This morning, Barnard President Sian Beilock announced plans for the school for the 2020-2021 academic year, following plans announced by other universities yesterday.

As part of the myriad changes coming to the college, the President informed students that all classes would have an online component, with only smaller seminar classes having in-person instruction. This allows students to take their full course load from any location. With this new policy comes a restriction on the number of people allowed to live on campus for the coming semesters; freshmen and “eligible sophomores” (sophomores eligible for fall 2020 housing in the spring) will be housed in new single-occupancy rooms for the fall, while “eligible juniors and seniors” will be housed in the same rooms in the spring. (Certain students, such as resident assistants, sophomore transfers, and orientation leaders, will not have guaranteed housing—they can, however, apply for an exception to live on campus.) Those guaranteed housing for the fall will need to resubmit a housing request by July 20th, and students applying for housing accommodations through the Center for Accessibility Resources & Disability Services will need to resubmit their requests by July 13th.

All Barnard affiliates on campus in any capacity will be required to submit to contract tracing protocols, regularly scheduled PCR testing (nose swab testing), mask requirements, and a new self-screening questionnaire for symptoms. Students deemed symptomatic will be quarantined in residence hall spaces, where they will receive meal deliveries and 24-hour access to clinicians. It is yet unknown how Barnard’s quarantining approach will change from their controversial approach during the Spring 2020 semester.

Of the changes coming to campus life, the most immediate is a new virtual component to NSOP, as well as a staggered move-in period. New instruction includes a new required first-year class, “Big Problems: Making Sense of 2020,” which will mix lectures from “prominent thought leaders” with more intimate discussion sections focused on analyzing the second-order effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the world at large. Per the President, there will be classes with a similar mission as the first-year class, “building off of similar classes” from other departments. Barnard will also offer new service opportunities through a new program, “ThirdSpace@Barnard.”

Most dorms will remain available to students, with the exception of housing on 121st Street; the dorm, according to the housing portal, will be used for quarantining students. All dorms will undergo increased cleaning, and all campus buildings will increase outside airflow where possible.

Barnard will not increase tuition nor the comprehensive fee for the coming year, and will cover the summer student contribution for students receiving financial aid. Though students will be charged for two semesters’ worth of classes, they will be able to take classes during all three semesters.

Many questions remain yet unanswered by this new plan, especially those concerning the new guidance laid out by the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement barring international students from “[taking] a full online course load and [remaining] in the United States” this fall semester. Should the plan hold in place, international students would need to secure off-campus housing or apply for on-campus housing while attending classes in-person in order to stay in the States. Bwog has reached out to Barnard with a number of follow-up questions, and the College has developed its own website in a bid to address further questions. Bwog has also reached out to Columbia to ascertain whether or not its reopening plan will look similar to Barnard’s.

The full text of President Beilock’s email is reprinted below.

Dear Members of the Barnard Community,

Since we moved to virtual instruction in March, our most immediate priority has been keeping members of our community safe, which continues. At the same time, as an intentional community of students and scholars, we are anxious to recover the vibrant intellectual experiences that happen when we gather together in person.

Faculty, staff, and administrators, with students’ and families’ input (including from the survey launched on May 14), have put in countless hours on several working groups to devise a plan that we are confident we can implement safely for the upcoming academic year. In addition to my service on education advisory committees in both New York State and New York City, we have been engaged in discussions with higher education institutions in the City and across the nation. Equipped with guidance at the federal and state level, and in close consultation with medical and public health experts, we now have the opportunity to begin a new journey together.

This upcoming academic year will look and feel quite different. Nonetheless, our commitment to academic excellence and the student experience is stronger than ever, accompanied by a relentless focus on equipping our students with what they’ll need to develop knowledge and create solutions to the historic challenges we face as a society. The following is a summary of our academic and operational planning.

Academic and Co-Curricular Experience

This moment in time demands that our students — guided by their faculty and supported by their institution — examine what the global and national crises we are living through reveal about scientific knowledge, existing power structures, historical value systems, and the institutions that produce and reinforce them. Many of our courses will ask questions about what our world will look like as we move forward. Students will be encouraged to take action — with local government or community-based organizations, or on their own — to effect change.

