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Ithaca College changes course, will not welcome students back this fall

Ithaca College will not hold any in-person classes this fall. That was the announcement made by President Shirly Collado on Tuesday.

“I am announcing today that Ithaca College will be extending remote instruction for students through the fall semester. This means that we will not be welcoming all students back to campus this fall as we had hoped,” Collado said in a letter to the community.

She called it an agonizing decision that was made in consultation with the senior leadership team.

“This was an agonizing decision that I made in consultation with the members of my senior leadership team, informed by the best thinking of so many members of our college community and data around the evolution of this pandemic,” the letter continued. “Personally, this saddens me greatly, and I have sincerely missed seeing our campus activated with our students’ energy and their zest for learning and for life. I also know how very much our students want to return to IC — we have heard your voices so clearly.”

“Additionally, as planning for the fall academic and residential experience continued, it became very clear that, due to the absolutely necessary modifications around things like facilities preparedness and population density, the on-campus experience that our students would have had this semester would ultimately be very different from the IC experience our students would expect and that we would want them to have,” Collado continued. “Finally, though none of us can predict the future with any certainty, it is easy to foresee the likelihood of a public health trajectory that would mandate the closure of the college due to circumstances beyond our control. Bringing students here, only to send them back home, would cause unnecessary disruption in the continuity of their academic experience.”

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

Check out the full letter below:

Focus for the Fall

I want to pivot now and talk about the IC experience our students can expect this fall. I know we all take great pride in our college’s deep commitment to academic excellence and student success, and I want to state firmly that the temporary shift we’re experiencing for the coming semester doesn’t change the essence of who we are as a learning community.

Academic Engagement

Since May, when we announced that dual instruction and hybrid learning would be a key part of our proposed transition back to campus, many of our faculty got to work reconceptualizing their course content to provide a full and engaging learning experience that could be effectively delivered remotely.

With support and guidance from our Center for Faculty Excellence and our Teaching and Learning with Technology staff, many faculty have dedicated themselves to creating interactive, innovative course experiences for our students. More than 250 participated in the intensive, five-week summer institute, Flexible by Design, and enriched their capacities to teach in both hybrid and fully online modalities — significantly redesigning courses they will teach this fall and incorporating case studies, videos, and problem-based activities into their courses. Faculty continue to supplement their professional learning with “complementary topic” workshops focused on accessibility, assessment, and microaggressions with an eye toward strengthening inclusive, intellectually engaging communities.

This has been a moment for faculty to envision new ways to build community with their students at a distance, and embrace an opportunity to transform their teaching, not simply by applying new tools and resources but by pausing to reconsider their courses through a deeply student-centered lens and reflect on teaching in the company of their colleagues. Our IC faculty are committed to bringing their best to the classroom and co-creating knowledge with their students in exciting and meaningful ways.

Importantly, we know there are some courses that are best delivered in person. Provost La Jerne Terry Cornish has begun working with each of our schools’ deans to build flexibility where possible into the sequencing of certain courses, to enable us to utilize the fall term to engage in learning that lends itself to a remote format and delay courses that better fit with an in-person experience.

In addition, students whose programs require hands-on experience for licensure or accreditation (such as those in certain health professions) will be permitted to attend key learning experiences on campus. This is especially critical and salient for our students who are training for professions in essential healthcare fields and will be gaining real-time experience in a historic moment for public health. We will communicate directly with students in these types of programs about attending these key learning experiences on campus.

Student Life

Similar preparation and innovative thinking is already under way in Student Affairs and Campus Life. Vice President Rosanna Ferro and her team are building a slate of creative, cohort-based programming that builds community among students, and offers opportunities for authentic and meaningful connections that will continue to sustain Ithaca College’s vibrant learning community.

Specifically, VP Ferro and her team have designed a menu of signature programs centered around the following themes: Belonging at IC, Exploring Ithaca, How to Be an Anti-Racist, Engaging in the Political Process, and Wellness Adventure Series: On the Go with IC!

Additionally, Elizabeth Bleicher, professor in the Department of English, is working closely this year with Student Affairs and Campus Life and the Office of the Provost to lead a cross-campus, cross-functional team that is solely focused on facilitating connections to help faculty and staff be tightly engaged with the student experience.

All these programs circle back to one of the primary goals of Ithaca College’s strategic plan: to become a national model for student success, engagement, and well-being. Striving to activate this goal during a pandemic will lay important groundwork for the future of Ithaca College and our ability to realize our vision of becoming a global destination for bold thinkers seeking to build thriving communities.

Institutionalizing Our Public Health Response

Tremendous energy has been invested over several months to find ways to bring our students, faculty, and staff back to Ithaca College to once again live, work, and learn. Just last week we were very proud to share with this community our Return to Campus Plan, which was carefully constructed to provide the blueprint for how we will care for members of our community who do return to campus, and maintain our commitment to public health and safety.

Though we are extending remote instruction through the fall, we are not missing a beat with the implementation of our plan, and we will be activating critical components of it to serve essential faculty and staff and select program-based cohorts of students who will be on campus for key learning experiences.

The formalization of this plan — and the announcement of the appointment of Christina Moylan as the director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness — also signals to our IC families, our employees, and our communities that this institution is committed to preparedness for the long haul.

Christina has already shared with me her ideas about assembling a Public Health Task Force at the college. Additionally, we will be maintaining and expanding our Health and Safety Advisory Group to include the expertise of Dave Gondek, immunologist and microbiologist and associate professor in our Department of Biology, and Kari Brossard Stoos, microbiologist and associate professor in our Department of Health Promotion and Physical Education. They will be joining Christina, Dr. Ellyn Sellers-Selin, medical services director of our Center for Counseling, Health, and Wellness; Bill Kerry, director of Public Safety and Emergency Management; and Tim Ryan, assistant director for Environmental Health & Safety, as a part of this advisory group.

Coming Together as a Community

I ask our faculty, staff, and students to save the date for some critical upcoming meetings to unpack this change further and to share your thoughts:

  • All-Faculty Gathering: Wednesday, August 19, from noon – 1:00 p.m. ET
  • All-Student Gathering: Wednesday, August 19, from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. ET
  • All-Staff Gathering: Monday, August 24, from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. ET

I know that our fall semester is looking very different from what we all had hoped would be possible. I also know that this is a resilient, tight-knit, and dedicated community that is familiar with challenge. I ask that all of us rise to this challenge together and resist the temptation to allow the disappointment of this moment to undercut our potential as individuals and as an institution. We can build an amazing academic experience amid a pandemic. We can support students with innovative programming that affirms who they are and who they want to become. And we can realize our vision to contribute to a thriving, equitable, and inspiring world. I’m ready to continue doing this work, and I hope you will join me.