Space Use Guidelines for Fall 2021

Editor's Note: Changes in gathering size will be phased in over three periods. Currently, there are no limits on the gathering size for academic (instructional, orientation and commencement) gatherings provided that the provisions enumerated in the June 17 letter are followed until September 9. Administrative and research gatherings are presently restricted to 500 outdoors and 250 indoors.  There will be no capacity limits after August. It is important to note that any food and beverages must be “grab and go” through September 8. For now, however, social, religious, and extra-curricular gatherings are restricted to 50 persons outdoors and 25 indoors, but only through August 2. 


Presently, we are awaiting further guidance from New York State regarding requirements for higher education institutions for the fall term. Additionally, as the public health situation worldwide continues to evolve, it seems prudent to plan for the possibility that some constraints may still exist and that demand on our spaces may be very high.

In that light, our guidelines about space include limits on conferences, workshops, convenings, employer on-campus recruiting, and other professional events that include visitors from outside the Columbia community. At this time, please plan for all such events to be held virtually. As there may be unusual circumstances, a limited exceptions process will be established.

By keeping this limitation, we should be able to fulfill our most pressing priorities:

Instructional use is the highest priority. Schools and departments should develop plans that amplify opportunities for in-person classroom participation while abiding by public health requirements for physical distancing and caps on density. This approach should include appropriate space that may not traditionally be used for instruction but could be re-purposed to support prospects for successful in-person instruction.

Additional priority uses, with neither category taking precedence over the other, are as follows:

Space will also be allocated to serve the needs of research activities and academic working meetings involving students and trainees as well as other campus gatherings limited to Columbia faculty, students, and administrative staff. Examples include lab-based discussions, workshops of faculty, as well as school and departmental committee and faculty meetings.  When classroom use competes with these events, pedagogical requirements take precedence.

A significant goal for the use of space is to support student co-curricular and social activities sponsored by administrative offices, student clubs, teams, affinity groups, or other university-related student-focused organizations. Student groups should consider holding gatherings outdoors when possible, and, these activities will be subject to the non-academic gathering size limits.

To advance these objectives as we return to a more robust campus environment, we will need to share space across schools, departments, and administrative departments, and apply a flexible approach to the operation of our facilities.