SCL Divisional Statements
An archive of statements by Student & Campus Life leaders addressing matters of importance to the SCL divisional community
Statements by year:
November 10, 2021: SCL Staff Message
Dear SCL Team,
I’m writing today to acknowledge the challenging and stressful few days we’ve had on campus this week. Under any circumstance, the bomb threats on Sunday followed by the police pursuit near our campus yesterday would be disconcerting. These incidents coupled with ongoing fatigue related to the pandemic and an already stressful time of the semester have created a high level of anxiety for many in our community.
Know that these feelings are completely valid. I have them myself. Please remember that each one of us has been impacted by these events in a different way and as such may be experiencing their effects in equally different ways.
As we find time to process recent events, I encourage you to lean into your respective communities – here on campus and elsewhere - for support and connection. Human connection is critically important, and particularly under stressful circumstances. I know many of you are already engaging deeply with your colleagues and in student spaces and I appreciate your willingness to do so even as you balance your own needs.
As you connect with each other or gather your own thoughts, I would like to hear from you. If you have suggestions for how we can best support each other and students in times like these, you are welcome to do that through this feedback tool (attaching your name to your feedback is optional). The suggestions you provide will help us to identify new ways to connect, communicate more effectively, and support each other in the future.
So much over these past 21+ months has been incredibly taxing, regularly bringing about new challenges and obstacles to overcome. Please reach out if you need support, continue to take care of yourselves, show one another grace, and make some time for rest, rejuvenation and the things that bring you joy.
September 17, 2021: A message from VP Lombardi
Dear SCL Colleagues,
It is hard to believe that less than a month ago we moved thousands of students back on to campus to begin another semester. And yet, so much has happened in that short time. The start of this semester has brought on new challenges for all of us as we continue to navigate and adjust to the impacts of the pandemic. Please know your work and efforts do not go unnoticed – by me, the SCL leadership team, your colleagues, or by our students and their families. I’d like to share some of the affirming feedback we’ve received from students and their families about their experience this fall:
“I am writing to express my appreciation for how well you have and continue to handle this pandemic. I applaud you for your science-based approach. Most of all, I am grateful for your every effort to keep these kids in the classroom. I practically well up with tears at the thought of returning to remote instruction. Thank you again for all that you do in service of our kids.”
Parent of class of ’22
“My son is loving and embracing his entrance to Cornell. He has joined and appreciated the orientation activities, dorm competitions, and formal and informal gatherings. He loves the food, and, as someone who has celiac, feels supported. He got a randomly assigned roommate who is now a friend, had a fantastic experience in Outdoor Odyssey, and has met so many people, all of whom he reports are happy and excited to be here. As someone who has worked at Cornell for 20 years now, it has been a joy to experience Cornell through his eyes."
Parent of student and Cornell Colleague
These are just a few of the many dozens of messages I have received like this through the last year and over the past few weeks. Barely a day passes without someone on campus or, on the other side of the world, expressing how thankful they are for everything we are doing to keep the in-person campus experience intact. While the beginning of the academic year has been far from easy, I am in awe of the difference you all continue to make in the lives of our students. Planning and executing student move-in, orientation, welcome events, and ongoing support and activities in a normal year is a challenge in itself but as we know, layering in the additional demands of a pandemic can be exhausting. And yet, you have risen to the challenge again, providing our newest Cornellians, returning students, and their families with a strong start to a semester back together on campus.
I wish I could promise that the worst is behind us, but we simply don’t know what the rest of this semester will bring. We are sure to come up against more changes to our work and personal lives in the face of this pandemic. The only thing we know for sure is that we must continue to show grace and support – for Cornell students and for each other. Reach out to others if needed and take time to pause and reflect on our commitment to this important work.
Thank you again for everything you do!
May 3, 2021: SCL Staff Appreciation Week
Dear SCL colleagues,
During the last year, our Cornell community – and especially our team in Student & Campus Life – has been challenged in ways we never could have imagined. These challenges have contributed to significant and often lasting impacts in our personal lives and on our work in SCL.
