Student Accountability Plan for Columbia Community Health Compact

Updated: July 12,  2021

All students, faculty, and staff who study, work, or visit any Columbia University campus must sign and follow the Columbia Community Health Compact. This compact supports the wellbeing of all our community members.

This Student Accountability Plan offers guidance and explains the disciplinary process for situations where students do not adhere to the Columbia Community Health Compact. This guidance is subject to change in accordance with modifications to University policy, state, federal, and local laws, as well as evolving guidance from public health experts.

Elements of the Accountability Plan

Compact Enforcement Basics

Everyone on campus can ask others to comply with the compact. It is on all of us to keep our community safe.

Student Affairs staff and Public Safety, in most instances, are available to assist in addressing concerns or complaints of student non-adherence. These staff can often provide disposable face coverings to individuals, as needed. Student Affairs staff are Columbia employees whose primary responsibilities include working with students on student life issues outside of the classroom.

The compact was developed by the University’s COVID-19 Task Force. Student Conduct and Community Standards and the dean of students for each school to utilize existing policies and procedures, such as “failure to comply” and “violation of University Policies,” to adjudicate referrals for violations of University policy, including the compact. Please refer to Standards and Discipline or your school’s bulletin for additional information regarding the Dean’s Discipline process and prohibited conduct.

How to Respond When a Student Is Violating the Compact

Everyone, including students, is required to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth while on campus. A student who refuses to wear a face covering properly can be asked to leave campus or return immediately to their room if they live on campus.

Following the compact, and supporting other community members to do the same, is our collective responsibility. You can find many examples of how to step in with civility, empathy, and respect in Columbia’s Stepping In guide.

First, seek to resolve the situation informally, with a reminder that a face covering and physical distance are required on Columbia’s campus. Students can obtain a temporary face covering from Public Safety if they do not have one. You can point the student to the University COVID-19 and University Life websites for more information.

If a student continues to disregard the compact after being asked, you can:

  • Ask the student to leave the shared space
  • Submit an online incident report to Student Conduct and Community Standards, or on the “Report an Incident” button at the top of the University Life website, or contact the dean of students in your school. You can report anonymously through the online form, though it is often helpful if you include your name or contact information for follow-up if needed
  • If you don’t know the student, you can ask for their UNI or to see their CUID before submitting the report. Faculty and staff members can also ask the student to leave campus.  Anyone can seek out a University staff or faculty member to assist

Keep in mind when deciding whether to address someone that power and privilege dynamics can come into play, as well as personal safety concerns.

How the Compact Applies to Off-Campus Activities

The compact is in place for the protection of everyone at Columbia, as well as our neighbors. Students can be subject to Dean’s Discipline for any activity that occurs on or off campus that puts another Columbia community member at risk, including violations of the compact. "Off campus" includes student residences and any other setting where Columbia students are gathered. 

For example, students who are alleged to have violated the compact by hosting an off-campus party where individuals do not follow the compact will be notified in writing of the allegation that they have engaged in activity that violates the compact. A Dean's Discipline hearing will be scheduled to address and resolve the concern. Please see additional information under Violations of Greater Impact below.

What Happens to a Student After They Are Referred to SCCS or Their Dean of Students for an Alleged Violation of the Compact

As with all matters referred to Student Conduct and Community Standards or the dean of students, staff addressing reported concerns will assume the student is not responsible unless the student accepts responsibility or when sufficient evidence is collected through the Dean’s Discipline process showing it is more likely than not that the student violated University policy.

Examples of low-level, first-time violations include, but are not limited to:

  • Failure to wear and/or properly use a face covering (i.e., face coverings that are not properly covering the mouth and nose) while on campus or in residence halls
  • Failure to follow physical distancing requirements while on campus or within residence halls
  • Refusal to adhere to the compact when asked by a faculty or staff member

A low-level, first-time violation of the compact can be addressed through means other than the Dean’s Discipline process, such as an educational discussion about the compact. The goal is always to address behavior in an educational and non-adversarial manner in an effort to assist the student in modifying their behavior.

