As the coronavirus began to spread across the United States a few months ago, Columbia students left campus knowing that the next academic year will be far from conventional. With the release of University President Lee Bollinger’s and Barnard President Sian Beilock’s emails to students this afternoon, we now have a better picture of what this new year will look like. Here are our main takeaways.
While the fall semester begins on September 8, as was already planned, the spring semester will begin one week earlier than intended on January 11. This was done in order to accommodate the new optional summer semester, which begins May 3 and will be included under the regular full-year tuition.
Many classes will be offered in a way that allows students to participate in both in-class and online learning. However, large lectures will be conducted entirely remote and all classes will have the option to be taken exclusively online for the entire year. Professors are given the discretion to offer their classes, online, in-person, or have a mixture of both, in accordance with their respective schools.
Fall and spring semesters will be divided to allow students to take new seven-week intensive courses alongside the usual semester-long courses.
In order to adjust their schedules to these new changes, students will be able to confirm or change their course registration in late July and August. Additionally, before the re-registration period, the Barnard academic departments will host a Launch Week from July 20 to July 24 to help students understand and accommodate their curriculum to the new changes this year.
International students who elect to study remotely will be able to attend programming at Columbia Global Centers. The Barnard study abroad program has been canceled for the duration of the 2020 fall semester and the likelihood of studying abroad in the spring is being monitored based on health and safety concerns.
Columbia graduate and professional schools will design their own respective reopening plan, based upon their distinctive coursework, student and faculty needs.
First-years and eligible sophomore students will be allowed to live in campus housing during the fall semester. Entering Barnard sophomore transfer students and Columbia 3-2 combined plan program students will also be eligible to apply for on-campus housing.
At Barnard, junior and senior resident assistants, Orientation Leaders, students in leadership positions, and those with extenuating circumstances at home (situations that make it difficult for online learning) will be able to apply to housing as well, although acceptance is not guaranteed. These groups must fill out a new fall housing form by July 20 to notify the college of their intent to apply, and fall room assignments will be sent out on August 3.
At Columbia, undergraduate residential housing will be capped at 60 percent, with first and second-year students as well as those with extenuating circumstances given priority. Given further availability, juniors and seniors may also apply for housing. More information will be released by deans of the undergraduate schools at a later date.
All students living on campus in the upcoming year will be assigned a single-occupancy room with an assigned bathroom. Room changes will not be possible except for emergency situations. Suites will be capped at 5 people to a bathroom, with Elliot Hall and the Barnard Quad being capped at 50% occupancy. Move-in will occur over multiple days, and upon arrival, students will be tested for COVID-19 and must have produced a negative polymerase chain reaction test before arriving on campus. Depending on current New York state guidelines, students might have to quarantine once they move in.
At Barnard, if students wish to travel outside of the tri-state area for Thanksgiving break, they must check out of their residence hall and finish the rest of the semester remotely. Students who elect to leave can receive a prorated credit for room and board, which will be adjusted based on financial aid status. Columbia’s email does not detail options for students to remain in housing after Thanksgiving.
There will be no cancellation fees for Barnard first-years and sophomores who cancel their housing applications by July 21. Barnard juniors and seniors will have their applications automatically canceled with no cancellation fee. Students who had canceled housing for Fall 2020 before this update will be credited the cancellation fee. Columbia has not released information about an updated cancellation policy. Eligible juniors and seniors will be guaranteed on-campus housing for the spring semester.
If you are planning on living off-campus, you will be allowed to attend in-person courses and programs and use Barnard facilities as long as you abide by public health recommendations and campus policies. If you receive financial aid and do not receive housing for the semester, as a special exception for this year, you will be able to apply to transfer your financial aid to your off-campus housing expenses.
All faculty, students, and staff on Columbia’s campus will be asked to sign a “compact” that serves as a “call to action and to recognize our shared responsibility for community health, informed by science and founded on mutual respect,” the University site details. The compact includes commitments to wearing face coverings, completing symptom trackers, and following guidance posted throughout campus spaces, among other items.
All building entrances, elevator lobbies, and corridors will use one-way directions where feasible to emphasize physical distancing. Barnard community members will be required to wear face coverings in public spaces and maintain social distancing as much as possible. All community members will take part in COVID-19 testing and contact tracing initiatives, as well as isolation programs in the case of positive testing. Members of the community will be asked to submit a self-screening questionnaire each day they come to campus. Restrooms will be converted to include touchless faucets and flushes when possible while dining services will emphasize “grab and go” options and be reconfigured to manage traffic. Students will be provided with meals if they are in isolation or quarantine, and kitchen spaces will be available for use in accordance with public health guidelines on physical distancing. As an exception for 20-21, Barnard commuter students will not be required to be on a meal plan.
All plans are contingent on changing federal and state regulations as well as New York moving into phase 4 of its reopening plan.