Columbia and Barnard have announced a finalized academic calendar for the 2020-2021 school year. The pre-orientation programs for first-years have either been canceled or will be held online.

Columbia and Barnard students received emails from Interim Provost Ira Katznelson and Provost Linda Bell respectively on Wednesday with a better look at how the 2020-2021 school year will play out. Unlike several other schools, Barnard and Columbia will be starting classes for the semester on September 8 as originally scheduled. Classes for the Spring semester, however, will begin earlier this semester on January 11. The Spring semester is scheduled to end earlier as well, on May 3.

Within each semester, the University will be offering both traditional semester-long courses as well as more intensive seven-week courses. The semester will be split into two equal-length sessions, Part A and Part B, for these immersive courses. The final exam period for Part A will be held the week of October 19, Part B’s reading week and final exam period will coincide with that of the semester-long classes starting the week of December 15. The University is adopting a three-semester framework for next semester; the Summer semester (also split into A and B sessions) will begin a week after the end of Spring final exams on May 3. There will be a week-long break between Summer Parts A and B. Summer Part B will begin the week of June 28. Barnard announced that no additional tuition fees will be charged for summer classes. Bwog reached out to Columbia to see if their policies will be similar but did not hear back at the time of publication.

The University continues to adapt with the times in order to preserve Columbia community members’ safety in other ways as well. Yesterday afternoon, the New Student Orientation Program (NSOP) staff announced the cancellation of the COOP and CUE summer 2020 programs, as well as a modification to ISOP, in an email to the orientation leaders of this year’s NSOP program. The decision was made because “our programs require staff and student coordinators to travel and conduct site visits to facilities throughout the summer, and many of these facilities have yet to determine whether or not they will open for large groups in the fall,” according to the email sent to NSOP Orientation Leaders and Crew Captains. Bwog has reached out to COOP and CUE for comment on the cancellation and will update this post if such a comment becomes available.

The cancellation of COOP and CUE, as well as the past cancellation of the Days on Campus program, however, lead to the creation of a new component of the NSOP program: a period of online engagement. Due to the uncertainty that certain group meetings may not follow social distancing and safety regulations of both campus and the state of New York, Orientation Leaders have been asked to communicate via Zoom with their group of incoming freshmen during the months of July and August. Thus, this new element of NSOP 2020 will likely assist in familiarizing the incoming class with Columbia’s community and culture in the largely online format that we have and will continue to utilize.

The full email sent to Columbia undergraduates from Interim Provost Ira Katznelson:

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community,

Having moved through detailed planning by the Education Working Group and having been approved by the University Senate, the contours and character of the 2020-21 academic calendar, attached to this message, now are set.

As President Bollinger announced last month, we will more fully utilize the familiar three-term academic year, not just the customary fall and spring terms but an augmented summer. You will recall that this schedule has been adopted in order to make as much in-person instruction and campus life possible as conditions allow by controlling density, enhancing pedagogical flexibility across different schools and programs, and working to ensure that students’ plans for their education can best proceed. 

With these goals in mind, the calendar has been organized in the following manner:   

  1. While the timing for the fall remains similar to previous years, starting the day following Labor Day (September 8), spring and summer terms will take place earlier than usual. Classes for spring 2021 will first meet on January 11; in the summer term on May 3. 
  2. Each term will offer the optional possibility of immersive courses by being divided into two equal-length sequential blocks. This arrangement of A and B time frames will provide flexibility to faculty as they develop curricula for specific programs and for students as they select coursework, even as most courses are likely to take the more traditional full-term shape.
  3. The earlier start to the spring term will allow a prompter opening for the summer term, thus assisting students who enroll in summer coursework (including those who concentrate their work during ‘summer A’) to have the ability to participate in internships, summer employment, and other seasonal activities.
  4. Commencement events will take place following the spring term exam period, as is traditional, but earlier than is common, during the last week of April.

While schools may determine how to structure their academic programs, across the University all will adhere to the dates announced in this calendar.

More details—school by school, program by program—will be forthcoming, but this established structure is the framework within which collective and individual planning for the coming academic year will be proceeding.

