Two days after announcing Cornell University announced it would not consider any requests from faculty to teach remotely, not even requests "premised on the need for a disability accommodation" -- a stance that many questioned on legal and moral grounds -- Cornell’s provost sent a follow-up message Friday suggesting the university may take a somewhat more flexible approach.
"Cornell cares deeply about our faculty and staff, who have demonstrated tremendous resiliency throughout the COVID-19 pandemic," Provost Michael I. Kotlikoff wrote. "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."
Kotlikoff added: "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."
Arlene S. Kanter, a professor of law and director of the Disability Law and Policy Program at Syracuse University, said Cornell's various statements "must be very confusing for their faculty, if not stigmatizing. Even if this new statement is a redaction of the prior (illegal) blanket policy, their actions to date hardly create a community where people with disabilities feel valued and protected."