ITHACA, N.Y.  –– As cases continue to climb, Cornell University has announced a slate of punitive measures it will enact against students who miss surveillance tests. 

“Although the vast majority of Cornell students have reliably complied with testing requirements, this unfortunately is not true of all,” wrote Vice President of Campus and Student Life Ryan Lombardi in an email to the campus community Tuesday afternoon.  

Starting this week, students who miss scheduled surveillance tests will lose access to Canvas, the online platform on which professors post course materials, assignments and exams. As a result, non-compliant students will be unable to download course materials, submit assignments or take any exams. Professors cannot give extensions or make-up exams since missing a surveillance test counts as a violation of Cornell’s behavioral compact, a contract that outlines a set of rules students must follow during the pandemic. 

In addition, Cornell will place holds on dropping courses and changing grading options for non-compliant students. Access to campus Wi-Fi and facilities will also be revoked. However, students can still access Cornell Health, the Cayuga Medical Center portal, the Daily Check and can make COVID-related service requests. 

The restrictions will only be lifted once a student takes a surveillance test, the email reads. However, after a student makes up a missed surveillance test, Cornell will take 12 to 24 hours to lift the restrictions. 

Currently, there are 112 active COVID-19 cases on the Cornell campus, which represents the peak number of cases the university has seen in a single week during the spring 2021 semester, according to its COVID-19 dashboard. 

The more stringent testing measures come after President Martha Pollack announced March 26 that Cornell’s MBA program would go online for at least a week, attributing a spike of 63 cases, mostly among MBA students, to at least two St. Patrick’s Day gatherings where social distancing was not enforced. 

Just a week before, Pollack said Cornell would go into yellow alert after seeing 74 positive COVID cases among first-years, members of Greek life and student athletes during the week of March 19. Cornell’s campus is still under yellow alert, meaning that the university can increase the testing frequency of certain populations and further reduce the capacity of on-campus spaces. 

In that same March 19 email, Pollack noted that there was an “extremely concerning” increase in the number of students who missed Daily Check assessments and surveillance tests. Pollack also wrote that Cornell could enter an orange alert if cases continued to rise. 

Under an orange alert, all classes will be online and Cornell will require students to stay in their rooms or apartments, only leaving to get food or testing. Any employees who returned to campus for Cornell’s hybrid operations will have to work remotely, and gatherings of any size will be prohibited on campus. So far, Cornell has never been in an orange alert.

Lombardi admonished students who have failed to fully comply with Cornell’s behavioral compact and COVID-19 guidelines. 

“It is unfortunate that the good work of many is being overshadowed by a small cohort of students who refuse to take the necessary measures to keep our campus safe,” Lombardi wrote.

Meghna Maharishi

Meghna Maharishi is a Fall 2019 intern for the Ithaca Voice and a sophomore at Cornell University majoring in Industrial and Labor Relations.