Columbia announced that students need to get vaccinated to access campus facilities in the fall semester, according to an email sent earlier this morning by University Vice President Gerry Rosberg and University COVID Director Donna Lynne.

Earlier today, the University announced that students will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine prior to returning to campus in the fall, according to an email from Vice President Gerry Rosberg and University COVID director Donna Lynne. Barnard College Dean Leslie Grinage released an email shortly after the University email announcing the same requirements for students accessing Barnard’s campus in the fall. The University will provide medical and religious exceptions—as they do with the influenza and measles vaccines—in accordance with New York state public health laws.

According to the email, the vaccine mandate policy will be added to the Columbia Community Health Compact, which students must sign to access on-campus facilities and services. This mandate will become an addition to public health protocols already in place, including the University’s testing program, face coverings, and social distancing. Furthermore, the University assured that it is “committed to providing vaccination to returning students in the fall, if they have not been vaccinated.” Students, however, are encouraged to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible, not waiting until their return. 

The University reminded students that Columbia-operated vaccination sites will be providing the community doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines throughout the coming months. According to the email, “We now operate three locations that provide vaccinations to Columbia affiliates, two of which can offer [vaccines] to their family members, as well as to other patients. Additionally, we have launched a pop-up weekend vaccine site for the surrounding community at the Forum in Manhattanville. The site vaccinated nearly 700 people over the past two weekends.”

The message encouraged international students to get vaccinated as well, and “more details related to this policy” will be announced in the next few weeks. The University’s COVID-19 website will also be updated with resources and instructions for completing the vaccine mandate policy.

As of April 6, the state of New York permits any person above the age of 16 to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Members of the University community can sign up for a vaccine here or access more vaccine appointment information here.

Update on April 26 at 3:05 pm:
In an email to the Columbia community on Monday afternoon, Provost Katznelson expanded on plans for the Fall 2021 semester. He commended the strength of Columbia’s COVID-19 testing program, with over 220,000 tests conducted since June 2020, with less than 0.5% of those tested receiving a positive result. 

The University has added a fifth working group focusing on how to adapt to the new work environment. This joins four other working groups focusing on how to build up campus density. Additionally, Provost Katznelson reminded the community of summer travel guidelines for University affiliates, as well as guidelines for academic visitors.

Provost Katznelson closed his email with the promise of updates in the weeks to come, and he expressed hope for a safe return to a fuller University life. The full text of Provost Katznelson’s email can be found below.

The full text of the emails are provided below.

Email sent from Vice President Gerry Rosberg and University COVID Director Donna Lynne on April 19 at 10:34 am:

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community,

We write to update you on an important decision the University has made in our ongoing effort to restore a vibrant and full experience starting with the 2021 fall term.

On the strong recommendation of our public health colleagues, who have advised us so ably throughout this process, President Bollinger and the Columbia University COVID Task Force have decided to make the COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all students who are present on campus, starting this fall. We will provide religious and medical exemptions, as we do for the influenza and measles vaccines, in accordance with New York State public health laws.

We regard this decision as essential to ensuring the health of Columbia students and the broader University and surrounding community, and also to containing the spread of the virus in New York City, one of the most severely affected locations in the country throughout this past 13 months.

The vaccine mandate for students will be integrated into our Columbia Community Health Compact, an agreement all students are required to sign in order to access campus facilities. The mandate will take its place alongside our testing program and public health protocols, including face covering and physical distancing. Adherence to the Compact has enabled us to maintain a COVID-19 test positivity rate of just 0.39% since June 2020.

Last fall, we asked you to “Keep the Compact,” and you did it. Despite tremendous hardship, Columbia has maintained its academic, research and clinical vitality throughout the current academic year. The vaccine will push us that much closer to the normal campus life we are so eager to restore.

We remain, however, in an uncertain state.  Rates of infection and hospitalization in New York, in particular, remain high.  The state has made great progress in administering over 11 million doses but many more people need to be vaccinated in order to see the anticipated protective effects. We all hope for, and are striving to ensure, a far brighter picture once the fall term starts in September.

