Columbia SIPA Dean Merit E. Janow made this announcement on July 8, 2020:
Dear Members of the SIPA Community,
In his message yesterday to the Columbia community, President Bollinger provided a significant update on the University’s plans for the resumption of on-campus activities this fall. I encourage you to review it as it speaks not only to academic life but also important features of campus life going forward. I write today to reaffirm what we have previously shared with you about our plans for the fall, which have not changed, and to further clarify SIPA’s approach to the fall.
First, while the University has given schools the option to have a three-term academic year, SIPA will offer our full curriculum in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, allowing students to complete their coursework in the usual timeframe. As previously noted, there are no changes to SIPA’s fall academic calendar, which will begin on September 8th. Spring semester, however, will start one week earlier than usual, on January 11th, and end on April 26th. Commencement will take place that same week. Once the University determines our designated date and time for commencement, we will share that information with you.
Second, as previously announced, all Fall 2020 courses will be offered online for the entire semester. In addition, a considerable number of these classes will be taught on campus. As I shared in my message to students on June 24th, if New York State and University public health policies allow, instructors will be able to teach from their regularly assigned SIPA classroom, and a limited number of students will be permitted to attend in person, subject to social distancing requirements. Faculty teaching in a classroom will simultaneously teach their online and on-campus students, utilizing newly installed audiovisual equipment. University officials have informed us that in-person capacity will be 28 percent of the standard seating capacity and that work is underway to prepare classrooms to meet State and University public health guidelines.
On July 20 we will provide students via the SIPA Bulletin and Vergil a full list of Fall 2020 courses. To the extent possible by that date, we will identify which courses will be offered only online and which will be taught from a classroom (in addition to online). If we know at that time that a course will be taught from a classroom, we will provide information about the expected in-person seating capacity. We will provide updates on July 27, August 3 and August 10 about the online/on-campus status of courses. We will provide full information no later than August 14 about which courses will be taught from a classroom and which will be online only. As stressed by President Bollinger, “every decision we make related to resuming in-person instruction and residential life will be contingent on New York State moving into Phase 4 of its reopening plan,” and any in-person instruction will depend on conditions on the ground in New York City.
Third, this week’s advance notice from the Department of Homeland Security of new regulations regarding online courses has doubtless raised many questions among SIPA’s international students. I am in complete agreement with President Bollinger’s statement that these regulations are deeply misguided and “the destructive and indefensible purpose driving these policies” requires us to remain focused on the steps we can take to support our international students who are part of our Columbia family. Although we are pressing for detailed guidance from University experts, it is our understanding that SIPA’s hybrid model (a mixture of online and in-person classes) will allow international students to enter the US on a student visa as long as they do not take an entirely online course load while in the US. In the meantime, students with any immigration or visa-related questions should consult the International Students and Scholars Office (here).
Fourth, we are working closely with faculty to redesign their fall courses for online instruction or a hybrid format. Among other adjustments, we are helping faculty make provisions for students who take courses from disparate time zones around the world. For example, nearly all class sessions will be recorded and made available to enrolled students via CourseWorks. SIPA-IT is also upgrading audio-visual capacity in all classrooms, in order to facilitate simultaneous teaching of online and in-person students.
Fifth, we will continue to offer the full range of student services to all SIPA students, whether in person or online. Further information about enhanced student support and services will be shared over the summer by the Office of Student Affairs, Office of Career Services, and other SIPA offices.
Sixth, from the onset of the pandemic, SIPA has taken steps to increase financial support for students. The School is providing the largest amount of financial aid in its history. In addition, we restructured our emergency fund this past spring to provide for students facing significant financial stress due to the COVID pandemic. We will continue that fund through the summer and into the fall. I also am pleased to announce that we are increasing resources available in the emergency fund for continuing students (modified guidelines and application process will be announced shortly).
Finally, President Bollinger’s message outlined the strict guidelines that will apply to all who live, work, study and teach at Columbia. Please review those carefully. As you will see, persons on campus must wear a face covering at all times, unless they are in a private room with the door closed. In addition, there are physical distancing, testing, symptom self-check, reduction in density, enhanced cleaning and other requirements. More information about detailed public health protocols on campus can be found here.
The virus has had a profound effect on our community and the world. As we move forward, please know that we are deeply committed to supporting the needs of all of our students, faculty and staff. SIPA is the world’s most global school of international and public affairs, and we are proud of the remarkable students that join us from the United States and around the world. We are committed, as stressed by President Bollinger, in finding ways to enable the international students who are in the US to continue to complete their studies and those who are overseas to continue to engage with our faculty and students and be part of our vibrant virtual community.
We recognize many of you have more questions about the fall semester, and we will strive to answer them as soon as possible. We are committed, no matter the uncertainty and disruption around us, to provide a safe learning environment consistent with our educational mission and to provide the rich array of intellectual experiences that are the defining features of the SIPA education.
The year ahead will be filled with complexity and interest: it will be a year that brings a US presidential election, important opportunities to consider economic, environmental, political, racial, social and other challenges facing the world and the United States. And despite the uncertainties and the precautions we all must undertake, we will have opportunities to study, teach, learn and engage with the world and each other. Our mission and our work have never been more important.
I look forward to our fall together.
Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law and International Affairs