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Columbia Goes Remote for Fall 2020

DAVID DINI SIPA’14

All undergraduate courses will be taught virtually for the fall 2020 semester, according to updates from President Lee C. Bollinger and Dean James J. Valentini on August 14. Approximately 40 percent of all graduate courses will be taught partially online or in person.


The advancement of the COVID-19 virus in more than 33 states and territories resulted in the decision to drastically scale back the number of students living on campus; residential-style accommodations are now limited to only Columbia College and SEAS undergraduates who must be present on campus due to personal or academic circumstances.

New York State protocols would require all students from high- risk states and communities to quarantine for 14 days once they arrive on campus. “While I am supportive of the measures New York State has imposed,” Bollinger wrote, “and while I have no doubt that we could ensure a safe quarantine period from a public health standpoint, two weeks is a long time to endure isolation, especially for students who will be leaving home for the first time.”

Valentini underscored the point in his message: “The isolation of the 14-day quarantine and severe restrictions on campus life create conditions that we feel would be difficult for most students to thrive in.”

While Bollinger said he is optimistic, he acknowledged that the Columbia community will be living with uncertainty for some time. “We should think of the fall term as part of a phased return. We need to establish a sense of confidence among us, turn to our experts in public health for guidance, calibrate our sense of risk based on best evidence, think in terms of the common good, and talk — again and again. ... As many of our rhythms of intellectual life are disrupted, we must make sure we are experimenting and learning from the vast array of teaching opportunities we will be exploring.”

Undergraduate housing options for the spring term will continue to be evaluated.