be nice if they did a little more for the people who’ve made that possible.

  3. The charge of the committee seems to ignore many humanities and social science graduate students who do research using the Library or in other capacities not represented or addressed. For instance, at the Town Hall, it was distressing for a question about “fieldwork” to be answered with a comment about how CALS is indeed planting physical fields. This is an alarming sign that miscommunication not only *may* happen, but is in fact happening between fields. For many graduate students, opening the campus for research necessarily entails opening the Library as well as allowing students (as permitted by public health policy) to travel for fieldwork abroad and within the US. Other spaces, such as labs for students who process photographs, video, etc. (with *no* PI) may not have been considering, given what I heard at the Town Hall and given the above charges of the Committee.

  4. We also need to thick carefully about off campus activities such as field research, extension programs, and meetings. Many of these activities can be done with social distancing as long as travel rule by NYS allow them. We may need to limit to day trips short term, but even some short trips could be very helpful in getting the outreach of the campus running.

  5. I suggest that the committee consider the possibility of keeping
    the campus and campus buildings closed except to those who
    have either passed through a supervised two week quarantine period or
    have tested negative for CV19. Clearly this would difficult to
    arrange for the returning undergraduate and graduate student populations
    but might be easier than letting everyone return and then attempting
    to mitigate risk and detect and isolate infections.

  6. From the perspective of maintaining Cornell as a prominent research institution, we should resume lab research soon after the governor’s NY on pause order ends as long as effective measures/practices are put in place to minimize the risk of the coronavirus infection to our employees. It’s impossible to reduce the risk to zero (Even if you stay home, you still need to go out shopping, etc), but we can and must minimize the risk by strictly following social distancing guidance and using PPE such as face mask and gloves. For labs that have only a few employees (2-4), social distancing and use of PPE can be easily implemented in the lab to allow research to proceed while minimizing the infection risk. For larger labs, the employees can rotate or have staggered work time. You can only do so much on data analysis and writing when you work from home, especially for postdocs and Ph.D. students who need to conduct new research. I just don’t see how we can continue remote working indefinitely while making enough progress to meet the expectations of funding agencies on sponsored projects.

    1. I agree with ROR-1. In addition, many of our graduate students and postdocs live in a very confined space, to get them to a lab with one or two people per room occupancy will improve their work condition. As long as we spell out clearly the social distancing rules, I believe that returning to lab in phase (half a day to start with ) after SIP is expired is good both for the research project as well as the well being of our students and postdocs..

    2. The obtuse comment that nothing can be 100% safe demonstrates a lack of understanding regarding the reason for social distancing measures: not to make us “safe,” but to prevent our hospital system from being overwhelmed and to minimize the spread of Covid 19. Discussions about reopening do not indicate the pandemic is over, they indicate that hospitals have regained some capacity since the pandemic began. However, the risks are such that campus-wide enforced guidelines are necessary. Buildings consist of multiple lab sites; therefore, allowing labs flexibility with stated precautions would result in harmful repercussions. Further, without consistent building sanitation, masks, testing, and social distancing within the labs, the University will essentially force researchers to choose between their work and their health. Is the University willing to create a situation in which researchers and their families become the first major casualties of this pandemic within Ithaca? Tompkins County remains relatively quiet when it comes to case numbers of Covid 19 (due in part, no doubt, to sheltering in place), possibly giving the impression that the threat is minimal. According to the science that would be a deadly assumption. Additionally, perhaps it is time to incorporate new research methods that compliment on-site lab work for the duration of this crisis as well as future pandemics. My hope is that data and medical expertise – not bottom line thinking – will guide the decision of when to reopen the labs.

      1. As researchers we make this choice frequently. There is risk involved with some of the equipment and chemicals that our work requires. As adults we are tasked with assessing these risks and trusted with the responsibility of making decisions to mitigate them appropriately. Why is it unreasonable to allow us to work if we decide there is minimal risk to the safety of ourselves or others.

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