Since mid-December 2020, in partnership with NewYork Presbyterian, many of our faculty, staff and students—in fact over 11,000 of you—have been vaccinated through several vaccine sites.  Thousands more have been vaccinated in their own communities in New York State and beyond. We now operate three locations that provide vaccinations to Columbia affiliates, two of which can offer vaccine to their family members, as well as to other patients. Additionally, we have launched a pop-up weekend vaccine site for the surrounding community at the Forum in Manhattanville. The site vaccinated nearly 700 people over the past two weekends.

Our Columbia-operated sites will offer the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines throughout the coming months, and we are committed to providing vaccination to returning students in the fall, if they have not been vaccinated. However, please do not wait until then. We strongly encourage everyone to be vaccinated as soon as possible, including international students. We will announce more details related to this policy in the coming weeks. Additional information, including how to get vaccinated in the fall, deadlines for when students must be vaccinated, how to document that you have been vaccinated by a non-Columbia provider, and how to apply for a religious or medical exemption will be posted on the COVID-19 website in the coming weeks. We also encourage you to participate in the regular townhalls that we will continue to host on issues related to COVID-19 and vaccinations throughout the coming months.

More broadly, our fall plans continue to take shape, with the goal of welcoming all students who are able to join us in person back to campus. You will receive a series of updates about these plans in the coming weeks and months.


Gerry Rosberg

Senior Executive Vice President  

Donna Lynne

Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, CUIMC

University COVID Director

Email sent from Barnard Dean Leslie Grinage on April 19 at 11:44 am:

Dear Students,

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the College has worked hard to create a safe living and learning environment. We are nearing the end of the Spring semester and it is so encouraging to see that, with our frequent COVID-19 testing and strictly enforced public health protocols, our COVID-19 cases have remained low. I want to especially thank you for the responsibility and the commitment that you have shown to each other, to our campus, and to our Morningside Heights and Harlem communities.

You have been receiving information in the past several weeks about vaccines and eligibility. Multiple vaccines have been shown to provide high levels of protection against the COVID-19 virus and every individual in the US over the age of 16 is now eligible to be vaccinated.

Getting vaccinated is one more way that each of us can protect the more vulnerable amongst us in these unprecedented times, as our individual behaviors are vital to keeping the larger community as healthy and safe as possible. With this in mind, we will be requiring all new and returning students who will be living on or utilizing campus to show proof that they have received a COVID-19 vaccine prior to the start of the Fall 2021 semester. Documented medical and religious exemptions will be accommodated. Please know that we will work closely with international students and others who may not have ready access to vaccines over the summer. Similarly, Columbia has also announced a vaccine requirement for undergraduate students beginning this Fall and given that Barnard and Columbia students interact in multiple ways on a daily basis, it seems especially important to align on this requirement.

For now we are strongly encouraging all faculty and staff to be vaccinated; we will provide further information about any potential requirements in the coming months.

We urge you to get vaccinated as soon as you have the opportunity. Public health experts, including our own infectious diseases advisors from the Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC), have identified COVID-19 vaccinations as the key factor in reducing COVID-19 infections and allowing us all to return to a less restricted, more normal way of life. Not only do these vaccines prevent serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19, they also limit the spread of the virus within communities. I appreciate the commitment of our students, faculty, and staff who have already been vaccinated, as well as those who are currently navigating the vaccine-scheduling process.  Please continue to monitor our vaccine website for updated information and send any questions you may have to

At this time, we also encourage you to register your vaccine. By completing this form, you can voluntarily share or update your vaccine status, and opt in to receive information about future boosters and vaccines from Barnard’s vaccine distribution partners, including Columbia Health. Doing so will help us plan for summer and fall on campus.

We know that the months ahead may present other challenges, and our return to greater in-person activity will require adjustments—for us as individuals and as a College. As with all of our decision-making throughout the past year, we will continue to monitor state and local guidelines, keep you updated, and make changes as needed to promote a safe campus and community.

