- What is the “operating status” of the university?
- Who makes the decision to change the operating status?
- How does the university get its weather information?
- How does the university assess conditions on campus?
- Are there snowfall-per-hour guidelines that factor into a closing decision?
- Are local school closings taken into consideration? If so, how?
- Is there an awareness of what other universities and colleges are doing in our geographic area?
- What communication is there between Cornell and the area bus services when inclement weather sets in?
- What about travel to and from work? Will I get in trouble if I drive on a closed road?
- Are there special rules about parking when the university closes?
- The authority to close the roads in a particular county rests with that county’s sheriff. How does communication work between Cornell and the sheriffs of Tompkins, Tioga, Broome, Chemung, Schuyler, and Cayuga counties work?
- What is an “essential service”?
- How can I find out about a closing or change in university operations?
- What are the rules regarding compensation during a change in operating status of the university?
- What are the compensation rules if I am able to work from home during a closing?
- Policy 8.2 says that employees should use their judgment regarding travel in inclement weather and avoid undue risks, or record time off when local school closings create unexpected family care responsibilities. What if my supervisor questions my decision to stay home?
- Will the university help with lodging if I am unable to travel home after a midday closing?
- I teach a small class and I am able to determine that everybody is willing and able to walk to class. Am I allowed to hold class even if the University is officially closed?
- Is there a contingency plan that makes it easier to reschedule weather-canceled evening prelims?
- I teach a large course that has labs scheduled every day of the week. Thus, if we have a one-day weather event it knocks out the lab component of our course for the entire week. Is there anything we can do about this?
- Is there guidance on instruction during inclement weather closures?
This refers to the operating schedule of the university. In other words, when the university is open, normal schedules and operations apply, whereas, normal operations and schedules are suspended when the university is closed. The university also has a delayed opening (commencement of the day’s normal operating schedule is delayed until a time set by the university) and early closing (the normal operating schedule is suspended at a time set by the university).
The President or designee authorizes any change to the operating status of the university, based on a recommendation from the Incident Leadership Team (Executive Vice President; Vice Presidents for University Relations, Human Resources, Student and Campus Life, and Infrastructure, Properties and Planning; Senior Vice Provost; Dean of Faculty; University Counsel; President’s Chief of Staff; Cornell Police Chief; and Associate Vice President Environmental Health & Safety). The Incident Leadership Team receives information from the weather Incident Management Team (see #4).
The university assigns a Designated Weather Watcher (DWW) within the Office of Emergency Management. The DWW consults a variety of weather forecasting and alerting products, including subscription services, National Weather Service forecasts, alerts, and emergency management briefings, other commercial weather service resources, and briefings from faculty in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences to monitor and identify potential severe or inclement weather. The DWW is responsible for engaging key campus personnel in the assessment.
The weather Incident Management Team, composed of representatives from Facilities Management, Grounds Department, Transportation, Cornell Police, University Relations, and the Office of Emergency Management, evaluates expected weather conditions and the ability to maintain campus in a safe and passable condition. Additionally, the Team considers the snowfall rate, existing snow on ground, timing, and availability of snow-related resources.
Yes. Snowfall rates greater than one inch per hour for at least three hours will usually exceed our ability to remove snow and maintain clear walkways, parking lots, and campus roads.
Although we are aware of when local schools close, we do not use this as a determining factor in our decision process. The weather impacts to local school operations are different from those that affect Cornell University operations. For example, public schools consider the impact associated with children standing outside in extreme cold, wind, and snow while waiting for the school bus. Additionally, school districts will build snow days into their calendars, and thus have greater flexibility and lower tolerance for disruptions.
Yes, we are aware when other local universities and colleges delay opening or close. However, there can be vast differences in the capabilities of institutions to maintain a safe campus and minimize operational impacts, and so actions by other institutions are not major factors for consideration.
What communication is there between Cornell and the area bus services when inclement weather sets in?
The Incident Management Team, including Transportation staff, communicate with the area bus services to coordinate the transportation plan when a decision is made to close, and provide an updated status of public transportation during the closure and reopening. You can find information about local and regional bus service at TCAT , Chemung County Transit, or Cortland Public Transit.
If a county or municipality announces that people should “avoid unnecessary travel” (travel to and from work is considered necessary travel) and there isn’t any accompanying change to the university operating status, employees should make reasonable efforts to report to work as usual. However, employees are advised to avoid undue risks in traveling and may choose to use personal or vacation time. Employees who anticipate arriving late or not at all should notify their immediate supervisor as soon as possible. If a municipality or county announces that motorists are prohibited from driving on all or some of the roads, employees are not expected to violate those rules in order to come to work. Although it is difficult to predict the actions of law enforcement in individual counties, commuting home from work is a legitimate reason for travel. All vehicle travel to and from work regardless of conditions is addressed by the employee’s personal auto insurance. Employees are encouraged to contact their insurance providers if they have questions.
