Dear Members of the Barnard Community,
I write to update you on work underway this Fall semester in support of our core educational and intellectual mission. I am also happy to share our steady progress in reopening campus with the goal of returning to in-person living and learning as soon as it is safe to do so.
In my fall welcome message, I wrote about the outstanding work our faculty did over the summer to create a curriculum that is more vital and vibrant than ever, despite the challenges of remote learning. Faculty, students, and parents tell me that this educational experience has been engaging and inspiring in its direct approach to issues of great societal importance. Others have begun to notice as well; a national report last month held up Barnard as an example of educational innovation and relevance in this trying time.
As teaching and learning continue without pause, we are taking measured steps toward a return to on-campus activity. These gradual, small-scale efforts help ensure that our systems and facilities are operating at the highest levels when we are ready to welcome greater numbers of students, staff, and faculty back to campus.
COVID-19 Testing Results
As I mentioned last month, nearly a third of our students are living near campus and are being tested weekly for COVID-19, along with faculty and staff who are regularly on campus. Out of more than 3,500 tests conducted to date, we have had one positive test — a test positivity rate of one third of a percentage point. Columbia University is also reporting similarly low positive test results.
Gradual Return to On-Campus Activity
In late summer, many of our faculty began opening their research laboratories. With their guidance, over the past several weeks we have begun to bring a small number of students back to assist them with work in their labs.
Starting next Wednesday, October 14, we will begin opening several spaces on campus where students can study or meet with faculty and staff in a socially distanced manner. To help manage campus density, all open outdoor and study spaces will need to be reserved ahead of time. Information on open spaces, times, and reservations can be found on our Accessing Campus webpage under the Student Campus Access section, which will be updated regularly. Anyone in the Barnard community coming to campus will need to be up to date on their COVID-19 testing and have a “green screen” on Barnard’s daily self-screening health app, CoVerified. Barnard community members should continue to use ReopenCU when on Columbia’s campus.
As members of our community return to campus, student, faculty, and staff health ambassadors will help remind us of new requirements and protocols, including mask-wearing and social distancing. My thanks and appreciation to all of you who are providing this valuable service. I am grateful, too, to staff in Public Safety, Facilities, Mail Services, the Dean of the College area, Human Resources, our testing center, and more, who have made this increased campus presence possible. Each step we take gives us invaluable experience and learning as we continue to plan for a return to in-person classes and campus activities.
Announcement Schedule for Spring 2021 Semester
I will be communicating with you frequently. As I previously noted, a preliminary decision about in-person learning and residence for Spring semester will be shared by the end of this month. This decision will be finalized in early December based on our updated assessment of the evolving, external conditions. It is important to note that this pandemic is still very unpredictable. For example, although cases in New York remain low overall, in the past week there has been a significant uptick of COVID-19 cases in sections of Brooklyn, Queens, and other areas of New York State. We are watching these numbers closely, have asked students living by campus to avoid unnecessary travel to these “hot spots,” and have offered faculty and staff from these areas who have been on campus the opportunity for remote work and increased testing.
Though we continue to grapple with the unpredictable, we are guided by principles laid out in March: to provide a Barnard education that is as safe, equitable, and meaningful as possible, always working toward the most robust campus experience we can provide that lives up to those standards. We all hope that our return to campus can take place in this academic year, and I look forward to sharing more progress soon.
Sian Leah Beilock