SCL Divisional Statements
An archive of statements by Student & Campus Life leaders addressing matters of importance to the SCL divisional community
Statements by year:
June 30, 2020: SCL staff updates for fall reopening
Like many of you, I was encouraged by President Pollack’s announcement that Cornell is welcoming students back to campus for the fall semester. As you can imagine, this decision was not made lightly and would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of many across campus who spent the last few months developing plans to make our campus as safe as possible. I extend my deepest gratitude to those within Student & Campus Life who contributed to these efforts, ultimately paving this path to reopening.
While we have much to look forward to as we think about the fall semester, it is important for us to recognize that our environment is not the same as it was when we left campus in March. The threat of COVID-19 remains, and therefore we need to continue to plan—operationally, to receive students, faculty, and staff back to campus this fall, as well as fiscally, to rebuild our losses and sustain our financial health. Simultaneously, our nation is facing one of the greatest racial injustice awakenings of our time. These two crises will require the vast majority of our time and energy as an institution. To meet this demand, some of our programs and services across SCL will need to operate differently this year, and some will have to be put on pause altogether. This is not the time for operating in a static state but rather a moment for pulling together around a shared commitment to address our most pressing priorities.
Today, I write to share how our division is preparing for this long road ahead.
As we have communicated previously, the financial burden of this pandemic has been tremendous. SCL’s total losses this spring amounted to more than $34M, which included refunds for housing and dining, and significant unrealized revenue from Catering, Conference and Event Services, Cornell Retail Services and many other departments. While Cornell took several steps to help reduce the impact, including a freeze on discretionary spending, salary increases, and new hires, we have not yet fully recovered. We expect continued financial strain caused both by the economic hardships on our students and their families and the additional expenses that we will incur as a university to operate our campus in a safer manner. We can anticipate that Cornell as a whole will continue to look for ways to further address these financial projections. As a division, Student & Campus Life must continue to be prudent with our expenses despite reopening this fall, and will:
- Continue to freeze discretionary spending, including strict review of all spending above $5,000 and all business travel.
- Continue the hiring freeze and carefully consider all requests to replace vacant positions and, in most cases, continue to leave vacant positions unfilled for the coming academic year.
- Review unit programs and services. Each SCL unit lead has engaged in conversations around opportunities to reduce expenses and increase revenue. If you have not yet had a chance to provide your ideas and feedback and would like to, please connect with your unit director.
While we will have significant barriers to overcome financially, if we remain diligent and focused on the future together, I am hopeful we can come out of this crisis financially sound. I recognize that operating with ongoing vacancies may be concerning. I have therefore asked our leadership team to support resource sharing, including staff, more broadly across the division and, where it makes sense, across Cornell. You will receive more information about how we intend to do this from our SCL Human Resources team in the coming weeks.
While many of us are anxious to return to campus, we have to do so in a manner that protects our campus and Ithaca community as much as possible. Cornell is operating under state and local guidance and has put several measures in place to ensure we are compliant with both. Here is what you can expect over the next few weeks:
- Teams are working at both the institutional and divisional levels to implement the safety plans across campus. In SCL, Sharon McMullen, Pat Wynn, Jenny Loeffelman and Vijay Pendakur are leading these large-scale projects.
- SCL units that need to begin to bring staff back on campus are required to submit a reopening plan and must obtain approval prior to doing so. You will receive more information on our divisional process for submitting reopening plans from Kellie Page within the next week. Staff who have not been on campus during the COVID-19 closure should NOT return without first receiving approval from SCL leadership.
- Not all staff will return to campus to resume work, and will instead be asked to continue working remotely at this time. A key piece of our campus safety plan is to have as few people on campus as possible. Your supervisor will discuss your work location for the fall in the coming weeks.
- Staff who need to return to campus and have been approved to do so will be expected to follow the newly established campus safety procedures at all times.
Racial Justice & Equity Work
Even with the important work of reactivating our campus, I want to also acknowledge that our work as a division toward equity and racial justice is just beginning. This work is of utmost importance to me and the SCL leadership team. I hope you are engaging in meaningful conversations with your work teams and that you plan to join the SCL leadership team later this summer in a dialogue around our community book read, How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Additionally, I encourage you to participate in the SCL Racial Justice & Equity Series this summer developed and facilitated by our colleagues in the Dean of Students Office. The next session, Spirituality and Social/Racial Justice, is scheduled for July 8th. I am grateful for our Dean of Students colleagues who are dedicating much of their time and energy to supporting the SCL staff this summer. Please also know that I continue to advocate – at the highest levels of the institution – to promote systemic and holistic reforms that will promote racial justice on our campus. I anticipate that we will hear institutional-level updates on these initiatives in the coming weeks.
