Update on COVID-19 and Spring Term Plans

March 12, 2020

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

As promised, I am writing with an update on how the University needs to respond to the outbreak of COVID-19. We all know this is a rapidly evolving and very challenging situation. Yesterday afternoon, the World Health Organization officially declared this to be a pandemic. Thus far, we continue to have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on our campuses. Just to be clear, the principle that has guided us up to this point is to maintain the mission of the University as much as possible consistent with preserving the health of every part of our community. To that end, as of yesterday, we launched nearly 2,000 classes online and continue to prepare to teach classes virtually for the remainder of the semester.

In light of the spread of the virus, especially in the New York metropolitan region, we now need to take further steps. Specifically, in order to reduce the density of our residential environment, while respecting the interests and needs of students who have reason to continue to remain in residence on campus, we are instituting three critical decisions: (1) The University will remain open and functioning; (2) All classes for the remainder of the semester will be conducted online; and (3) We encourage any students who are able to move out of undergraduate residence halls for the rest of the semester to do so, and we are ready to help in that process. The Office of University Life and your school will follow up with more information.

It is worth repeating that our campuses will remain open. However, we have restrictions in place for those who have traveled to severely affected areas, as per guidance from the CDC. We will, as indicated previously, actively discourage congregations in large numbers. We also strongly discourage holding any events with over 25 people, at least through April 30th. All Columbia business travel, both international and domestic, is now suspended for all affiliates.

This is a hard time for all of us. We are concerned about every student, colleague, friend, and neighbor. Clearly, balancing all of the interests of all parts of the institution is an extraordinarily complex undertaking. I am so grateful to all of you and especially to those who daily help us chart the right course for Columbia through this crisis. 


Lee C. Bollinger