Columbia is planning to return to in-person instruction this fall, University President Lee Bollinger announced in an email Wednesday. The announcement comes on the one year anniversary of the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City.
In March 2020, Columbia canceled all in-person instruction for students as the pandemic took hold of New York City. While some graduate programs resumed in-person instruction in the fall, limited in-person instruction for undergraduates did not open up until this spring.
Since the onset of the pandemic, over 500,000 Americans and 30,000 residents of New York City have died of COVID-19.
President Joe Biden announced on March 11 that all American adults should be eligible to be vaccinated by May 1, a development that Bollinger cited in his email to the Columbia community. By the fall term, the University expects to have the capacity to vaccinate all faculty, students, and staff. Right now, about 12 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated and 22 percent has received at least one dose.
Upon University-wide vaccination, Columbia plans to return to in-person instruction and and research and resume full capacity in residence halls for all of its undergraduate and graduate programs. Bollinger wrote that the University plans to return to its traditional academic calendar. What this means for the three-semester system that Columbia has implemented over the past year remains to be seen. Varying vaccination timelines abroad could, however, impact the return of international students in the fall.
“We are dedicated to coming as close to this reality as is safely possible, recognizing that events beyond our control may intervene and that we will need to have an adequate and sympathetic accommodation process in place for faculty, staff, and students, especially our international students who may not be able to return to campus.”
Columbia’s email followed similar announcements from Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, and Dartmouth College, all of which hope to resume in-person learning in the fall. Yale University and Cornell University have yet to release their plans for fall 2021.
University Commencement ceremony is still slated to be held virtually, although Bollinger expressed a hope to hold some outdoor, in-person events for individual Class Days, depending on changing local conditions.
“In other words, the fall will be, as much as humanly possible, our homecoming,” he wrote.