Visitor Guidelines for Fall 2021

The current Columbia policy regarding visitors was established in July 2020 and stated we have a “no visitor” policy. However, certain individuals (e.g. contractors) were permitted on campus with a requirement that they complete a symptom attestation form. Also, longer term visitors engaged in research collaboration were also able to access campus with completion of symptom attestation and other requirements. Since that time, there have been several updates:

  • In April 2021, guidelines for visitors participating in academic activities were issued that required visitors to do symptom attestation. Vaccination was also strongly recommended. Additionally, approval of the unit head or principal investigator (PI) was required and campus density requirements needed to be followed. In addition, when density requirements became an issue, an academic visitor could not displace a Columbia employee.
  • In May 2021, the guidelines for space were updated to state that conferences, workshops, convenings, employer on-campus recruiting and other professional events that include visitors from outside the Columbia community were required to be conducted virtually.

For Fall 2021, we intend to observe some restriction regarding visitors in order to keep the campus safe as Columbia affiliates—faculty, researchers, staff, and students—return to classrooms, their workplaces, and University residences. At the same time, the University values the contributions that visiting scholars, exchange programs, and other visitors bring to our academic community. As a result, some restrictions remain in place, as indicated below.  We anticipate that in-person events and conferences will remain limited in the fall term, consistent with University guidelines. Vaccinations will be required for all visitors whose duration on the campus is intended to be four or more days in one semester.

For the most up-to-date information on the status of events and activities, please go to the Columbia COVID website www.covid19.columbia.edu.

Additional guidance for specific categories of visitors is noted below. All visitors listed below are expected to comply with the University’s health and safety policies, which include symptom attestation, testing, and, in most cases, mandatory vaccination.

Categories of Visitors

Visiting and Exchange Students

Non-degree visiting undergraduate, graduate, and medical and related professional students (domestic and international) will only be permitted to attend classes that meet in-person with approval of the school’s dean; such exceptions should be applied sparingly.

Visiting Faculty, Visiting Officers of Research, and Adjuncts

Visiting faculty, visiting officers of research, and adjunct faculty who are teaching and/or approved for essential on-site research of any duration, are excluded from the current visitor restrictions. These visitors must comply with University health and safety policies, including mandatory vaccination and/or testing pending updated campus guidelines.

Visiting Scholars and Scientists

Visiting Scholars and Scientists coming for short periods to do independent research will be allowed on campus after they have been approved by the Department/School and the Provost following guidelines issued in April 2021.

Guest Speakers, Lecturers, and Panelists

Granting access to occasional guest lecturers or speakers must be done prudently. Their presence should be virtual unless it is deemed necessary to a course, an academic program, or a research endeavor.

Visitors to Columbia Undergraduate Residential Buildings

Visitors to undergraduate residential buildings by other Columbia students will be allowed.  However, visits by non-affiliates will require completion of attestation. The numbers of non-affiliate visitors will be limited; occupancy restrictions for gatherings must be followed.

Visitors to Columbia Faculty and Graduate Residential Buildings

Visitors to Columbia faculty and graduate residential buildings are allowed. The numbers of  non-affiliate visitors will be limited and occupancy restrictions for gatherings must be adhered to.

Admissions Visitors

Prospective students and family members are permitted for the purpose of viewing the campus.  These visits are restricted to outdoor spaces. Family members who accompany admitted students for the purpose of move-in or other occasions will be able to access indoor spaces for limited periods of time during such activities. All will need to adhere to University guidelines in place.

Faculty, Staff, and Students of Affiliated Institutions

Barnard, Teachers College, Jewish Theological Seminary and Union Theological Seminary faculty, researchers, staff and students will be granted access to campus. However, symptom attestation and vaccine compliance will be required, as well as other University guidelines.  Columbia will accept the determinations from these affiliated institutions regarding vaccine exemptions.

Other Visitors

Contractors and non-academic visitors with official business with Columbia who require access to our facilities will be permitted access based on written approval from the appropriate dean, or department head that such in-person access is necessary. These individuals must comply with symptom attestation. If access is sought for more than four days over the course of a semester, it is strongly recommended that the individual must also be vaccinated. Contractors who engage with students will be required to be vaccinated. Evidence of vaccination will need to be provided. All persons in this category need to adhere to University guidelines in place. A more complete listing of vendor requirements will be made available as the University is reaching out to its vendors.

Exception Process

Department chairs, center and institute directors, deans, and senior administrators can request exceptions for visitors to come to campus for non-academic or other purposes that are critical to Columbia’s mission. The Provost will review these uncommon exception requests and determine whether they should be approved.

Frequently Asked Questions About the University's Fall 2021 Visitor Policy

Keeping the campus safe is our foundational priority, and we have managed to do this since March 2020. As we return to full in-person instruction, full capacity in offices and research laboratories and full occupancy of university housing, we need to ensure that our community, which is required to be vaccinated and comply with other protocols, stays safe. Adding in visitors who would not be subject to these safety measures could impact our ability to provide a rich campus and workforce experience for our Columbia community.

Anyone who is not an enrolled student or does not have an employment relationship with Columbia or affiliated schools is to be considered a visitor, with the exception of retired faculty and persons living in Columbia housing who have a living arrangement with the Columbia affiliate that is usually characterized as a spousal or other personal relationship. University health and safety policies, which include symptom attestation, testing and in most cases, mandatory vaccination, apply in all cases.

All other persons coming to Columbia from an outside employment or school relationship are considered visitors.  Alumni, non-faculty retirees and contractors are considered visitors.

Anyone whose visit is for one to three days must complete the symptom attestation form.

Anyone who visits campus facilities for four or more days in a semester must complete the symptom attestation form and provide proof of vaccination status. If they are not vaccinated, Columbia will provide such vaccination. If the individual does not want to be vaccinated, they cannot come on campus. Any visitor for a duration longer than four days may be eligible to receive a UNI and utilize the ReopenCU app.

A CDC card, WHO booklet, country-specific COVID-19 vaccination card, Epic Connect record, or verified letter from a doctor offer acceptable proof of vaccination status.

All visitors must adhere to Columbia health and safety policies, which may include COVID testing, face coverings, physical distancing, and gathering size.

Yes, prospective students (and parents) can visit the campus. Admission to Columbia buildings, however, will not generally be permitted.

Patients and persons who accompany them and health-related research participants will be allowed to enter Columbia buildings as needed.  CDC and New York State guidelines require all persons in health care organizations must be masked whether or not vaccinated.