Thank you all in advance for what we know will be a big effort in the weeks and months ahead. As New York State reaches phase four of reopening, please find ways to safely unwind and recharge, enjoy the summer weather, and focus on good self-care. While we still have a lot of work ahead of us, I know that we, as Student & Campus Life, will continue to show resilience and inspire transformation across our campus.
June 9, 2020: SCL staff update - Our commitment, our next steps
This message today is from all of us in the SCL Vice President’s Council:
We write today to stand together as one division in our shared condemnation of the violence and unjust treatment of Black people in our country, and for the systemic racism that has shaped Black lives since the nation’s inception. We believe Black Lives Matter and hope that the activism we see across the nation will result in substantive, lasting change on key issues tied to policing, police brutality, and racial equity.
For our Black staff and community, we know our words aren’t enough and we realize silence isn’t an option. As leaders at our university, and in our community, we are committed to using our voices and our roles to enact action and change.
Tomorrow, June 10, universities across the world are being asked to participate in the #shutdownacademia day to pause usual academic work and instead use that time to educate ourselves about the history of anti-Black violence, police brutality, and racism. While we recognize we can’t shut down Student & Campus Life as many of us provide essential services to our Cornell community, we invite you to take time for self-reflection or educate yourself about why Black Lives Matter. Ideas on how you could spend time: engage in dialogue with each other; immerse yourself in the work of a black artist (literature, film, music); donate to a cause to advance justice for Black people; or any other way that you feel is appropriate to support our Black community and enact change. This is not a day off but rather a way to build a better society.
As your leadership team, we are committing to the following actions:
- We will support SCL staff to participate in the #ShutdownAcademia on June 10 and, to every extent possible, pause our normal work to reflect and educate ourselves.
- We commit to participating in the Cornell community book read, How to Be an Antiracist, and encourage you to do the same. Additionally, while the university is providing a free copy of the e-book for students, we will also provide one for SCL staff. If you would like an access code to obtain a free copy of the e-book, click here. We look forward to discussing the book with you later this summer.
- For the next three months, the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion team in the Office of the Dean of Students will take the lead on offering a series of virtual engagement experiences on racial justice and racial equity for all SCL staff. While we are still finalizing details, these workshops will allow people to learn, share, and grow together. The series will begin next week with an opportunity for Black staff to come together in dialogue, reflection, and shared community. Other topics, for which we invite all staff, will include;
- Spirituality and Racial Justice
- Understanding Structural Racism
- Anti-Racism and Actions toward Allyship
- Anti-Blackness in Non-Black Communities of Color
- Race, Health Equity, and the Pandemic
- Trans Black Lives Matter
Information on dates, times, and registration details will be shared in the coming days.
- The Diversity & Inclusion divisional priority will continue to receive funding, despite current budget freezes. Recently we purchased Eskalera, a software training tool that can increase cross-cultural competence, cultural humility, and emotional intelligence in our workforce. In August, we will share a plan on how we will implement this tool for our division.
We are committed to learning and growing together as colleagues and as a division. These are the first of many steps to support our Black colleagues, to be anti-racist, and to create an inclusive, supportive working environment for all of our staff.
Ryan, Andy, Jenny, Kellie, Melanie, Pat, Rebecca, Sharon, Valerie, Vijay
June 1, 2020: In solidarity - support for our Black community
Dear SCL Team:
I’m not writing today about COVID-19. I’m writing about a pandemic far worse and longstanding: systemic racism. Like many of you, I have felt pain, anger, and sadness while watching videos of senseless killings of Black people in America these past weeks and months. For many of our Black staff and other staff of color, these are not just videos; these are real experiences that have been lived for generations. They are despicable, intolerable, and quite simply, they must stop.
My words are not enough and never will be. We all must commit to using our power and energy to eradicate the racism that pervades our country and our communities. To my colleagues and friends – especially those in the Black community – please know that I echo President Pollack’s statement; I support you and will continue to dedicate my efforts towards a just and equitable community.
May we find the love, strength, and support so that all can live in safety and peace.
Please remember there are resources available to you and I encourage you to seek out the support that you need, including the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (607-255-2673).