A Message from Cornell President Jonathan Brand

Dear Cornellians--

I hope that this message finds you well as we navigate these difficult and unpredictable times.  Please accept my apology that I haven’t reached out to you before now; it’s just that we’ve been so consumed by the quick shift to online learning.  In fact, I still can’t believe that it hasn’t even been 3 weeks since we moved our entire academic program to a virtual format. In that time, on campus, we have been entirely focused on making that shift and doing all that had to happen so that our students continue to have the personalized support that they deserve and expect—"in and out" of the classroom.  What I can tell you—and this won’t surprise you—our faculty and staff have been incredible. Incredible.  This was a moment when we had to come together, and in short order, and accomplish so very many projects—some expected and many that one wouldn’t even think of, but for a crisis like this one.  And, it’s happened—with a roll-up-your-sleeves-we-can-do-this attitude that has been inspiring and, frankly humbling.  I won’t go into all of the details but will let you know that we started by articulating our core principles that would guide all of our decision-making:

  1. The safety and security of the campus community comes first.
  2. We will support those students who are unable to leave campus.
  3. We will take steps so that students who are planning to graduate this spring can do so.
  4. We will provide individualized care and support to our students.

Now, with one week of virtual education under our belt, I can confidently say that our hard work has paid off.  We were prepared for many challenges on the first day of class for Block 7, and while we had several issues (largely on the connectivity side), nothing was insurmountable.  And, as we had hoped and expected, people showed grace and resilience.

I believe it is also worth mentioning—it is manifest that our One Course calendar is so far superior to any other learning model in these circumstances.  Our students do not need to navigate 4 or 5 courses online. They don’t need to figure out how their daily schedule will work. Rather, they lock into one class—and only one class—for 3.5 weeks.  It is also dramatically easier for our faculty because they “only” have to prepare to teach one course online rather than many.  In addition, where other schools have to figure out how students can complete the 4 or 5 courses that they had already started (in their spring semesters), Cornell students already had fully completed 6 of their 8 courses in this academic year.

At the end of the day, as I am sure you have heard in many settings, we are in unknown territory.  It is for this reason that our principles above are so important and that we all retain our spirit of open communication and teamwork.  Not one of us is as good as all of us. I have marveled at our collective ability on campus to identify issues, assemble groups to contemplate them, and then implement plans to resolve them. 

I don’t know if you have been following closely our campus activity, but I’d like to encourage you to do so.  You can follow our response to the COVID-19 pandemic here.  And, you can always reach out to covid-19response@cornellcollege.edu if you have any questions or suggestions.  

What you as alumni and friends can do:

  • Please keep in touch.  Follow Cornell on social media channels and watch your email for invitations to upcoming virtual events.
  • You will soon be receiving an email from the Alumni Office regarding Cornell Connect.  This is a virtual platform made solely for Cornellians to connect with each other both personally and professionally.  Watch for more information via email and social media.
  • You are invited to our 3rd annual All-Call on Tuesday, May 12 (please note the date change).  This is an opportunity for alumni to ask questions live on the call. I value this interaction with our alumni community and look forward to talking with you about how we’re continuing to support our students, faculty, and staff during this challenging time.
  • Continue to refer prospective students and families to Cornell. YES!  We are still recruiting for the fall, and here too, the on-campus effort has been spectacular, as we moved the entire recruitment process online. 

In response to alumni and friends who have reached out, we have established a special fund, Cornell Cares.  This fund will help pay for unexpected expenses such as shipping costs for student belongings, technology needed for distance learning, and other unanticipated expenses incurred as a result of our response to the pandemic. We are confident that we can and will do everything necessary to provide an exceptional education through online courses and support our students through this transition period and the remainder of the academic year.

I have been touched by the outpouring from so many of you as supportive alumni and friends, and I wish to thank you.  These moments affirm why we all do what we do for Cornell.  And, our students will always be worth our time and energy.  Onward and upward.

President Jonathan Brand