Fall 2020 Tech PhD Town Hall
Fall 2020 Tech PhD Town Hall

Time Keeper / Moderator: Anthony

0. Updates from Administration

Specifically around Title IX.

Notes:

  • Started PhD TA evaluations for the first time. So TAs based in Tech should start seeing feedback.  This is still a new process, and we’re looking to improve engagement and other aspects which may make it more beneficial to TAs.
  • Cornell Tech specific section on Title IX training that all employees were supposed to watch.   This includes all students, faculty, and staff who have a paid appointment.
  • GPSA has a representative on the committee for an upcoming meeting about changing policies on required training.
  • RE: CIS diversity grant, not aware of any Tech-specific portions of that grant.  Student services has a diversity and inclusion group that would like further student involvement.

1. Ongoing House Issues | Speaker: Julia

The Problem:

In the beginning of fall semester, PACT canvassed House residents and took a stock of issues related to living in the House.  This resulted in a summary document that was shared with House administration.

  • What are updates for COVID-19 related policies for access to building amenities (the gym, lounge, etc.)?
  • Electric bills are not charged at even periods throughout the year.
  • Responses to issues are erratic and issues fall through the cracks.  This includes students who had applications in pending status for long periods of time without communication, students who had questions (about a security deposit or furniture questions) which were not answered after several days, etc.
  • Some potential residents in Spring want shorter terms for only part of the semester.

Potential Actions:

  • Provide a clear description of furniture policy for PhD students who working from home, what is allowable, and how students can request certain furniture without it being turned down on delivery.
  • Can we have a more regular schedule for when to expect electricity bills?
  • Could we have a clear point of contact for House related issues (such as shared email address) and ensure that this is staffed each week with someone who can respond to issues?

Notes:

  • An email was sent Nov. 4th about updates for usage of amenity spaces (lounge, etc.) specifically around requirements around their use.
  • Electric bills have been a challenge with a third party vendor.  Administration believes that the issues have been addressed, but will continue to keep an eye on it.  No late fees have been assessed on utility billing.  Not sure what day of the month, but it should be following a monthly schedule.
  • Not aware of lost issues; administration has specific time frames on reviewing applications.  There have been challenges with communication – all email to the housing email address (housing@tech.cornell.edu) is only handled by Erica and Julie.  Response time should be better at this time, but this is the best way to reach housing administrators.
  • Semester-by-semester rental is supported, but monthly options are not available.  If there are particular visa issues preventing travel, willing to work with students on a case-by-case basis.   No capability or flexibility to accommodate students who prefer short term leases due to commitments to joint development venture.  Admin does work with students to find subletters for summer.
  • Furniture exceptions for smaller furniture (2 x 3 feet) may request exceptions, but larger furniture is rejected.  But administration requires the exception to be made in advance.  There is an exception for Bloomberg Center chairs.

2. COVID-19 Updates for Spring Semester | Speaker: Anthony

The Problem:

We want some sort of information or certainty to help students plan where they can be physically for Spring.

  • Will the building opening policy be significantly different than it is right now?
  • Will the 4th floor be opened to space people out?
  • Will TA or RA-ships have required in-person components?
  • Will students who are staying international or just remote have particular funding requirements?
  • Will there be a self-isolation policy that will be required for people who traveled over Winter Break?
  • Where can students get tests that are free or covered by Cornell insurance?

Potential Actions:

  • Provide a document to clarify policy and list resources for students coming back from Winter Break for testing and self-isolation.

Notes:

  • Student services will publish an email about policy for students coming back from break.
  • No significant changes about the building and the 4th floor.  No decision made yet for the 4th floor and building opening over winter break.
  • No plans for any TA-ship to include any in-person components.  Encourage that students discuss with their advisor about the potential in-person components of their research.  This should be done within reason, but students can approach Nicki and Serge with any concerns.
  • Tech is still waiting for guidance from the overall Cornell university policy for international funding.  More information will go out by the end of the week.
  • Admin recommends that students who travel look at the NY state travel requirements in regards to self-isolation.  See: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-travel-advisory Current requirements are negative test before travel and test after travel and quarantine until a negative result.  These must be diagnostic (not rapid or surveillance) tests.
  • Student services is trying to update the COVID-19 website with procedures.  This is intended to be a centralized resource for students: https://tech.cornell.edu/coronavirus/covid-19-testing-protocol/.  For tests through HHS, those tests should be free for those living in NYC.  Most delivered tests are not covered by student health insurance (ex: Vault).  If you have symptoms, that is typically covered by insurance, but not for just travel.
  • You can forgo testing by quarantining for 2 weeks.
  • Right now the house is keeping the occupants in a unit up to the number of bathrooms, and Julie said based on the number of applications right now she feels that this should continue being the case.

3. Surveillance Testing for Workers | Speaker: Julia

The Problem:

House employees are not offered surveillance testing even though they come to work every day at Cornell Tech and are exposed to other workers, faculty, students, and staff.  This places them at higher risk of exposure.

Potential Actions:

Extend free surveillance testing programs to also cover House and other Cornell Tech workers or offer resources for them to be tested.

Notes:

  • Some contractors have different policies.  Administration is now pursuing that, to make surveillance testing available on a voluntary basis.  Currently it requires affiliation with Cornell, so that will require additional steps.  Timeline for this is within the next few weeks.
  • Housing staff do currently have access to testing through Related Management.

4. Faculty Hiring | Speaker: Anthony

The Problem:

Is Cornell Tech or Jacobs Institute hiring this spring semester?  Will the hiring process be significantly different from a standard process like last year?

Notes:

  • In general, there is a hiring freeze, but Tech has approval to open search for ECE faculty.  There is a great need for building out the ECE faculty.
  • Hiring process will be entirely remote and occur over Zoom meetings.
  • Students will have opportunities to participate in the hiring process.  Students are encouraged to attend the job talks and ask questions.  Previously, student feedback was done through a post-talk lunch, but there will be instead an hour long Zoom post-talk meeting.  Because there are not a lot of ECE students at this time, looking for cross-department participation in these meetings.
  • New faculty in ORIE (Andrea Lodi) who will join virtually in July 2021.

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