Personnel who arrive on campus before the scheduled opening time, or when the university is closed, should park in the parking garage or at other designated “overnight winter parking areas.
The authority to close the roads in a particular county rests with that county’s sheriff. How does communication work between Cornell and the sheriffs of Tompkins, Tioga, Broome, Chemung, Schuyler, and Cayuga counties work?
Cornell Police regularly communicate with the Tompkins County Sheriff. However, they don’t maintain that same type of communications with other county sheriffs.
When normal university operations are being disrupted because of weather impacts, various units must still provide essential services to sustain critical campus operations and mission functions. Essential services may be an ongoing need or context-specific and thus vary depending on the incident, time of year, or day of the week. Your respective department or unit should determine if they provide essential services, and if applicable, the employees (or employee categories) who may be asked to provide those services. Managers and supervisors should discuss and document responsibilities and expectations with employees, and how essential services are to be provided (e.g., on-campus, remote). Additionally, managers and supervisors should provide each employee with an opportunity to discuss any issues or concerns, and develop contingency plans to deliver essential services with a reduced number of employees. Managers can consult with their college/unit Human Resource representative for assistance in identifying essential services, staffing levels, and the procedures in support of their business continuity plan.
You can find information at emergency.cornell.edu, as well as Cornell’s Twitter and Facebook pages; via CornellALERT emergency notification email, text, and voice messages; on local and regional radio and television stations; and the Inclement Weather Phone at 607-255-3377. Go to the CornellALERT sign up page for information on how to enroll your mobile phone to receive emergency alerts.
What are the rules regarding compensation during a change in the operating status of the university?
In the event of an early closing, delayed opening, or full closing, employees and supervisors at all Cornell work locations, except Weill Cornell Medicine, should consult the Guidelines for Pay Practices During Inclement Weather.
Employees and supervisors at all Cornell work locations, except Weill Cornell Medicine, should consult the Guidelines for Pay Practices During Inclement Weather.
Policy 8.2: Inclement Weather says that employees should use their judgment regarding travel in inclement weather and avoid undue risks, or record time off when local school closings create unexpected family care responsibilities. What if my supervisor questions my decision to stay home?
Supervisors should be flexible regarding staff members’ needs during periods of inclement weather, especially if a long commute to and from work is involved. Nevertheless, you should consult your unit’s Human Resources staff for specific guidance.
These decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis. Consult with leadership in your unit.
I teach a small class and I am able to determine that everybody is willing and able to walk to class. Am I allowed to hold class even if the University is officially closed?
The short answer is no. There is more to consider than just a willingness to trudge through the snow. University and contractor resources work very hard to remove snow in a timely manner, which requires individuals to stay off roads and sidewalks. We don’t want a student struck by a car on campus because they were forced to walk in the road because of an impassable sidewalk, for example. Therefore, holding class when the university is closed is prohibited.
Before the onset of inclement weather, the Office of the University Registrar will contact instructors whose prelims may be canceled and offer make-up options (e.g., Wednesday evening, Saturday afternoon, Sunday afternoon, Monday evening). The Registrar’s Office will provide support for room reservations.
I teach a large course that has labs scheduled every day of the week. Thus, if we have a one-day weather event it knocks out the lab component of our course for the entire week. Is there anything we can do about this?
Unfortunately, there are few options. However, we recommend that you contact the Office of the University Registrar to discuss various make-up options and availability of alternative lab spaces and times.
Guidance on Instruction When Inclement Weather Changes University Operating Status
There are different implications for online instruction and in-person instruction when the university changes its operating status due to inclement weather.
When the university closes, all in-person instruction and advising is cancelled as required by Policy 8.2. If the university delays opening, any in-person classes scheduled prior to the late opening are cancelled. In-person students who have adequate access to the internet can be required to take an online version of the missed class at the time of the missed class if that version is already available. The sudden creation of an online substitution presentation is not expected and is not allowed if the burden falls on a teaching assistant.
In the event of a closure or delay, online instruction that was planned to take place is expected to occur unless (a) the delivery of that instruction requires an individual who is teaching or supporting instruction to be on campus, or (b) the instructor is forced to teach from an off-campus site that has low-connectivity or is otherwise not conducive to quality instruction, or (c) proceeding with the online instruction creates disruptive “catch up” issues for in-person students. TAs should communicate with their lead instructor if faced with a barrier to teach or hold office hours remotely.
If there is a change in the university’s operating status during the semifinals or finals period, exams that are already scheduled to be fully online will still occur at the scheduled time; however, on-campus exams will be cancelled until the operating status returns to normal and will be rescheduled in consultation with the instructors. If a change in the operating status of the university results in cancelation of an in-person exam, the instructor may opt to have all students take the exam remotely. In the event of a delayed opening for the campus, exams will be held as scheduled for the portion of the day when the campus is open. As a default expectation, cancelled in-person exams will be rescheduled for 12:30pm the following day.
For more information about the university’s inclement weather guidelines, please see Policy 8.2.