Looking forward with anticipation,


Ira Katznelson

Interim Provost

Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History

The full email sent to Barnard students:

Dear Members of the Barnard Community,

I hope that you and your loved ones are well as the nation continues to weather the pandemic and struggles in its reckoning with the anti-Black violence made so visible by the brutal events of these past months. Please know that we are thinking about each of you and our future together. We continue to believe that Barnard must make a distinctive contribution to these historic challenges through teaching, learning, scholarship, and collective action, and in that spirit I write to you today to update you on new aspects of our curriculum and on our current plans for a safe return to campus in the fall. 

Faculty, staff, students, and administrators have been working in various capacities to help plan for the upcoming academic year.  As President Beilock mentioned in her May 14 email, we will share a detailed plan for the Fall semester by early July. While many important decisions have yet to be made, there is significant clarity on several parts of the year ahead that I am happy to share with you now. 

Most importantly, Barnard will be open for some form of both academic instruction and student life this fall. We will offer as many opportunities for in-person experiences, residential living, and co-curricular activities as possible, subject to rigorous public health and safety constraints, including from New York State, New York City, local health departments, and the CDC. 

The Academic Year Calendar

Our calendar for the Academic Year is now set. As always, it is aligned with the calendar of Columbia University to ensure that all our students can take full advantage of the myriad options available to undergraduates at both institutions. 

Students will have the flexibility to plan their academic year courses over a significantly more expansive period of time that includes both the traditional Fall and Spring semesters and a new Summer term. There will be no extra tuition fees for summer courses.

The Fall semester will begin as planned on September 8 and will end on December 23. We will be flexible and supportive in offering classes in multiple formats. All classes will be offered remotely or in a high-flex modality that allows for both in-class and online delivery of instruction. We are making significant investments in classroom technology and in pedagogic training that will enhance the quality of all of our courses as they are delivered in this new format. 

The Spring semester will begin one week earlier than planned, on January 11, and Commencement will be held after the conclusion of the Spring semester in the last week of April. Specific dates for both the Barnard and University Commencements will be forthcoming, as well as a date for the in-person Commencement for the Barnard Class of 2020 that we were unable to hold this past spring.

The Summer term will be split into two unique six-week periods, which should allow students who want to take classes and pursue internship or summer employment opportunities the ability to do so. Each of the Fall and Spring semesters will also be divided into two equal parts — Part A and Part B — to enable students to take a host of immersive seven-week classes in addition to their semester-long courses. The goal of these immersive classes is to allow our students to take a reduced load of classes that offer a depth of engagement and learning over a shorter and more intensive period of time.

Detailed information on class registration for this new schedule will be available in early July.

New and Innovative Curriculum

Our exceptional faculty have been working to redesign aspects of our curriculum that  adjust to the three-term calendar and to the new immersive course format. As always, but in a more focused way than ever, they have also been developing new courses that will address the “big problems” we face in 2020. These courses will be focused on major challenges confronting society and the planet now and with an eye to the future.

As part of our focus on big problems, we will be offering a campus-wide lecture series that brings leading scholars and practitioners to campus virtually as we tackle as a community the key issues facing us today. Concurrent with this lecture series, we will introduce a new and exciting component to our First-Year Writing and First-Year Seminar classes that will bring students together in their sections to discuss the lecture and engage the content. Students will create a final group project that will be in dialogue with the lecture series and will be archived for historical purposes. Additional new classes will be created across the academic divisions that link to the College-wide lectures and address the significant issues of this challenging time.

We are excited about the new curricular options that will be available to students and energized by our faculty’s rigorous focus on best practices for online learning. 

While we wait for the fall, we know that many in our community are eager to address the injustices and inequalities that are currently playing out in the protests taking place in our country and the world. To that end, and as Vice President Ariana González Stokas wrote in her most recent message to campus, the College will offer an ongoing time “to reflect, respond, understand, enact, and reimagine racial justice at Barnard and how to work on anti-racism in our own lives and communities.” These virtual gatherings, which will begin on Monday, June 22, and will occur each Monday over the summer from 9 to 10 a.m., are available to all students, faculty, and staff, and will provide space for dialogue, support, and the study of racial justice. Please email for the Zoom link and further details. 

