A&S Spending Guidance during COVID-19

Review and Approval of Critical and Essential Expenses 

Effective April 20, 2020 until further notice.
Revised August 27, 2020 

Departments, programs, and faculty should carefully scrutinize each potential expenditure to make sure it is essential for research and teaching. All expenditures should be reviewed and approved as follows:

  • Expenses on sponsored funds or external organization accounts can proceed as usual.
  • Faculty members may spend research and start-up funds under $50k without additional college approvals as long as they adhere to other in-place university restrictions (e.g. travel, events, food, etc.). Department managers will have the responsibility to monitor compliance along with BSC oversight as usual.
  • For all other accounts, expenses are to be reviewed and approved according to these thresholds. This includes individual faculty research and start-up accounts. Please include a statement of why the expenditure is essential to research or teaching. As a reminder, provost and OVPR guidance on research can be found here.     
  • Less than $3,000 - review/approve by department manager or chair
  • $3,000 - $10,000 – please send to the BSC for approval before incurring the expense
  • $10,000 - $49,999 – please send to Dave Taylor and Rob Van Brunt for approval by your Senior Associate Dean/Dean before incurring the expense
  • $50,000+ - will require Provost approval. Please fill out the Discretionary Spending Approval Form and email to Dave and Rob before incurring the expense

Q: May improvements to offices continue (e.g., painting, carpeting, furniture)?
A: Financial expenditures to support a new hire are allowed, but departments should scrutinize the actual conditions to ensure work is truly needed. For example, if the walls were thoroughly washed and the carpet extracted or cleaned, would the conditions then be acceptable? Renovation of finishes other than to support new hires should be postponed at this time. Renovations to support a new hire, where lab space construction is part of the offer letter, are allowed to proceed.

Q: May faculty continue to hire students or purchase books, supplies, professional memberships, computers, equipment, and similar items on their FRT, startup, and research funds?
A: Yes, if essential for research or teaching. Faculty members may spend research and start-up funds under $50k without additional college approvals as long as they adhere to other in-place university restrictions (e.g. travel, events, food, etc.). 
Q: For new faculty hires or retention offers, will start-up and retention funds be made available? Will moving costs still be covered?
A: All commitments and moving costs contained in new faculty and retention letters will be honored.
Q: May faculty spend funds on academic and research related trips? 
A: Non-essential business travel is prohibited. Essential business travel requires approval by the appropriate college dean, vice president or vice provost, and plans must follow existing university policies governing travel.

Travel outside New York state, regardless of the mode of transportation, may be subject to governmental quarantine restrictions upon return to the Ithaca area. Employees must anticipate the need for testing and time away from campus and will be required to work remotely, or take paid or unpaid leave during the quarantine period.

For guidance and policy on when essential international travel may resume, for whom, and the process to seek approval, please visit the International Travel Guidelines, Policy, and Recommendations page. For questions or support regarding international travel, contact International Travel Health and Safety.

General/Computer Expense
Q: May departments and programs replace broken computers or purchase computers for faculty from College allocated computer equipment accounts (3850) on the normal 4-5 year schedule? 
A: IT purchases should be reviewed and approved by the department chair or manager on a case-by-case basis. While regular replacement of computers generally makes sense, delaying replacement by a year for a computer that is still functioning well may be a reasonable decision. Consult your IT staff on such decisions and for all computer orders.
Q: May departments and programs offer food or alcoholic beverages at a department meetings and functions?
A: No, food and alcoholic beverages are not deemed essential and should not be purchased on Cornell funds. Coffee, tea, and water may continue to be provided.

Q: May departments and programs arrange for guest speakers and talks for the fall semester?
A: Given the current travel restrictions and remaining uncertainties, departments and programs should not arrange to bring speakers to campus or hold a conference event with guests from outside the immediate area this academic year. Instead, we encourage planning for seminars via Zoom. If you would like to consider an exception, please consult with the senior associate dean.
For next spring, you may plan for guest speaker visits if the funding source is restricted for that purpose (e.g., a speaker series account, Engaged Cornell grant, Atkinson award, endowed lecture). If funds are restricted, but in a general sense linked to a specific department, but not a particular activity, then the chair should weigh the importance of the event to research and teaching in consultation with the senior associate dean. 
Q: May an honorarium be offered for a guest speaker?
A: Yes, if the funding source is restricted for that purpose, but many guest speakers will agree to a lower fee or none given the current world-wide health crisis if done through Zoom. Please process these payments as a speaker fee (i.e., invoice) rather than as an honorarium. Provide an explanation of why the guest speaker is necessary to a class or fills a necessary programmatic need. 

Q: May invoices on Purchase Orders in place before COVID-19 be paid?
A: Yes, if the PO was in place by March 13th, invoices on the PO can be paid.  
Q: May departments reimburse guest speakers and faculty for cancelled travel?
A: Yes, if travel was cancelled due to COVID-19 and cannot be rescheduled. If the traveler received a refund, include the communication from the airline. The amount of the refund should not be reimbursed.

Q: May departments award student prizes or provide grants to students for research?
A: Yes, if the funding source is restricted for that purpose (e.g., a student prize account). For use of other funds in awarding an established award, consult your senior associate dean.
Q: May departments and programs offer food or beverages to students?
A: No, food and beverages (even if offered remotely) are not deemed essential and should not be purchased on any Cornell funds.