Alleged violations of the compact that take place in one of the University’s residences can be addressed by SCCS, the dean of students, Student Affairs staff, or staff within the office or unit that oversees the student’s housing assignment/residential experience. These offices include, but are not limited to:

  • Columbia Housing
  • Residential Life
  • Columbia Residential
  • Columbia University Irving Medical Center Housing

These offices can also refer allegations of non-adherence to the compact to SCCS or the dean of students for appropriate disciplinary action, as outlined in Standards and Discipline or the school’s bulletin. 

A low-level, repeated violation of the compact can be addressed through the Dean’s Discipline process.­­­ Students found responsible for a repeated violation of the compact through the Dean’s Discipline process should expect sanctions that provide education, reinforce accountability, and are commensurate with the seriousness of the violation. Sanctions issued can range from a disciplinary warning to a temporary separation from Columbia University, as outlined in Standards and Discipline. Additionally, students can be required to leave University housing temporarily or permanently for repeated violations of the Compact. It is important to underscore that living in any of our residential communities is a privilege and violations of the compact, no matter how minor, can jeopardize that privilege.

If the allegation is of greater concern, for example attending or hosting a party on or off campus where guests are not adhering to the compact, the student will be notified in writing of the allegation they have violated the compact and that a Dean's Discipline hearing has been scheduled to address and resolve the concern.

If a student is found responsible for a violation of the compact deemed to be of greater impact (as compared to a low-level violation) to the health and safety of the University community, the student may receive more significant sanctions, including restriction or removal from campus, including from Columbia housing, disciplinary suspension, or expulsion from the University.

How Sanctions Are Applied When Students Are Found in Violation of the Compact by SCCS or Deans of Students

Student Conduct and Community Standards and the dean of students always seek consistency and fairness with every case and recognize that each case has its own unique fact pattern and circumstances requiring consideration. As such, cases are treated with individual care and sanctions can vary depending on the student’s disciplinary history and any aggravating and mitigating factors that present themselves during the investigation of the allegations. For example, a student who has violated physical distancing on a small individual scale may be sanctioned differently than a student who hosts a social gathering with multiple people in the residence halls, brownstones, University-owned apartments, or common spaces that puts the Columbia community at higher risk for transmission of COVID-19.

What Happens if I Share Information About Possible Compact Violations by Me or Other Students as Part of Contact Tracing or by Reporting an Incident?  

When a student shares information with Columbia Health, the CUIMC Student Health Service, or the University’s Contact Tracing Program, that information will be used to facilitate contact tracing and support for quarantine or isolation. The information will not be shared with Student Conduct and Community Standards.

If a student comes forward to Student Conduct and Community Standards, their Dean of Students, other staff or faculty members, or in the “report an incident link,” with information about incidents that may put our community at risk, the circumstances and the student’s willingness to be forthcoming will be taken into consideration with any disciplinary review that might follow.

Violations by Student Groups and Other Organizations

Columbia’s long history of self-governance among its student groups and organizations remains an important element of student life at the University. Student group and organizations are expected to abide by the compact and enforce the stated expectations with their membership. Failure to do so could impact a group’s or organization's standing within the University. Concerns regarding student groups and organizations will be referred to the appropriate school officials for resolution, which can include referral to the group’s or organization’s governing body (i.e., Student Groups Adjudication Board (“SGAB”), Fraternity and Sorority Life Judicial Board (“J-Board”), or other applicable bodies, including those within graduate and professional schools).

Important Note About Off-campus Dining, Parties, and Other Student Gatherings

The health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff are the University’s highest priority. This is embedded in our policies and procedures.

Because transmission of COVID-19 poses a threat to the health of other members of our community, actions both on and off-campus that risk exposing our community to COVID-19 are prohibited by University policy governing student conduct. 

This includes interactions between students inside off-campus apartments and in other off-campus settings, both indoors and outside. Of particular concern are social gatherings and parties, as these pose a high risk of transmission if students do not follow Compact requirements regarding face coverings and physical distancing.

There have been questions if dining at restaurants and in parks off campus are Compact violations. Students are expected to follow their state and city rules and consider the associated public health risks. Please review these FAQs for additional information on how to be social while staying safe.

Additional Information

New York State Department of Health’s “Interim Guidance on Executive Order 202.16 Requiring Face Coverings for Public and Private Employees Interacting with the Public During the COVID-19 Outbreak,” issued April 14, 2020

New York State Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) Website

United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Coronavirus (COVID-19) Website