A Message to the Community From the Head of Columbia's Facilities and Operations

September 11, 2020

Dear Members of the Columbia Community, 

The fall 2020 academic term is unlike any that has come before it, so to address the unique challenges of working, living, and learning in the COVID-19 environment, Facilities and Operations has made special preparations to provide for a successful return for students, faculty and staff. Columbia’s campus is ready to welcome you.

You have likely heard about the many health and safety measures we have taken as part of the return to campus plan in updates from University leadership, the COVID-19 Resource Guide , and about the signage installed across campus to help minimize risk and keep Columbia healthy.  These measures, developed following various governmental and industry guidance and in collaboration with University experts and public health officials, are designed to work in tandem with the individual behaviors articulated in the University’s Enhanced Health and Safety Policy and the Columbia Community Health Compact.

The following provides detail on these measures to highlight the depth and care our organization has taken to fulfill our mission to the University. The health and safety of the Columbia community is always our highest priority, and I am proud to say that our efforts have met, and often exceeded, the standards set by local and federal officials to meet the challenges posed by this global pandemic. You may also want to watch this video on readying our campus for a safe reopening to see how robust and extensive our work over the past few months has been. 

Building Readiness  

Every building on campus was inspected, assessed, and verified as ready for occupancy for the coming academic year. As you return to your work and learning spaces, you will notice many health and safety related enhancements, including the installation of:

  • More than 200 hand sanitizer dispensers in building lobbies and other high-traffic areas
  • More than 700 touchless faucets and 1,800 touchless flushometers in restrooms across academic and administrative buildings 
  • More than 4,500 educational and directional signs to encourage safe behavior in building entries, elevators, restrooms, and other common areas
  • Seat straps and removal of chairs where possible to facilitate physical distancing in classrooms and other common areas

Additional safety improvements and procedures, though less noticeable, have also been implemented to protect our community, including:

  • Upgrading over 1,000 air filters for efficiency at capturing airborne viruses
  • Operating systems at a frequency that meets or exceeds industry recommendations to facilitate the removal of potential virus particles from buildings 
  • Increasing the frequency of inspections and maintenance checks to ensure optimal operation
  • Enhancing cleaning and disinfecting protocols that meet, and in some areas exceed, newly issued standards from the Centers for Disease Control, New York State Department of Health, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration  

 Campus Services 

Facilities and Operations is also increasing our service offerings to help the University community during this difficult time. This week, Columbia Transportation began operating new commuter shuttles for faculty and staff with service in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. The Intercampus Shuttle will now be making stops at 96th Street throughout the day, and Saturday service will be available.  Transportation and Public Safety introduced on-demand evening shuttle service through Via for a safe, convenient and free transportation option at night.  Public Safety also recently released “Lion Safe”, a smartphone app for quick access to public safety information and services. Operational changes throughout the campus transportation system include daily cleanings, mandatory face coverings, physical distancing and reducing ridership. 

Columbia Dining launched a meal delivery service to ensure that every student enjoys access to healthy, delicious food until Dining Halls reopen on September 20th with freshly prepared grab-and-go service. Columbia Mail will deliver mail, packages and bookstore purchases to all students in Columbia Housing for the start of the academic year. Event Management now provides a full suite of services to enable virtual events and conferences to support physical distancing and reach a broader audience. Columbia Health is providing COVID-19 testing as part of Columbia’s Test and Trace Program, a robust and comprehensive testing surveillance program complemented with rapid contact tracing to mitigate the risk of transmission on Columbia’s campuses.

 Here to Support You, 24/7

To stay up-to-date on our work throughout the year, you can register for our monthly e-newsletter, visit our website, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. As always, we remain available to support you 24/7/365 through our online service request system or our Services Center at 212-854-2222. 

As we come back together – whether virtually or in-person – I want to acknowledge the hard work of our staff and Columbians across campus over the last several months to provide essential services, maintain operations, and execute extensive preparations to bring students, faculty and staff back to campus safely and provide a meaningful Columbia experience for everyone. We look forward to partnering with you throughout this crisis and beyond to keep our community healthy.


David M. Greenberg, Executive Vice President, University Facilities and Operations