04/29/2020 COVID-19 Staff Forum | Questions

4/29/2020 COVID-19 Staff Forum


  1. Is there any discussion of another retirement incentive like there was during 2008-2009?

  2. Will there be hourly cuts for full time hourly staff who make below a certain annual amount? If so, how will the full time hourly staff member's benefits be affected? Is there any concern for how unfair it would be to cut full time staff member's salaris for those under a certain annual amount?

  3. How will furloughs and layoffs affect health insurance? I'm of course very scared of losing my job during this crisis, but I'm frankly much more terrified of losing my health insurance during a pandemic.

  4. Doe we know how Cornell will allocate the $12.8 milliion they received from the CARES Act? We have heard Cornell is allocating 100% of the funds to financial assistance for students to meet their urgent needs in the face of this pandemic. My question was, do we know if Cornell will provide any of the funds to different colleges, or will Student Campus Life (SCL) just use it at that level?

  5. I'm an essential employee in the Vet Hospital, but am out of NYPFL to care for my son who is high risk. Is my job safe?

  6. Is Cornell eligible for New York State's Shared Work Program? It appears to be a good way to keep some people in their positions at reduced hours while allowing them to apply for some unemployment benefits. Is this a program the University would consider?

  7. I'm wondering if you can comment on what the process for staffing decisions in CAPS might look like, given the current climate and uncertainty for all. There are a number of different employment arrangements - full time, part time, and the full time appointments range from 10.5-12 months in length. I want to make sure that creativity is the order of the day in terms of meeting Ryan Lombardi's goal of keeping as many staff members employeed as possible. It is unnerving to hear about university-wide pressures for furloughs and layoffs (not that this is in any way surprising), yet have received absoluted no information about this as a staff. Will we have more information as everything progresses, or should we take this to mean that CAPS staff are "safe"?

  8. Why was nothing done for Lab week at the AHDC? As a Medical Technologist, this si the one week of the year where our jobs are actually recognized, and no more than ever we are needed, but nothing was done. I understand there is a lot happening now, but a simple thank you to those of us behind the scenes is always welcome.

  9. President Pollack's recent message to the Cornell community included the necessary and understandable warning that difficult measures such as furloughs or layoffs - beyond the hiring and salary frees - might not be avoidable. Might a feasible or possible alternative be to "reduce" salaries and/or number of work hours, just so all staff can be retained?

  10. Has there been any conversation of what might happen to employee FSA funds that are not able to be used due to COVID-19? For example, those who set aside dependent care funds for daycare or summer camps might not be able to use those funds by the deadlien if camps and care centers do not open. We are already seeing camps canceling for the summer. Will we just lose that money?

  11. If it comes to layoff, will our retirement be secure?

  12. How will the Cornell Children's Tuition Scholarship (CCTS) change if an employee gets laid off?

  13. Transportation and Mail Services sends permit renewal forms to our work address. If they are deviating from that, whether sending to our homes or changing to email, it would be great to let us know.

  14. Employees fulfilling essential services have been faced with the challenging decision of going into work or choosing to stay home. However, if an employee is filling an essential service role, but they make the decision to stay home for a variety of reasons outside of approved medical leaves, they are then required to use their time bank of HAP or VAC to continue to be paid. Since essential employees are the only ones who have been faced with this difficult decision, have you given any thought around awarding an additional bank of HAP days for those in essential roles?

  15. Has there been any update on the reissuing of parking permits to those that choose to turn in their permits? The current messaging leave people with unrest about turning in their permits because they don't know if they will get them back. Can you give first priority to those that turn in their permits before going to the waitlist for new permits?

  16. New York has now approved that all essential emplyees can tested if they want. Will Cornell be considering a requirement to have all essential employees tested?

  17. Ithaca College announced a plan on April 13th to begin reducing the size of its workforce through voluntary steps, including a one-time early retirement incentive. Is Cornell looking at any incentives to encourage early retirement?

  18. Instead of getting laid off, is there any way we can take a furlough? I would love to have my job when this is over and I'm willing to not get paid so I won't get laid off.

  19. Is there some concern about individuals coming to Tompkins County to their summer homes and increasing rates of infection here?

  20. Anne - is it safe to give blood at Red Cross blood drives given 6' social distancing regulations?

  21. How can we "enforce" (or can we??) physical distancing on campus areas that are currently open (e.g., Botanic Gardens)? Is this the responsibility of the essential staff there, CUPD, or others?

  22. How soon will all of us have access to being tested for previous exposure?

  23. Could you please repeat the 4 keys/variables to consider when reopening?

  24. Do you know if they will be hiring contact tracers in NYS? Will any volunteers be used? What organization is responsible for hiring contact tracers?

