Return to In-person Instruction
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This return to campus is guided by national, state, and city public health guidelines as well as by the ongoing monitoring and review of our policies and procedures by our own Columbia public health experts and the President’s Advisory Task Force on COVID-19. We return to campus confident in the University’s robust plan that includes a vaccination mandate, a rigorous testing program, an indoor face covering policy, and an updated Columbia Community Health Compact and attestation, among other measures.
Below are details and answers to frequently asked questions about the return to in-person instruction.
- The vaccination mandate applies to all faculty, students, researchers, and students including those on campus and those engaged in online programs.
- After September 2, those who have not submitted vaccination documentation or received an approved medical or religious exemption will not be able to access campus facilities.
The COVID-19 vaccination mandate applies to all faculty, researchers, staff, and students. Beginning on September 2, any individual who has not submitted their vaccination documentation or has not received an approved medical or religious exemption will have a red pass on the ReopenCU app and will be unable to access campus or participate in any Columbia-related activities. Additional information is available on vaccine requirements.
The vaccination mandate applies to University faculty, including full-time and part-time faculty, officers of instruction, and adjunct faculty teaching any class offered by Columbia in Fall 2021 as well as faculty teaching in Columbia’s online programs. The mandate applies to all University faculty, even those who will not be teaching on campus.
After September 2, any faculty member who has not submitted their vaccination documentation or has not received an approved medical or religious exemption will have a red pass on the ReopenCU app and will not be permitted to teach or access any University facilities. Deans and Human Resources staff in the relevant schools will be notified so that alternative teaching arrangements can be made.
All students including those enrolled in online programs must comply with the vaccination mandate. After September 2, students who have not uploaded vaccination documentation, received a medical or religious exemption or completed the international students’ temporary authorization, are considered non-compliant and will be prohibited from moving into Columbia residential facilities, or participating in academic or research activities.
International students who arrive without vaccination must comply with the vaccination mandate and will be able to receive their vaccine once they arrive on campus. Students must quarantine for seven days after arriving in the United States from international travel. This will also include a test between days 3-5 after return. Students will not be able to attend class or other events until the quarantine is completed and results of the test between days 3-5 are received. They should then plan to get their vaccine immediately after their quarantine is completed. Read the FAQs on vaccine requirements for international students for more information.
International students with temporary authorization to access campus must comply with the vaccination mandate and with health and safety protocols including regular testing and required face coverings until fully vaccinated. Those who fail to comply will be subject to disciplinary action including removal from housing and classroom attendance.
- All individuals, regardless of vaccination status, must wear face coverings in indoor campus spaces, including classrooms.
- Unvaccinated individuals must wear face coverings both indoors and outdoors.
- The requirement for face covering indoors will be reassessed throughout the fall.
Current University policy requires that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, wear face coverings in indoor campus spaces, including classrooms. Unvaccinated individuals must wear face coverings both indoors and outdoors.
In an abundance of caution, the University will continue to require face coverings for all Columbia affiliates in indoor spaces, including classrooms, through the end of September. This requirement will be monitored and revisited as the semester progresses.
Teaching With or Without a Face Covering
Faculty and instructional staff may teach with or without face covering, even during the indoor face covering mandate. If a faculty member or instructional staff chooses to teach without a face covering, they must maintain 6 feet of distance from the students. The faculty member must then use a face covering upon completion of the classroom instruction.
Student Mask Compliance and Symptoms
“I am an instructor in a class and notice that a student is not wearing a mask or wearing mask inappropriately, what should I do?”
All individuals, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a face covering in indoor campus spaces, including classrooms. If a student is not wearing a mask or wearing a mask inappropriately during class, the instructor should request that the student put on a mask or wear one as instructed to cover their nose and mouth. If the student refuses, the instructor should indicate that the student must adhere to University guidance in order to attend class and refusal to wear a mask means they must leave the class and campus.
