The message below was sent to the Barnard community on June 17, 2020:


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