Dear Members of the Teachers College Community,

I hope that you, along with your family and friends, are staying safe. I also hope you have taken time off in order to relax and recharge.

I am writing to update you on our plans for the fall semester of the 2020-21 academic year. All of us would like to gather on campus to meet our new students and work together in person, but as I shared earlier this summer, we have decided to continue College operations primarily online, with very few exceptions, for the remainder of the 2020 calendar year. I want to be clear that, while we are providing plans on advancing our health and safety measures on campus, our operations and instruction will continue to be largely virtual, and the large majority of staff, faculty, and students will not need to return to campus. We are confident that this decision will allow us to deliver a superior and equitable Teachers College experience to our students, to build on what we have learned in digital instruction, and to position us for a safe resumption of all on-campus instruction, activities, and operations when conditions permit.

We have two simple priorities: (1) maintain a reduced on-campus population; and (2) protect the health and safety of the students, faculty, and staff who are on campus while maintaining excellence in all of our programs and research activity.

To that end, the Planning for the Fall Working Group, chaired by Vice President Janice S. Robinson, has developed comprehensive measures, guidelines, and protocols for everyone on campus, in order to protect the health of the faculty, staff, and students at Teachers College in accordance with the local and state guidelines. The full report, which will provide comprehensive details and instructions on all health and safety measures, including what campus activities are and are not permitted, will be presented on our Preparedness site this Friday, August 14.

This message is primarily about health and safety measures. If you have any questions about the operations of your programs or administrative offices please get in touch with your supervisors or department chairs.

To help ensure everyone’s health and safety, it is important for those of you who are planning to be on campus to know what to expect, and what will be asked and required of you.

Requirements to Enter Campus

While we have implemented a rigorous cleaning and sanitation regime throughout the campus, maintaining a safe environment begins with strict, constant adherence to all of the health measures and protocols governing facial covering and mask wearing, physical distancing, and daily testing, screening, and reporting. In addition to these measures, all TC community members planning to enter campus will be required to do the following, effective August 24, 2020.

  1. Submit a negative COVID-19 Test Result (received by August 10th or later)
  2. Complete the online training
  3. Complete TC Qualtrics Daily Health Screening (details will be described on website)

COVID-19 Testing

TC will require an initial single COVID-19 PCR diagnostic test (nasal swab) of all faculty, staff, and students who are returning to campus.

Resident Students: Students in Teachers College campus housing will be provided required testing through the Columbia Testing Program within 24 hours of move-in.

Non-Resident Students: Test results (positive and negative results) for non-resident students who plan to enter campus must be submitted to the immunization department in the Office of Student Affairs upon receipt at

Faculty and Staff: Test results (positive and negative results) for Faculty and Staff who plan to enter campus must be submitted to the Office of Human Resources at

Testing site locations will be provided on the website. For those staff who have been consistently working on campus prior to August 1st, testing is not required.

TC Community Health and Safety Training

Before accessing campus this fall, everyone must take an accessible, online mandatory health and safety training, which will take about 30 minutes to complete. The training covers information about COVID-19, requirements for entering the campus, the various health and safety measures TC has taken, a review of healthy hygiene and safety practices, and other resources. The training concludes with a 10-question knowledge test, and participants must answer at least 7 of the 10 questions correctly.

Daily Health Screening

Individuals planning to access the campus are responsible for monitoring their own health before departing their home for campus, and for completing and submitting a Qualtrics survey form from their smartphone, PC, or other mobile device. If you have symptoms, have tested positive for COVID-19 within the prior 14 days, have been exposed, or are still awaiting results of a COVID-19 test — you cannot come to campus.

Minimum density, maximum adherence to health and safety measures

The daily population cannot exceed 25% of the normal occupancy of each office. To keep density as low as possible, every department and office will be required to submit an “On-Site Work Request” plan, if they need to have employees return to the office. The Request must be authorized by their respective Vice President, and will require a rationale/justification for on-site work activity. For the very few in-person classes and essential in-person staff activity, we will reconfigure spaces to allow for physical distancing, while requiring everyone to wear face covering over the nose and mouth at all times. Faculty may spend time alone in their private offices.

Individual study will be allowed in designated spaces in the computer labs, the Dining Hall, and the library as long as space reconfiguring, physical distancing and face coverings are followed. There will also be limited library transactions for safely picking up or returning printed materials, following safety guidelines. The Gottesman Libraries are finalizing plans that will detail which areas of the libraries will be accessible, and the health, safety, and hygiene protocols – including the rules for eating and drinking.

Otherwise, all campus activities, meetings, and gatherings – including lectures and study groups – must be conducted virtually via teleconference or video. Note that if conditions significantly improve over the fall, we may reconsider these policies.

Required Quarantine from Out-Of-State Travel

New York Executive Order 205 requires all travelers entering New York from a restricted state or territory to quarantine in the residence halls or their homes for 14 days. All out-of-state travelers from designated states must complete a form upon entering New York. Travelers who leave the airport without completing the form will be subject to a $2,000 fine and may be brought to a hearing and ordered to complete mandatory quarantine. Travelers coming to New York from designated states through other means of transport, including trains and cars, must fill out the form online. To access the form, please click on the following URL: with a negative COVID-19 test, individuals under out-of-state quarantine may not access campus. More details about the quarantine will be available on the preparedness website.

Expectations for Campus Life

The College has implemented more rigorous cleaning and disinfecting measures to help prevent any potential spread of COVID-19. While we will be regularly cleaning bathrooms, classrooms, and all common areas throughout the day and evening, we also will focus on regularly disinfecting “high touch” surfaces, such as door knobs and handles, stair rails, and elevator buttons.

There will be signage throughout the College reminding everyone of the critical rules and safety requirements we all must observe.

Specifically, when you’re on campus:

  • You will be required to wear protective face covering over the nose and mouth whenever you enter the campus or are in any common areas,  classrooms, or other group settings.
  • You will be expected to maintain physical distancing at all times, and practice healthy hygiene by thoroughly washing your hands and/or using hand sanitizer after eating, using the restroom, or touching those “high touch” surfaces, such as door knobs and handles, stair rails, and elevator buttons.

Everyone planning on coming to campus must observe all testing and reporting protocols, and, in the event of a positive COVID-19 test result, observe all protocols for contact tracing, quarantine and isolation.

The health of our community is a shared responsibility. We must care for one another. By observing our health policies, rules, and guidelines, you will help to keep everyone safe – and bring us closer to the day when we can all be together in person. We look forward to sharing all of the comprehensive health and safety plan details, including specific guidance for all members of the community, on Friday.

Although I have gotten used to wearing masks and distancing myself from others, I can’t wait to leave both practices behind. And, like all of you, I am eager to get back to campus and be in person with students and colleagues. However, for the time being we will have to wait. I am confident that our plans for the fall, including our health and safety measures, will allow us to continue to build a sense of community, to do our work, to fulfill our social mission, and to do so safely.

Tom Signature

Thomas Bailey
President, Teachers College