Cornell University plans to resume classes on campus this fall. Martha Pollack, president of Cornell University, made the argument in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that in-person instruction is a safer alternative to offering online classes. She joins "Squawk Box" to discuss. For access to live and exclusive video from CNBC subscribe to CNBC PRO: https://cnb.cx/2NGeIvi

Cornell University President Martha Pollack told CNBC on Thursday that holding in-person classes this fall during the coronavirus pandemic is safer for her school’s students than opting for all virtual instruction.

Pollack said the university conducted student surveys and spoke with off-campus landlords in Ithaca, New York — where Cornell is located — and found that up to 50% of Cornell’s students planned to be in the town in the fall no matter what.

“If we are having residential instruction, we can mandate testing, and tracing and isolation, on a very aggressive regular basis,” Pollack said in a “Squawk Box” interview. “We will be much less able to do that with students who are online and just happen to be living in Ithaca, as opposed to Chicago or Atlanta or wherever.”

Cornell is the latest university to announce its plans for the fall, following upheaval to spring semesters across the U.S. as the Covid-19 outbreak prompted a switch to remote instruction. Decisions about the fall have implications for students and staff, as well as for the financial outlook for schools and the communities they are in.

The fall semester at Cornell is scheduled to begin Sept. 2 and will consist of both in-person and online classes, according to a letter to the university community from Pollack. Students will have to wear face masks during classes, which have fewer people than normal and have socially distanced seating.

Pollack stressed on CNBC that Cornell’s decision to reopen its Ithaca campus — while still holding a hybrid mix of in-person and online classes — was best for the university, based on many students’ intentions to return to the town anyway.

“I want to be clear, it’s safer for our students at Cornell. We did the study with regard to the conditions in Ithaca,” she said. ’It doesn’t necessarily apply elsewhere, although the methodology could be used elsewhere.”

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