  • This fall, all first-years will take part in a new component of the first-year experience called “Big Problems: Making Sense of 2020.” This course will have two elements: a series of lectures by prominent thought leaders who will contextualize the current moment and small discussion sections in which students will think critically about how COVID-19 and our country’s historical injustices have generated social, economic, political, and ecological upheavals.
  • Many classes across the curriculum will focus on the current moment, asking students to use different disciplinary lenses to interrogate and learn from this time in history, building off of similar classes in economics, environmental science, anthropology, and other departments and programs.
  • ThirdSpace@Barnard, a new co-curricular program available to all students, will consider and create possibilities for a new world in light of the societal fissures laid bare this year. Focused on three areas — community safety, economic security, and education — this program will introduce students to the work of changemakers (from politics to the arts and more) and facilitate projects and engagement designed to address challenges in their own communities.

You can expect to see some changes to the class experience:

  • We have joined the larger Columbia community in making changes to the academic calendar, enabling students to take classes over a Fall, Spring, and Summer term and to take immersive classes that occur in an A or B block for each semester.
  • All classes will be offered remotely, with many classes offered in a “high-flex” modality that allows for simultaneous in-person instruction. Large lecture classes will only be offered remotely.
  • Any student who wishes to study remotely for all or any part of the year is welcome to do so.
  • International students who study remotely will have opportunities to be involved in academic programming at the Columbia University Global Centers around the world.
  • Students will be able to confirm and change their course registration in late July and August.
  • Academic departments will host a Launch Week July 20-24 to help orient students to changes to the curriculum and new modes of teaching, including immersive courses, in advance of the re-registration period.

Feel Well, Do Well 2020-2021: Health and Safety

In 2019, we launched Feel Well, Do Well, an initiative designed to make students’ health and wellness a college-wide endeavor, beyond just the Rosemary Furman Counseling Center and Primary Care Health Service. Although we did not know it at the time, starting a campus-wide conversation around health and wellness was a precursor to what we must ask of our community until an effective vaccine or treatment is found for COVID-19. Creating a culture in which everyone at Barnard understands how their individual decisions impact others and acts accordingly is paramount to the health and safety of the whole community. Collectively, we will do the following to keep our campus healthy:

  • All community members will wear a face covering in public spaces, maintain physical distancing wherever possible, and practice good personal hygiene habits, such as frequent hand-washing and covering coughs.
  • A self-screening questionnaire will be completed by members of our community each day they come on campus; residential students will also be regularly screened via questionnaire.
  • All community members will take part in a robust COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and isolation program to further monitor and manage the health of our campus.
    • Barnard has partnered with MiraDx and is consulting with experts at Columbia University Irving Medical Center to conduct regularly scheduled testing of asymptomatic people across our campus using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.
    • All faculty, students, and staff will be required to complete an initial PCR test upon arrival to campus at the start of the school year and take part in testing at regular intervals throughout the semester.
    • Regularly testing asymptomatic individuals helps us understand the prevalence of COVID-19 within our campus community and flexibly adapt as conditions change.
    • As always, for symptomatic individuals, diagnostic testing will be provided through the Primary Care Health Service for students and through one’s local health care provider for faculty and staff.
    • All members of the community are expected to participate in contact tracing protocols to help reduce further infection once a positive case has been identified.
    • When positive or symptomatic cases are identified, everyone will observe our established quarantine/isolation protocols.
    • Nonessential travel is discouraged for all students, faculty, and staff.
  • Part of the Feel Well, Do Well campaign for the coming year will be to support a culture of change so that students, faculty, and staff stay home if they don’t feel well, protecting the health and safety of people on and around the Barnard campus.
  • The College has developed a comprehensive set of cleaning protocols, with increased frequency as well as special attention to common areas, high-traffic areas, and bathrooms.
  • Barnard is making improvements to air filtration and increasing outside airflow through building systems where possible.
  • To prioritize health and wellness for the Barnard and Morningside Heights communities, students, faculty, and staff are expected to acknowledge and adhere to a new community pledge that will detail personal and collective responsibilities for maintaining a safe campus.

Campus Community & Living

We know from public health experts that new cases of COVID-19 have the potential to occur whether students are at home, in apartments off-campus, or in the residence halls. De-densifying the residence halls will be important to limit any potential transmission of COVID-19. This, of course, reduces the number of students who can live on campus at any one time. Recognizing how important residential life is for many of our students, our plan ensures that students have the opportunity to live on campus for part of the year while following public health guidelines.