Instructors can report students or others who violate University policies by going to University Life and going to “Report an Incident” at the top right hand corner or directly at https://cm.maxient.com/reportingform.php?ColumbiaUniv. Student Conduct and Community Standards reviews the complaints daily Monday - Friday.
Following the Columbia Compact, and supporting other community members to do the same, is our collective responsibility. There are many examples of how to step in with civility, empathy, and respect in Columbia’s Stepping In guide.
“I am an instructor in a classroom and I notice a student coughing. What should I do?”
A sporadic cough, sneeze or blowing of the nose should not be of concern. However, if a student has a persistent cough, please request that they step outside the classroom and inform them in private that they should seek medical care. Remind the student of the importance of the daily symptom attestation required by the Columbia Compact.
Face Covering All Semester?
Given that the University will be a fully vaccinated campus as of September 2, the required use of face coverings in indoor spaces will be monitored and, depending on public health conditions, revisited on an ongoing basis. Currently, we are requiring face covering as an additional precaution during the transition to a full return to campus.
Even if the University relaxes the face covering mandate at a later point in the semester, any faculty member or student may choose to continue to wear a face covering in the classroom. No assumption should be made regarding vaccination status of an individual who chooses to wear face covering.
“What has been done to ensure that that the classrooms are safe for instruction?”
Air Quality & Circulation
Columbia Facilities and Operations has taken multiple actions to prepare buildings, including classrooms, across campus for in-person activity this fall. Extensive measures have been taken to increase the reliability of HVAC systems and ensure indoor air quality performance. Air filters were updated prior to Fall 2020 to capture airborne viruses and reduce particulate matter. Continual monitoring and maintenance remain in place for Fall 2021 and beyond.
Additionally, Facilities and Operations has ensured that all classrooms meet industry recommendations for air changes per hour (ACH). ACH refers to the number of times that room air gets replaced every hour with outside air and/or filtered air. Measurements are taken in all classrooms, and any classroom measuring below the minimum will be repaired to meet standards. Further details about this and other measures to ensure air quality and circulation are available online.
Further details on classroom safety are available online.
- Any member of the Columbia community with a positive COVID-19 test will need to isolate for 10 days from the time of their first symptoms or from the date of the positive test if no symptoms are present, regardless of vaccination status.
- Any member of the Columbia community who tests positive through non-Columbia testing sites must inform the Columbia contact tracing team for further guidance.
If Faculty Test Positive
Any member of the Columbia community, including any faculty member, with a positive COVID-19 test, will need to isolate for 10 days from the time of their first symptoms or from the date of the positive test if no symptoms are present, regardless of vaccination status. As a result, faculty with COVID-19 will need to remain out of the classroom for the period of isolation.
If the faculty member feels well enough, they may teach remotely during the isolation period and should work with their academic leadership to ensure appropriate short-term arrangements. Once the isolation period is completed, the faculty member will return to the classroom. Students should plan to attend the class in-person unless informed of other temporary arrangements.
In addition, any faculty member who tests positive through non-Columbia testing sites must inform the Columbia contact tracing team for further guidance. The contact tracing team will determine whether the faculty member had any close contacts and, if so, the requirement for quarantine and testing of such individuals.
If a faculty member who tests positive is too ill to teach remotely, then a replacement instructor should be identified for the class following the normal procedure for illness.
If a Student Tests Positive
A student who tests positive will need to isolate for 10 days from the time of their first symptoms or from the date of the positive test if no symptoms are present, regardless of vaccination status. Any student with a positive test will be informed of their requirement for isolation, and the contact tracing team will determine if they had any close contacts and, if so, will reach out to those contacts with instructions. Vaccinated individuals who have been in close contact with an individual who tests positive do not need to quarantine after the exposure, and may continue to attend class. They should continue to wear a mask, get a COVID-19 test between days 3-5 after the exposure, and continue to monitor for symptoms for 14 days.
A student who tests positive should work with their faculty instructor and/or academic advisor to ensure they are able to make up any missed class work.