  25. Studies at Univ Nebraska Medical Center, MIT, and The Netherlands show the virus can be shed a lot further than 6 feet. How might this be incorporated into policies/practices for reopening offices and labs (not to mention the campus as a whole)?

  26. Because Cornell is in New York state, prospective students, especially those from beyond the Northeast, and foreign students, might incorrectly think Cornell's Ithaca Campus is in the middle of the U.S. pandemic's epicenter, when in fact Ithaca is far from NYC and has been affected to a far lesser extent. This misperception might affect matriculation decisions. Is the University doing anything to manage this misperception among admitted but not yet matriculated students?

  27. Local community may be defined or look different, when factoring in the transience student/faculty population. So, the current low percentage of Ithaca infections is most likely due to the low influx of people from outside our area. I assume this will be a factor when thinking about reopening.

  28. The proposed salary cuts - how long will people be expected to take the cut? Will this be permanent?

  29. How many students do we have remaining on campus?

  30. Will housing be offered to graduate and professional students as well?

  31. In her email last Wednesday, President Pollack said, "Provost Kotlikoff, Executive Vice President DeStefano and Vice President Opperman will provide more details of our financial situation later this week.". There was not another mass emailing. Is there an updated timeline for that update?

  32. Can graduating seniors live on campus this summer?

  33. Will there be a charge for on campus summer housing for students?

  34. Would the summer housing option apply to international Master of Engineering students?

  35. How many students are currently living/dining on campus? Are they somewhat (with proper distancing) concentrated to help building care and dining manage those areas?

  36. What is NRCE?

  37. Cuomo's "NYS Pause" technically ends of May 15, does that mean that all Cornell essential employees will return to work on May 18?

  38. Is Cornell helping procure sanitizing supplies for those still on campus? Vendors are out, local stores are out, but essential staff on campus are being asked to clean when they are there.

  39. The city has announced dramatic cuts for summer youth programming in Tompkins County. Can the University help in any way to meet this important need?

  40. In California, another "hot spot", construction is going full bore according to colleagues at UC Davis. What is the state's rationale for no construction in NYS?

  41. The students who are on campus, are they living there for free?

  42. How can we pick up our mail?

  43. Good read - 15 Fall Scenarios - https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/blogs/learning-innovation/15-fall-scenarios

  44. What is Cornell considering worst-case scenario?

  45. Some international students have apartments in town. Their leases will end before they are actually able to leave Ithaca. Can they have on-campus housing in these cases?

  46. Does Cornell plan on testing nonsymptomatic employees in the plan to re-open campus?

  47. In a previous meeting, Joanne DeStefano stated that an additional $30 million would be devoted to student aid. Now that Cornell has received about $12M from CARES funds, will that $30M be reduced accordingly, or will there be more resources to protect staff pay and jobs?

  48. Can one of the speakers explain the CARES act funding as it relates to Cornell?

  49. Is Transportation going to reimburse for parking they are continuing to pay for?

  50. When staff are approved to return to campus, if parents don't feel comfortable with the childcare situation (or if daycare isn't operating at full capacity), can they continue to work from home until they do?

  51. In her message last week, President Pollack said, "Provost Kotlikoff, Executive Vice President DeStefano and Vice President Opperman will provide more details of our financial situation later this week." I don't recall receiving any additional update. Did I miss something, or can we expect something more soon?

  52. Once we open, will parking tags expiring June 30 be allowed to be used after this date without penalty?

  53. If parking fees are not going to be waived and we are not getting raises this year, can we at least not get the yearly increase starting July 1?

  54. Do you think Cornell will do what Ithaca College is doing?

  55. Do furloughed employees have health insurance?

  56. Could you please tell us an actual number of how many people were laid off or furloughed?

  57. Any idea when the rest of building care will be back to work?

  58. Will an early retirement offer be considered, similar to Ithaca College?

  59. Are the trustees considering payout from the endowment to help meet the university's emergency financial needs?

  60. Many staff live in counties other than Tompkins and commute to campus. As the Ithaca campus reopens, how will you accommodate social distancing advice that may differ between Tompkins and the employee's home county?

  61. Are early retirement incentives being considered?

  62. Will Cornell be offering a retirement program like Ithaca College is doing?

  63. Will the summer housing be offered at a free or reduced cost? How will you help students who need it but can't afford it or have lost their student employment?

  64. Will there be any reductions related to staff education benefits? For example, the EDP?

  65. Is there still hiring going on now of PT or casual workers?

  66. President Pollack's 4/22 letter said, "Provost Kotlikoff, Executive Vice President DeStefano and Vice President Opperman will provide more details of our financial situation later this week." Did that happen?

  67. Is there an option for voluntary contributions of HAP for an employee that has reduced ability to work due to childcare?