Fall Semester: First-years and eligible sophomores will be invited to live on campus and must complete a new Fall Housing Form by July 20 to indicate whether or not they intend to live on campus.

Entering sophomore transfer students, junior and senior Resident Assistants, Orientation Leaders, students in other leadership roles, and students with extenuating circumstances (e.g., situations that make online learning nearly impossible, students who have academic work that is best conducted on campus in the Fall) may apply for an exception to live on campus, though housing is not guaranteed.

Spring Semester: Eligible juniors and seniors will be invited to live on campus.

Entering junior transfer students, students in leadership roles, and students with extenuating circumstances (e.g., situations that make online learning nearly impossible, students who have academic work that is best conducted on campus in the Spring) will be given the opportunity to apply for Spring housing. Depending on public health and capacity, we hope to be able to safely accommodate many first-years and sophomores for on-campus spring housing as well.

Summer Semester: Students who register for summer classes can apply to live on campus. Our goal is to accommodate all applicants.

Students who wish to live off campus for the upcoming academic year can find resources on the residential life website. Enrolled students who live off campus are welcome to come onto campus daily (if local) — whether to attend in-person classes or programs or use Barnard facilities, which will be subject to occupancy limits to ensure public health recommendations around physical distancing. As a one-time exception for this academic year, financial aid recipients who are not invited to live on campus can apply to transfer financial aid off campus if they plan to rent an apartment in the area.

Barnard is implementing a number of changes for students living on campus:

  • All students will be assigned to single-occupancy rooms in the residence halls.
  • Students will have assigned bathrooms, with drastically reduced density in corridors with shared bathrooms. Bathrooms will be cleaned with increased frequency.
  • Residence hall spaces and bathrooms will be set aside for student isolation as needed. Self-isolating students will have access to 24-hour clinicians on call and receive meal deliveries.
  • In addition to testing upon arrival, residential students will be required to produce a negative PCR test result in advance of arriving on Barnard’s campus.
  • Dining will be reconfigured to allow for staggered meals in a safe manner, with more grab-and-go options and limits on the size of gatherings.
  • Barnard’s New Student Orientation Program (NSOP) will be a mix of in-person and virtual programming so that students can participate wherever they are.
  • Residential move-in will be staggered over several days, and depending on New York State guidelines, students may be required to quarantine upon arrival.
  • Students traveling outside the tri-state area for Thanksgiving will need to check out of their residence halls at that time and finish the semester remotely; these students will be eligible for a prorated credit for room and board, adjusted for financial aid.

Given the unpredictability around the global pandemic, our goal is to be flexible in everything that we do. Our plans are dependent on city, state and federal guidance (including NYC entering Phase 4 of the governor’s reopening plan prior to the start of Fall term). We are prepared to ramp up (or ramp down) activities on campus throughout the year, guided by local conditions. While we see emptying our campus as a last resort, we have plans in place to do so if needed. By de-densifying students in the residence halls and campus more generally, and with an unwavering commitment from the entire community to public health and safety guidelines, our hope is to have a successful and productive academic year.

Finally, as an acknowledgment of the challenging economic times faced by virtually all families, there will be no increase in tuition or the comprehensive fee for the 2020-2021 academic year. And, as announced in April, Barnard will cover the summer earnings student contribution for all students who receive need-based Barnard Grant Aid. Room and board will be charged based on the number of semesters a student lives on campus. All students are able to take classes over three semesters, even though they will be charged for only two semesters. Bills and financial aid award letters will be sent out in the next two weeks.

I know you must have many questions. We have developed a new planning website with detailed information that we will frequently update over the summer. We will also hold virtual meetings in the coming days to address specific details of our planning (registration is not required). Please use this form to submit questions in advance of and during the meetings.

There is no doubt that the upcoming academic year will require adaptability and flexibility from each of us. Nonetheless, if we commit to caring for one another, I am confident in our ability to have a truly remarkable year. Bringing our intellectual resources to bear, individually and collectively, on the challenges we face has never been more important. Our students need the extraordinary education Barnard offers to make sense of, take action, and thrive in these troubled times. And the nation and world need the contributions this singular institution will offer in the months, years, and generations to come.

Looking forward to Fall,
Sian Leah Beilock

Image of Barnard Hall via Bwog Staffer