COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus): Faculty Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to faculty questions about teaching, research, administration, and travel, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Columbia University continues to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak, these FAQs offer answers to many common questions from faculty about how they should adjust travel, research, and teaching in light of the University's precautionary measures.

Click on the topics below to find relevant information.

Teaching and Testing

Research

Facilities Access

Online Teaching Resources

    Administrative Issues

    Travel

    Exposure to COVID-19

    Work/Life

    Classes and Exams

    Classes cannot be held in person, either on-site or off-site. There are no exceptions to this policy, regardless of class size.

    As you adapt to the online format, arrangements for virtual assignments must allow for the kinds of preparation and advance notice that would be normal practice in your class. If you need to adjust assignments and assessments and move their dates because of the switch to the online format, please do so with the needs of students foremost in your mind.

    Access online resource and guidance for teaching online provided by the Center for Teaching and Learning.

    You can find answers to other questions at the University's COVID-19 website and review the University's latest alerts at preparedness.columbia.edu.

    Communicate directly with your students about participation expectations.

    To take attendance with Zoom, ask students to write their names and UNIs in the chat window, which can be exported after each Zoom session.

    Offer students excused absences without a doctor’s note when they indicate they are absent for health reasons.

    Exams cannot be held in personThere are no exceptions to this policy.

    We recommend emailed exams with an explicit honor code attached and time limits for the exam (even for longer take-home style exams). There is a quiz feature in Zoom that can be used to manage timed assignments, or you can work through email.

    Arrangements for virtual exams must allow for the kinds of preparation and advance notice that would be normal practice in your class. If you need to adapt assignments and assessments and move their dates because of the switch to the online format, please do so with the needs of students foremost in your mind.

    Access online resource and guidance for teaching online provided by the Center for Teaching and Learning.

    You can find answers to other questions at the University's COVID-19 website and review the University's latest alerts at preparedness.columbia.edu.

    You may hold office hours by phone, by Zoom, or in person, provided health and social distancing protocols are followed. 

    Social distancing practices include remaining out of congregate settings (gathering in a large group for a prolonged period of time), avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible.

    All classes, including independent studies, must be held online.

    Access online resource and guidance for teaching online provided by the Center for Teaching and Learning.

    You can find answers to other questions at the University's COVID-19 website and review the University's latest alerts at preparedness.columbia.edu.

    Students in non-healthcare settings can continue with their internships and externships, should they wish to proceed.

    With many workplaces moving to remote work for non-essential employees, schools will have to collaborate with placement agencies and locations to determine which can continue. When students continue with their field placements, health and social distancing protocols should be reinforced.

    Research

    As the University responds to COVID-19, it is imperative to rapidly ramp down most of our on-site, in-person research activities.

    • Each principal investigator or other responsible researcher must submit to the appropriate person in your unit a detailed plan for how activities on research projects and animal studies will be handled with the minimum possible number of personnel on campus.
    • Only essential research will be permitted to continue and only personnel who are essential to conduct the permitted research and to maintain equipment and laboratory assets may remain on campus.
    • The plans must be submitted as soon as possible and the ramp-down should be completed no later than Thursday, March 19. 

    Find more information in an announcement regarding research ramp-down here.

    You may also send your questions to COVID19_research@columbia.edu.

    Find answers to questions about ramp-down, including about human subject research, environmental health and safety, and other issues on the Columbia Research site here.

    You may also send your questions to COVID19_research@columbia.edu.

    Find answers to these and other questions on the Columbia Research site here.

    You can also email questions to COVID19_research@columbia.edu.

    Find more detailed research-related questions and answers here.

    You may also send your questions to COVID19_research@columbia.edu.

    Access to Facilities

    Faculty are permitted to use their campus office for research or online teaching. Notwithstanding, faculty who can work remotely are strongly encouraged to do so.

     

    Starting Monday, March 16, all library locations will be closed until further notice. Find more information on the Libraries Alerts page.

    In accordance with University guidance and with the health and well-being of our staff and the community in mind, effective March 23, both lunch service in the Faculty House dining room and community hour in the lounge are suspended for the remainder of the semester.

    Events scheduled at Faculty House should continue to follow University guidance on gatherings as outlined and continuously updated on the Columbia COVID-19 webpage.

    Faculty may continue to teach in empty classrooms, if necessary for successful instruction. 

    There will be limited on-site support from central teams, such as CUIT and CTL, so faculty should be advised that they should expect to be self-sufficient when utilizing those classroom resources unless they have made arrangements for school-based resources on campus.

    There are central resources for classroom technology support that can be made available by contacting CUIT's support desk (4-1919). For questions on remote teaching and learning practices, please reach out to the Center for Teaching and Learning at ColumbiaCTL@columbia.edu (or 4-9058). Please note that on-site staffing levels for CUIT and the CTL have been greatly reduced.  

    Use of common areas like lounges are banned other than in exceptional circumstances and only when following strong social distancing. 

    Online Teaching Resources

    The Center for Teaching and Learning has a range of resources available to help adapt to online teaching. Visit them here.

    To find additional teaching and learning resources, visit CTL at ctl.columbia.edu or contact them via email at ColumbiaCTL@columbia.edu.

    Zoom is a video conferencing tool that allows users (e.g., instructors) to speak with others (e.g., students) in different locations by streaming audio and video. The tool is accessible from a computer, a smartphone, or a tablet.

    This guide, developed by the Center for Teaching and Learning, helps you set up your account, integrate with CourseWorks, and invite participants to join your live online class or meeting. Read the guide

    To find additional teaching and learning resources, visit CTL at ctl.columbia.edu or contact them via email at ColumbiaCTL@columbia.edu.