A Ramp-Up of Laboratory Research This Summer

While the campus has been mostly quiet since mid-March, we are pleased to announce that we are phasing-in a gradual reopening of laboratory research for faculty, beginning on Monday, June 22. Our return to research lab use will require strict adherence to New York State guidance and our own detailed safety protocols. Our faculty researchers are excited to resume their research this summer with the goal of incorporating some student research into our science labs in the fall.

Next Steps

I know that you still have many questions about living and learning at Barnard for the forthcoming academic year. Please know we are working to provide you with this information as soon as possible. As we pursue the goal of being together on campus this fall, we are acutely aware of the unpredictability of the pandemic. In the coming weeks, our various committees focused on fall planning will continue to refine their plans in consultation with local City and State governments, as well as medical and epidemiological experts. Our goal is to be as flexible as possible in how we implement the 2020-2021 academic year as we focus on our shared pursuit of teaching, scholarship, and research.

Finally, we are deeply grateful to the many who have worked with us on every aspect of our return to campus. Their significant contributions to our collective efforts will continue to lead to strong decisions and, beyond that, help shape and define the Barnard community’s responses to the exigencies of this time. Our highest goal of this moment is to learn in and from these circumstances so that, together, we may be agile, resilient, responsive, and creative as we serve our society. 

My Very Best,

Provost Linda A. Bell

The full email sent to Columbia Orientation Leaders and Crew Captains:

Greetings, Orientation Leaders and Crew Captains:

We hope this email finds you safe and as well as possible given everything happening in the world right now. We’re reaching out as a follow up to Wesley’s email from last week and with a few updates about NSOP and the overall orientation outreach to new students this year.

Earlier this month, we made the difficult decision to cancel COÖP and CUE for Fall 2020, and to modify ISOP. Although it is possible that some city, state and/or University policies regarding social distancing and travel may be lifted by mid-August, our programs require staff and student coordinators to travel and conduct site visits to facilities throughout the summer, and many of these facilities have yet to determine whether or not they will open for large groups in the fall. Due to this uncertainty and the need to prioritize the safety of all students, we were unable to move forward with planning these programs this year.

We are currently awaiting guidance from the University to determine how NSOP programming will change in August, and will be in touch with updates once any plans are confirmed. We hope to have more information no later than the first week of July as we’ll need to move quickly this summer to adapt to the upcoming guidance, and we appreciate your flexibility.

Because of all the uncertainties about what lies ahead, building community has become more important than ever, and we would like to do all we can to begin this process earlier. Given the cancellation of in-person Days on Campus programming in the spring as well as the cancellation of COÖP and CUE this August, we are looking for new and stronger ways to engage new students before they arrive on campus. Below is a rough timeline of what engagement might look like:

  • Week of Monday, July 6: OLs attend a training session on virtual engagement with new students. Several sessions will be offered, and OLs must attend one of them to receive their OL roster.
  • Week of Monday, July 13: OLs email their assigned group of new students
  • Include a Doodle or other scheduling poll to determine virtual meeting time with OL group
  • Week of Monday, July 27: OLs meet virtually with assigned group of new students
  • Week of Monday, August 3 and Monday, August 10: OLs meet individually with each new student in their group

We recognize that this change in engagement presents a shift in the responsibilities we originally described for orientation leaders, and we will produce training materials for each of you prior to meeting with your assigned group Hopefully, you are able to commit to the revised schedule and expectations. If you wish to withdraw, please email no later than Monday, June 22. Any changes to the OL roster after that date have a negative impact on crew captain and OL group creation and will require us to move students into different groups after introductions have taken place.

We know you are excited to assist us in welcoming the Class of 2024, and we are so thankful for your ongoing commitment, especially during this often challenging and uncertain time. Please let us know if you have any questions, and we will be in touch as soon as we can with additional updates.


The NSOP Staff:

Aaron Gomes, Director of Orientation and Community Programs

Naja L. Muhammad, Assistant Director of Student Engagement

Andrew Brugman, Assistant Director of Student Engagement

Marnie Whalen, Assistant Director of Student Engagement


NSOP of the Past via Bwog Archives