Please note that this vaccine requirement takes effect for fall, but we encourage you to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Especially as we  head into our Summer semester, continued diligence is critical. A lot has been asked of our community this year. You have navigated these extraordinary times with boldness, resolve, and care. I ask that each of you now take the next step by being vaccinated. And remember that masks and social distancing are still necessary to keep each other safe.

We look forward to seeing you all back on campus.


Leslie Grinage

Dean of the College

Email from Interim Provost Ira Katznelson to students on April 26 at 2:31 pm:

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community,

Working groups on education, facilities and campus life, research, and public health were formed one year ago to help navigate Columbia during the pandemic. Following difficult decisions for the remainder of 2020 and the spring 2021 term about dormitories, dining, travel, gatherings, library access, and the character of classroom instruction, these committees, reporting to the President’s Task Force on COVID-19, were asked to protect public health and consider how best to maintain our commitments to excellent teaching, top-tier research, outstanding clinical care, and critical programs by crafting and recommending compelling policies and making operational decisions.

We are hopeful that the achievements wrought by this careful process have brought us to the threshold of renewal. As President Bollinger announced on March 17, the University’s goal is a return to near-normal density and campus vitality by the start of the fall semester. To that end, planning has commenced for a full schedule of in-person academic instruction inside our classrooms, with faculty, students, and the great majority of staff back on campus. In tandem, we anticipate the full return of Columbia College and SEAS students to Morningside’s residence halls and an expansion of research and service work.

As planning proceeds for the fall, every step taken will continue to be governed by our highest priority: campus safety. It is a source of satisfaction and collective pride that, in this respect, Columbia has led the way nationally. Strategic choices to regulate density in our labs, ensure distancing in our classrooms and in other spaces, indoors and out, launch a carefully designed testing and tracing program, together with a heartening collective commitment to the Columbia Compact, have generated compliance, responsibility, and good outcomes.

At Columbia, our COVID-19 testing stands out as an instrument and as a measure of relative well-being. More than 220,000 samples have been taken since June 2020. Together with wastewater analysis, the tests conducted at the Black Building (CUIMC) and Lerner Hall (Morningside) have enabled a rapid identification of cases and contacts and have provided critical surveillance data confirming campus welfare. Overall, less than 0.5% of persons tested have had a positive result. This level compares favorably to significantly higher rates in the city, the metropolitan area, and the state, indeed across the country as a whole.

Our expectations for the fall are being shaped by the now widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines on our campuses and in ColumbiaDoctors locations, as well as confidence in the other protective measures put in place. Just last week, the University decided to mandate vaccinations by the fall for all students, undergraduate and graduate. For them, and indeed for all faculty and staff, the University is providing cost-free vaccination. We strongly encourage all our affiliates to take advantage of this availability as soon as possible.

Looking ahead, our four existing working groups have been joined by a fifth that is addressing the new work environment. All have been ramping up efforts to judge how best to rebuild campus density. With their direction, some important policy decisions have been made. In addition to those that concern the presence of teachers, students, and staff, and the vaccination mandate for students, these include guidelines for summer travel and guidelines for visitors participating in academic activities. These temporary limitations are intended to make a fuller campus life achievable and safe.

In tandem with public health developments, more decisions and communication will follow about the reopening and organization of facilities, the scale of gatherings, classroom scheduling and technology, athletics, laboratory and office space densities, and important aspects of work situations. All this will happen in the context of public health indicators and milestones.

Please watch for updates in the coming weeks. Like our community as a whole, we eagerly anticipate a steady and secure return to an increasingly robust Columbia. For now, let us celebrate the extraordinary accomplishments of the many thousands of citizens of the University—near and far—who have been navigating hard times, and offer a warm salute to the graduates concluding their studies. The Lion roars.

With appreciation,

Ira Katznelson

Interim Provost

Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History

Donna Lynne

Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Chief Executive Officer, ColumbiaDoctors

University COVID Director

campus via Bwog Archives