“Scholars questioned the legality and the wisdom of Cornell’s stance in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
Why is it that everything related to this pandemic has been all or nothing? Why can’t people and organizations meet in the middle, based on reason?
Inside Higher Ed reports:
Cornell Says No Remote Teaching as COVID Fears Persist
Cornell University said this week it will not consider any faculty requests to teach remotely instead of in person, not even from those seeking accommodations for chronic illnesses or disabilities.
Scholars questioned the legality and the wisdom of Cornell’s stance in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to individuals with disabilities who are qualified to fulfill the “essential functions” of a given job.
Michael Kotlikoff, Cornell’s provost, and Lisa Nishii, vice provost for undergraduate education, said in a letter to faculty and instructional staff Wednesday that Cornell has determined that face-to-face instruction is vital to the resumption of “normal operations.”
“In-person teaching is considered essential for all faculty members and instructional staff with teaching responsibilities,” Kotlikoff and Nishii wrote. “Accordingly, the university will not approve requests, including those premised on the need for a disability accommodation, to substitute remote teaching for normal in-person instruction. For individuals with disabilities, the university routinely works to explore a wide array of possible workplace accommodations. Any faculty member in need of any disability-based accommodation should contact the Medical Leaves Administration office (MLA). For individuals who are not able to perform the essential functions of their position because of a disability, MLA can advise them of other options, including the availability of a medical leave.”
Some criticized the policy as unfeeling toward faculty who are immunocompromised or who have other medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to severe outcomes should they contract COVID-19.
WAJ adds — in response to pushback, the Provost sent the following statement Friday night to the faculty:
Dear Cornell faculty and staff,
As a follow up to Wednesday’s virtual town hall, in which a number of faculty and staff expressed concern about our approach to in-person operations for the fall semester, I wanted to provide some additional context.
Cornell cares deeply about our faculty and staff, who have demonstrated tremendous resiliency throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We remain steadfastly committed to offering a wide range of individualized accommodations as we resume in-person operations this fall. These accommodations include a medical leave. We urge all faculty and staff with questions to contact the Medical Leaves Administration office (MLA).
Individual academic and administrative units at Cornell may, at Deans’ and unit leaders’ discretion, choose to offer additional options for faculty and staff with extraordinary circumstances that prevent them from teaching and working in person this fall. Those options may include a reduction in work hours, a temporary reallocation of teaching duties, and/or short-term or partial remote instruction.
The university has a long history of working closely and compassionately with faculty and staff seeking workplace accommodations for disability, personal, and family reasons.
As has been repeatedly demonstrated over the course of the pandemic, the university has taken a rigorously scientific, carefully tailored and highly responsive approach to pandemic-related health risks. We place the highest priority on campus and community health. We recognize that faculty and staff have been, and will continue to be, an integral part of our efforts.
Michael I. Kotlikoff
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