  68. If a staff member is furloughed, how would it affect their years of service?

  69. From what I understand, employees have the option to turn in their parking passes by May 15 and get a pro-rated refund. Will essential employees need parking passes to park on campus after May 15? Thank you.

  70. EVP DeStefano - as the Chair of the Committee on Research and Operations Reactivation, can you provide some information on what metrics you will use (inclusive of federal and state guidelines) to determine when to reactivate our research and related campus operations? Is there a general timeline for decision making?

  71. Could you describe what steps are being taken to reopen with regards to testing and/or quarantining, etc. students, faculty and staff? Are you able to access resources on campus as well as Weill Medical given the slow federal response?

  72. Has transportation decided on the parking permit payments? My suggestion would be once we reopen, they should reduce our payments next year equal to the amount of time we were not able to go to work but paid for our permits.

  73. Would the furlough and shared work options be available to Cooperative Extension staff as well?

  74. Is there, or will there be, a process on how the university will be making decisions about furloughs, job sharing, and other staffing changes? We would like to be able to direct staff to something similar to the City of Ithaca's furlough resolution (http://www.cityofithaca.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_04292020-2103), which lays out how, when, and by whom these decisions are to be made.

  75. Mary, can you give us a timeline of when we might have further definition of what furloughs and layoffs will look like?

  76. Many workplaces have realized significant savings (lower energy costs, vast reduction in office supply usage, etc.) due to the shift to work-from-home arrangements, with the additional benefit of reduced pollution from fewer cars of the road, etc. For these reasons, the City of Buffalo, for instance, is taking steps to shift to a more permanent work-from-home footing for many of its employees, even after the virus abates and "normal" operations resume. Would Cornell consider such a change for staff who are able to do their work from home to realize similar financial savings and environmental gains over the long run?

  77. Will there be any change in funding or impact to the Employee Degree Program (EDP)?

  78. For Rick - is there a date for BTC trades to report?

  79. What is the update on graduation? Will it still be held this summer either in person or virtual?

  80. Can a PI request a furlough for an employee who is paid by NIH/NSF in order to save those funds until labs re-open and research can resume?

  81. According to Martha Pollack's recent COVID-19 update, there is a potential loss between $160 million and $210 million by the end of the next fiscal year. For units with discretionary funds, outside of gifts, what advice or direction is being shared in terms of how to manage those funds?

  82. I apologize if this was already addressed, but is there a deadline for when a decision will be made about whether Cornell will open in the Fall? In other words, at what point will Cornell decide that we've gotten close enough to the Fall semester without meeting the 4 requirements that we can't justify keeping the possibility open any longer?

  83. Is Cornell considering decreasing the level of health insurance coverage for staff to decrease costs?

  84. Can money from the endowment be put toward financial aid?

  85. Can we assume, then, that campus will not reopen before the middle of June?

  86. When campus re-opens, do you think it will be staggered?

  87. Has there been any consideration of allowing newly admitted students a later deadline to commit to acceptance of Cornell given that some prospective students may wish to wait to accept until they know what the Fall semester will look like?

  88. Is there a plan in progress surrounding workspaces being reconfigured to accommodate social distancing measures and requirements prior to the return of non-essential employees and how will this be enforced?

  89. Is there a projection date of when staff will be asked to return to campus?

  90. What percentage of Cornell staff and faculty have school-aged children? How is that being factored into plans for reopening campus and the workplace? Clearly it will be a challenge for any working parents to return to the in-person workplace until schools reopen.

  91. It seems clear that the actions we have all been taking are successful in reducing the exponential increase in COVID-19 infections and fatalities. Since, prior to a vaccine, there is no immunity outside those who have survived the virous, is it likely that reopening nationally will cause a significant resurgence of the pandemic and threat to our Cornell community?

  92. What criteria will be used to decide furloughs (i.e. seniority, job performance evaluations including attendance, etc.)?

  93. Is the projected number of foreign students matriculating in the fall expected to drop drastically? Should we expect more domestic students?

  94. Is there any effort happening to look at cost saving measures across units and divisions rather than just within divisions or units or departments?

  95. There is a lot of discussion among the students regarding taking Fall 2020 off. How will leaves of absence be handled?

  96. Would students coming to Cornell in the fall, if they come from an area where the outbreak has not been contained, be required to quarantine before joining the community?

  97. Shout out to Interim Director of Counseling who has supported 40 plus staff and co-facilitated the telehealth pathway for continued mental health care for our students.

  98. Some employees have family members who are at higher risk of adverse outcomes if contracting COVID-19. Will there be special consideration given to employees who feel that a physical return to the workplace may be putting those family members at risk?

  99. Some current students have expressed concern of the fall semester continuing online. Several have said they will take a leave of absence because they don't want to pay for a Cornell tuition if courses are online. Have any of you heard similar stories, and if so, what plans are you taking to ensure current students returning for the fall semester?

  100. How much expenses in travel alone does Cornell have yearly (planes, lodging, per diems, etc.) and how much is Cornell planning on cutting back?

  101. My apologies if this has been answered, as I joined slightly late. Is there a date that Cornell is working toward, when will it be decided if there will be fall classes on campus? Thank you.

  102. Would this plan to consider more permanent work from home include provisions for office supplies and equipment? Would we be responsible for buying supplies and equipment that would normally be provided?

  103. Are there any changes to the flex spending and dental programs as we allocated monies that we cannot fulfill due to closures of dental offices and surgeries?

  104. How are classrooms going to be refigured when students return to comply with social distancing? Are large classes, such as the Wines class, going to be divided into sections?

  105. Will testing be available for student upon returning for fall, when/how will Cornell coordinate testing (whether for positive cases or antibodies) for staff and faculty during a phase or reopening?

  106. In light of President Pollacks' message last week regarding layoffs or furloughs, can you explain the university's decision to use 100% of the CARES Act funds on student aid versus using part of it to minimize impacts on staffing?

  107. Can an organized effort be in place for individual staff to document their essential duties for university/unit leadership to consider while deciding on potential furloughs?

  108. With the increased need for financial aid, I suspect there will be additional students with an award for a work-study program. Unfortunately, with units having reduced budgets, they do not have funding to hire these students. Has any thought been given to providing units with funds specifically to employee student workers?

  109. Thank you all for the incredible amount of time, effort, and energy you have put into these Town Halls; and for your willingness to be the face of our tough questions and our many emotions. For divisions and/or teams who may be facing layoffs int he weeks and months to come, would be possible for senior leadership to make a commitment of some kind to communicate the potential for job loss before the job is actually lost? I realize this is a tough question. For me, it comes from a place of hoping people could be given a final give of as much time as possible to prepare for a potential layoff. Thanks in advance for anything you may feel comfortable sharing on this.

  110. Anne - do you know if they will be hiring more contact tracers in NYS? What organization is responsible for that? Would Cornell be doing that for its own campus or be a part of a larger contact tracing program?

  111. Has transportation decided on the parking permits payments? I'd suggest in the new fiscal year when the new permits come out, they apply prorated, what was paid and reduce the payments for the next year.

  112. Is there an estimate time from of when we will be starting to come back to campus?

  113. There could also be some time shifting of classes to lessen overall density as people/students walk from dorms to classes.

  114. I think there may be questions that staff may want to ask, but the ability to send questions anonymously is turned off. Why is that?

  115. Acknowledging that the Cornell University "permanent" employees are first in mind to keep on staff, has there been any thought on hiring back the "temporary" staff as far as the future possibilities and/or time periods?

  116. What kind of support will be provided for those at higher risk of complications including possible death from COVID-19 infection due to underlying conditions when the university is reopened, and people are expected to come back to the office and/or classroom?

  117. Some staff might feel at high risk due to their family member's health and so might wish to remain sequestered at home after Cornell re-opens. Will be it acceptable for them to not come in for meetings and such when everyone else is?

  118. Could someone please speak to Cornell and TCAT's current status? It seems that a big part of restarting campus includes meeting transportation needs when students, faculty, and staff return.

  119. When will employees know if they are furloughed or that their job is in jeopardy?

  120. Arizona University is testing everyone when they come back.

  121. Will building care employees be brought back soon so they can clean up the building before everyone returns to the buildings on campus?

  122. There was an email yesterday on how to reduce your flex spending on childcare.

  123. When Cornell begins the stage re-opening, will the university provide PPE to all employees and students? Will there be training involved for best practices during a pandemic or similar crisis? And will there be an enforcement policy for those not complying during the crisis?

  124. Can the childcare grant be carried over?

  125. Because we are not on campus, is it possible to put our parking permit on hold?

  126. Are the current discussions including retirees’ access - they are by definition in the high-risk cohort?

  127. Regarding dependent care - what about families who have children who will age out of eligibility for dependent care between this year and next?

  128. For the few percent of Tompkins County residents who are COVID positive, are they all known and treated, of is that just a population estimate?

  129. Gordon Barger spoke to the Benefits and Policy Committee of the Employee Assembly yesterday. He is an amazing resource for benefits questions! Thank you all for taking the time to be available to the staff.

  130. Thank you all for your tireless and difficult work on behalf of the entire Cornell community!!!! Stay well!!

  131. Thank you ALL for keeping us up to date. Thank you for all you do!!

  132. Thank you!

  133. No question - but thank you all for being open and transparent with everything. This opportunity to ask the questions and understand the efforts to make sure we all make it is inspiring and makes me very proud to be part of Cornell. Thank you.