Columbia University nixes plans for in-person classes this fall

Columbia University will hold all classes for undergraduates online this fall, officials announced Friday.

President Lee Bollinger had hoped that 60 percent of classes could have been in person, but reversed course due to coronavirus constraints, he wrote in a letter to the students and staff.

The school will now only host a limited number of students who must live on campus due to “personal or academic” circumstances, according to the letter.

“While New York City is well along in its phased reopening process, as we all know, the surges of the pandemic continue and its grip on American life has not eased,” he said. “This, unfortunately, has consequences for us.”

Bollinger said he made the decision to curb campus living due to severe restrictions imposed by coronavirus safety precautions.

He noted that most out-of-town Columbia students would be subjected to a mandatory 14-day quarantine after the start of school.

“And, of course, after the quarantine period ends, various restrictions related to social interactions and other forms of gatherings on campus will remain in place, limiting the quality of life for students residing on campus because of the nature of dormitory-style spaces,” he said. “These two considerations combined are a major part of our decision.”

The reversal also spurred Bollinger to hold all undergraduate classes online in the fall.

“With few undergraduate students living on campus, we have decided that all undergraduate courses will be virtual,” Bollinger wrote. “There is the physical capacity to conduct many undergraduate courses in person, but students now will be living in so many locations, and under such varied circumstances, that online instruction is the only realistic approach.”

Bollinger said he would reassess the school’s housing arrangements in the spring.

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