Through it all, you have demonstrated resilience, compassion, determination, and dedication. I continue to be humbled and impressed by your flexibility and adaptability. The support and care you show for our students and for one another – even in the most difficult of times – has allowed us to endure, and continue to provide a transformative in-person experience this year. Thank you all for your commitment to SCL and to moving us forward with strength and grace.
In recognition of all we have accomplished this year, I am excited to announce that SCL is hosting a Staff Appreciation Week, held May 17 - 21. This week will be filled with fun surprises including virtual and in-person activities for you to connect with one another in new ways, games with prizes, and opportunities to give thanks to one another. Keep an eye on your email for more details in the coming days.
Please continue to prioritize your own wellness and take time for self-care as the semester comes to a close. You all are the heart of this campus and you have kept Cornell running strong this year not only for our students but for our entire campus community. Thank you.
September 11, 2020: Celebrating our SCL Retirees
Please join us in celebrating our colleagues listed below on their upcoming retirements. These valued members of our SCL team have made countless contributions to our division over the course of their careers and will be deeply missed. With many of these staff departing Cornell on September 15, we invite you to express your well wishes through Cornell’s Voluntary Retiree Kudoboard. Please know that some employees have requested to remain anonymous, we kindly ask that you keep messages to the board general and respect the privacy of those who have chosen to remain anonymous.
In addition, there will be a Talent Tribute to all the Cornell retirees on Monday, September 14 at 12:00pm. This non-competitive community entertainment event is open to students, faculty, and staff.
SCL Vice President’s Council
Ryan, Andy, Amy, Jenny, Kellie, Melanie, Pat, Rebecca, Sharon, Valerie, Vijay
Thank you for your years of service to Cornell!
Some staff members are not included. They have asked to not be celebrated publicly.
Student & Campus Life Voluntary Retirees:
Pamela Arsenault - Cornell Health
James Benninger - Conference and Event Services
Myra Berkowitz - Cornell Health
Elizabeth Bismore - Cornell Health
Cynthia Bower - Cornell Dining
Gale Brown - Cornell Health
Patty Case - Sorority & Fraternity Life
Rebecca Damiani - Cornell Health
Isabella Frost - Cornell Dining
Robin Hamlisch - Cornell Health
George Holets- Conference and Event Services
Veronica Horton - Cornell Dining
Debra Hotaling - Conference and Event Services
Susan Malpass - Cornell Dining
Anna Matusiewicz - Cornell Health
Penny McKane - Cornell Health
Gale Nichols - Cornell Dining
Kurt Quick - Cornell Dining
Thomas Ricketson - Student Services IT
Rebecca Sparrow - Cornell Career Services
Kathy Straight - Cornell Dining
Jean Tang - Cornell Dining
King Tang - Cornell Dining
Penny Ward - Cornell Health
David Wentzel - Cornell Health
Dale Williams - Sorority & Fraternity Life
Martha Williams - Cornell Health
Qunwang Zhao - Cornell Dining
Alicia Zukowski - Cornell Dining
September 1, 2020: Thank You. You've made this semester possible.
It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly six months since we were thrust into a pandemic and our world was changed. While the beginning of the academic year always brings a mix of challenge and excitement, this year is like nothing we have ever seen.
Each and every one of us has had to re-think our work and adapt it for our new circumstances. Many of you have jumped in to help with new priorities outside your traditional roles to prepare for the reactivation of Cornell. While none of us could have anticipated how trying this experience would be for our division, I could not be prouder to go through this journey with you. I am extremely grateful for the tireless work, flexibility and selflessness shown to reactivate our campus and care for Cornell students. I know this has been hard on all of us.
