Inclement Weather and Online Instruction

The following email was sent to faculty and staff on November 23, 2020.

Dear Colleagues,

With winter weather close upon us, we would like to take this opportunity to let you know what to expect should the university’s operating status change due to inclement weather now through the end of the spring semester. As previously announced, instruction for the remainder of the fall semester moves online beginning Nov. 30. Instruction for the spring semester is expected to begin on Feb. 8, with the university again offering in-person, hybrid and online learning modalities.

Online instruction
In the event that inclement weather should cause Cornell to change operating status such that classes are impacted, any online instruction planned to take place is expected to occur.

As noted in recently established guidelines, exceptions are only made if:

  • The delivery of that instruction requires an individual who is teaching or supporting instruction to be on campus;
  • The instructor is forced to teach from an off-campus site that has low connectivity or is otherwise not conducive to quality instruction; or
  • Proceeding with the online instruction creates disruptive “catch up” issues for in-person students.

Teaching Assistants should communicate with their lead instructor if faced with a barrier to teach or hold office hours remotely.

In-person instruction 
In the event that inclement weather should cause a change in the university’s operating status such that classes are impacted, all in-person instruction and advising will be cancelled as required by Policy 8.2. Students taking in-person classes who have adequate internet access can be required to take an online version of the missed class, as scheduled, if an online version is already available. However, the sudden creation of a substitute online class is not expected and is not allowed if the burden falls on a teaching assistant.

Operating status and continuity of operations
When normal university operations are disrupted, the university must still maintain functions and services that meet the needs of students, provide campus security and safety operations, preserve utilities infrastructure and services and support critical research programs. Units should identify and prioritize these functions, and supervisors should communicate expectations to employees who support these functions well ahead of the anticipated disruptions.

Units should also take this time to review their continuity plans to maintain services with a reduced number of employees. Supervisors can also consult with their college/unit human resources representative for assistance with staffing for essential services and compensation questions. For information about the university’s inclement weather guidelines, including pay policies, please see Policy 8.2.

Stay informed
If a weather event has the potential to impact normal operations, Cornell may send an email notice the day before. This advance notice will inform our community about the potential of changing circumstances so that they can make suitable preparations in case of a disruption to work and class schedules.

Once a decision has been made to change the university operating status, the campus community is notified by CornellALERT text, voice and email notifications. Additional messages will be sent as new information becomes available or when a decision has been made to reopen campus. The campus community can find alerts and updates to weather conditions and campus operations at or via the inclement weather phone line at 607-255-3377. To receive text or voice alerts on your phone, review How To Receive CornellALERT Messages.

Thank you in advance for following these guidelines to keep our campus community safe during the upcoming winter months.


Joanne DeStefano
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Mary Opperman
Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer