Columbia’s campus—including its dormitories and facilities—will remain open to students following their return from spring break while instruction will remain remote for the remainder of the semester, University President Lee Bollinger announced in an email on Thursday. While students are encouraged to leave their dormitories, housing will still be provided for those who cannot.
Meanwhile, Columbia Athletics announced that they will not be hosting athletic events or practices.
The announcement comes after Columbia moved to cancel classes on Monday and Tuesday and confirmed that a member of its community was under quarantine due to his potential exposure to the coronavirus earlier this week. The affiliate has tested negative to the virus but will remain in self-quarantine for a full 14-day period.
In locations with significantly fewer confirmed cases of the coronavirus, universities have made the decision to ask students to leave indefinitely. Princeton University has suggested that its students not return to campus after the break. At Harvard University and Amherst College, students were given less than a week to leave their dorms indefinitely. Currently, there are 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey and nine in Boston.
So far, these universities have not publicly shared whether there will be accommodations for students who face housing insecurity or financial difficulty or live with children, the elderly, or individuals with conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus.
Meanwhile, New York has 173 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which is among the highest counts in the country. Just north of the city, in New Rochelle, officials have announced plans to implement a one-mile “containment area,” to which the National Guard will deliver food and necessities to quarantined residents.
Jean Chin, who leads an American College Health Association task force on coronavirus, said that it is difficult to gauge which campuses are making the right decisions without understanding the context that they have been provided by state health departments, medical professionals, and academic administrators. She acknowledged a “disconnect” in the fact that students may still congregate in large spaces outside of classrooms for campuses that have chosen to remain open but said that there is no “correct” answer when updates are currently arriving on a near-hourly basis.
“I can’t project for you if any [university is] making the right decision; they’re all having to make the individual decision based off so many tangible and intangible factors. It’s incredibly difficult,” Chin said.
Columbia administrators could not immediately be reached for comment regarding the factors that influenced this decision.