    Panopto is a tool to create, host, share, and stream video, and it can be very useful for online courses.

    Find online instructions for using Panopto here.

    To find additional teaching and learning resources, visit CTL at ctl.columbia.edu or contact them via email at ColumbiaCTL@columbia.edu.

    You can find helpful tips and tricks for synchronous (real-time) online teaching through this guide, developed by the Center for Teaching and Learning.

    To find additional teaching and learning resources, visit CTL at ctl.columbia.edu or contact them via email at ColumbiaCTL@columbia.edu.

    Administrative Issues

    Schools are making adjustments consistent with their particular accreditation requirements. The Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Programs continues to track agency guidelines and has compiled many here

    If you have questions or need additional guidance, please contact Julie Kornfeld at jk3924@columbia.edu.

    Most are being postponed or held virtually. If it is essential to have in-person meetings, health and social distancing protocols must be observed, and an option for virtual participation must be offered, as some colleagues may be following CDC guidelines for people at high risk. 

    Exposure to COVID-19

    If you were to be a confirmed contact (prolonged face to face contact) of someone diagnosed with COVID-19, you would be contacted by the local Department of Health and be given guidance on what steps are recommended or required. 

    Seek prompt medical evaluation if you have fever, cough, or shortness of breath.  Students should call the Columbia Health hotline at 212-854-9355.  Faculty and staff should call their primary care provider.

    Local Departments of Health are conducting rapid contact tracing for all confirmed cases and providing individualized guidance. If you were at an event but did not have close contact (prolonged face to face contact) with a symptomatic person, then you likely do not need to take any specific actions. 

    If you were to be a confirmed contact (prolonged face to face contact) of someone diagnosed with COVID-19, you would be contacted by the local Department of Health and be given guidance on what steps are recommended or required.  Seek prompt medical evaluation if you have fever, cough, or shortness of breath.  Students should call the Columbia Health hotline at 212-854-9355. Faculty and staff should call their primary care provider. 

    Travel

    There are two different sets of travel policies for faculty: one for CUIMC clinical faculty and another for the rest of the faculty.

    CUIMC Clinical Faculty

    For CUIMC clinical faculty, all international and domestic Columbia travel is suspended.

    Non-Clinical Faculty

    For all other faculty, including non-clinical CUIMC faculty, Columbia travel to China, Iran, Israel, Italy, Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea is suspended. The University strongly urges this group to postpone international travel to other countries. Domestic Columbia-related travel is not affected by this policy. 

    For a summary of travel restrictions, review this table. For more information, review travel restrictions on the University's COVID-19 website and find the University's latest alerts at preparedness.columbia.edu.

     

    Clinical Faculty

    CUIMC clinical faculty are asked to postpone all domestic nonessential personal travel that could prevent returning urgently to work.

    All international personal travel is suspended for this group with limited exceptions.

    Non-Clinical Faculty

    All other faculty, including non-clinical CUIMC faculty, are urged to postpone international personal travel.

    However, there are no restrictions on domestic travel for this group. 

    For a summary of travel restrictions, review this table. For more information, review travel restrictions on the University's COVID-19 website and find the University's latest alerts at preparedness.columbia.edu.

     

    Columbia University recommends that those who have returned from travel to a CDC Level 3 country in the past 14 days, self-isolate for 14 additional days per the self-isolation guidance below. For travelers returning from a CDC Level 2 country, we ask that you monitor your health and limit interactions with others for 14 days after returning from travel.

    Generally speaking, a recommendation means you should stay home and avoid contact with others.  More specifically:

    • Contact your supervisor and local human resources officer who will notify CUHR Leave Management. 
    • Contact your primary care provider immediately if you begin to experience fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. 
    • Stay home. Do not go to work, events, or other social gatherings.
    • If you live with others, do not spend time in shared living spaces and limit contact with those you live with.
    • If you live with others, avoid sharing household items. Do not share drinking glasses, towels, eating utensils, bedding, or any other items until you are no longer asked to self-isolate.
    • Arrange for food to be delivered via friends, grocery delivery services, etc.
    • Wipe down high touch surfaces (e.g. doorknobs, telephones, remote controls, and bathroom surfaces) often with a standard household disinfectant such as Clorox® wipes.
    • Monitor your temperature twice a day.
    • You are expected to work remotely, if able. Stay in daily contact with your supervisor and local HR.  While complying with a self-isolation advice, you will still be paid for standard work hours.

     

    Resources for Parents

    Bright Horizons Back-Up Care is available if school is closed or your caregiver is unavailable. They will arrange high-quality care for you so you’ll have peace of mind, and your loved ones (children or adults) will get the care they need.

    NOTE: Through April 30, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. ET, you also have the option to secure care using your own personal network — a neighbor, friend, or babysitter — and receive a Crisis Care reimbursement of $100 per day. Any use of the program will count toward your standard number of back-up care visits. For more information, click here.

    Visit the Office of Work/Life website for parenting resources.

    Well-being, Counseling and Other Resources

    The Office of Work/Life has a variety of well-being resources, including Guided Mindfulness audio and Yoga at Work instructional videos.

    The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a network of free services to help you and your household members cope with issues experienced in everyday life. Services include short-term confidential counseling, wellness resources and tools to help you be successful in the workplace.

    The National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD) is an incredible resource that offers on-demand access to mentoring, tools, and support to help faculty thrive. They offer free webinars on a variety of topics, including productivity, strategic planning, writing, and self-care. Columbia has an institutional membership. To learn more, visit our NCFDD page.