While on campus this past week to help our team with move-in I was reminded of the importance of our work after seeing the energy and excitement of our newest Cornellians and their families. It is good to have our students back. Even though there are many changes and new policies we must now follow, I encourage you to not lose sight of why we do our work and our purpose of inspiring transformation. We must remain committed to our core values and continue to let them guide us as a division. Now, more than ever, we need to remember how much our students need us and how much we need each other. We have risen to the challenge of reactivating Cornell, now let’s keep it going and lead our students through another unprecedented semester. They can’t do it without you, and we can’t do it without each other.
While balancing our work and personal lives continues to be difficult, please give yourself, and each other, grace and understanding that we are all doing the very best we can. Take care of yourself, your families, and look out for your colleagues. You are the heart and soul of Cornell; thank you for all that you do for our students.
P.S. We will soon resume our regular divisional communications and newsletters to keep you informed and engaged with your colleagues, and to share updates on our divisional priorities.
August 14, 2020: Urgent Need in SCL
This has been an incredibly difficult time – both professionally and personally – for many of us. The restart process has placed extraordinary demands on our division, from completely rethinking the way we operate to responding to the thousands of inquiries from our students and their families. As we near the start of the semester, it is critical, at this moment, that we stay committed to our work and remain united as a division. Please know the health and safety of our entire community remains our top priority as our planning continues.
I am grateful for all of the hard work done to get to where we are today to welcome students back to campus, and know there is much work still to be done. While some of our areas are stretched thin due to strenuous re-start work and the hiring freeze, I have full confidence in all of you that we will continue to come together to support each other and the work of our division.
For those of you who are able to, we have two important and immediate ways to support Student & Campus Life:
Help with Cornell Move-In Days: August 23-30
As you know, we will have a residential experience this fall. The Cornell Housing team has been incredible in their ability to adapt over and over again to such unprecedented and unknown circumstances, and have put together a move-in plan that adheres to Cornell’s and New York State guidelines. While we remain confident about our abilities to safely reactivate campus, in order to do so, now more than ever, we need support for this year's move-in.
We will be welcoming more than 4,000 students into on-campus housing August 23-30, and your help is greatly needed and much appreciated. Please consider signing up for one or more volunteer shifts to help our students move into campus housing in the safest manner possible. Volunteer roles include: data entry assistance, check-in desk support, greeting students at welcome hubs, hotel check-in monitors, barricade monitors, and many other critical roles.
If you do sign up for a volunteer shift, or if this is part of your normal job assignment, please know that you will be asked to do the following prior to your shift (full details are provided in the sign up link):
- Complete the EHS Return to Campus Health and Safety Training for COVID-19
- Complete the Daily Check questionnaire the morning of your shift
- Follow all University guidelines for face coverings and physical distancing
- We also encourage you to do a COVID-19 test by August 19. You will have no out-of-pocket expense for this test.
While this move-in will certainly be like no other, I know with your support we will come together and provide the best possible experience for our students.
SCL Job Share Opportunities
As you read in the recent SCL Staff Newsletter, the new SCL job share opportunity list is now available for all SCL staff members to explore. For those of you who are interested and able to explore opportunities in other professional areas, there are a number of areas within our division that need support filling gaps due to the hiring freeze. As new opportunities come available, they will be posted to this list so be sure to check back often.
Currently, there are many immediate opportunities available in the following units: Cornell Store, Sailing Center, Golf Course, and a full-time position opening for an Assistant Facilities Manager. Details on the opportunities are provided in the link above. Please connect with your supervisor if you have additional questions.
I encourage you to take part in one of these ways to support our teams and our division. I have immense pride in the work we have done these past months and could not imagine any group of professionals that I would rather be serving with right now. I want to reiterate that your safety, and the safety of our students, will remain my top priority. Student & Campus Life will be very different this year but we will still, together, continue to inspire transformation in our students and be there for them as they too navigate this new environment. On the other side of this we will be even stronger. I look forward to seeing many of you during move-in week.
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
Dear SCL Colleagues,
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).