Updated: October 5, 2021
To maintain the health and safety of students, staff and faculty during this academic year, students who are adhering to University-required isolation or quarantine must not attend class. Student absences relating to COVID-19 will be recognized as circumstances for which absences are excused, and students will not be penalized.
- Students must contact their instructor to inform them that they will be unable to attend in-person classes for medical reasons. The student may decide to share the reason for the absence, but is not required to do so. Students must include the required dates of their absence and communicate regularly with the instructor about their ability to participate during that time.
- Students should work with their instructors to develop a plan to receive instruction and complete course related work. Instructors are expected to make reasonable accommodations for students who miss classes, assignments or exams due to necessary quarantine or isolation related to COVID-19 exposure or illness.
- Depending on the size, format and pedagogical goals of the class, instructors can support students in isolation or quarantine in a number of ways to help students catch up on materials and assignments. These include the following:
- Record their lecture or class or make existing recorded lecture available
- Invite a remote student to “attend” via a Zoom link to be used only during this period
- Create an activity that students could complete on their own to make up missed class or content
- Students should note that not all courses are being recorded and they should be in touch with their instructor as to the best way to make up missed class and assignments.
- Instructors are not expected to teach additional hybrid or online sections to accommodate individual student absences.
- Faculty cannot decide to teach remotely if they have concerns about campus safety.
- Faculty with a medical condition can apply for medical leave.
- Faculty can request a workplace accommodation.
Faculty with a medical condition can apply for medical leave. If the leave is granted, the school or department will assign the course to another faculty member.
Whether a faculty member is returning from a medical leave, has a chronic condition, or is seeking an accommodation for a temporary injury, COVID-19 related effects, or the effects of a medical procedure, the Human Resources Leave Management Office (in consultation with medical panel review where appropriate) will coordinate the requested accommodation with the faculty member and their department.
Additional information and how to request an accommodation can be found at Request Workplace Accommodations.
Faculty members cannot decide to teach remotely if they have concerns about campus safety. As previously stated, teaching during the fall 2021 semester will take place in person and on campus. The University has put into place, at present, public health protocols including the vaccination mandate, the use of face coverings, and other measures to ensure a safe return to campus and in-person teaching. As a result, faculty can be in their workplace safely through observation of the University safety measures. This guidance applies to all faculty including adjunct faculty.
Public health conditions will be monitored closely per the University monitoring plan, and faculty will be informed if conditions change and necessitate remote teaching.
- Guest speakers or lecturers should be virtual unless it is deemed necessary and approved by the dean of the relevant school.
Guest speakers or lecturers should be virtual unless it is deemed necessary to a course, an academic program, or a research endeavor and approved by the dean of the relevant school. Deans are asked to maintain records and report on locally approved visitors to the President’s COVID-19 Task Force. Refer to the Visitor Guidelines for Fall 2021 for additional information.
Students are required to adhere to the Columbia Community Health Compact when they are representing Columbia in a required off-campus academic experience including externships and field experiences. This includes the vaccination mandate, face coverings and other measures. Students are also expected to comply with the host organization’s requirements if they exceed Columbia’s requirement. The Protocols for Students in Field Placements (below) provide guidelines and best practices for students who will complete field experiences in-person. Students should follow the protocols in addition to any local public health guidelines or site-specific regulations.
Students should also regularly communicate with their schools to stay abreast of changing public health conditions or school-specific guidance, travel restrictions and quarantine requirements upon return from states with high COVID-19 prevalence. Columbia policies regarding domestic and international travel should be observed.
Any international placement is subject to the Fall 2021 travel restrictions.
- At the start of Fall 2021, all libraries will reopen for Columbia students, faculty, and staff.
At the start of Fall 2021, all libraries will reopen for Columbia students, faculty, and staff. Butler Library will resume 24-hour operations, and Butler Cafe will reopen. The full return of in-person, physical library services will be complemented by robust online resources and activities that will continue to be in place to support users no matter where they are learning. Read the Libraries Status Updates for the latest information about reopening and for assistance with teaching, learning, and research needs.