Dear Teachers College Faculty, Students, and Staff,

On June 23, 2020, I announced that Teachers College would operate and deliver course instruction virtually for the fall term in order to ensure the safety of all of our people. Making that difficult decision at the start of the summer gave everyone in our community clarity and assurance early on about how our on campus life at TC would look during the fall semester. As important, it gave our administrators, faculty and staff more time to focus both on sustaining excellence across all of our programs and research activity, and on keeping the small number of people living, studying, or working on campus healthy and safe.

With the benefit of hindsight, deciding early turned out to be a right call. We have come together as a community as never before, and have converted numerous and extremely difficult challenges into opportunities to become more adaptive, innovative, and creative. Against tough odds, we are thriving as an institution.

At the same time, maintaining low density in our buildings and maximum compliance with health and safety guidelines has proved to be a prudent course of action: Teachers College has reported just one positive COVID-19 case over the past two months.

However, while New York City and the rest of the state continue to report low coronavirus infection rates, the pandemic remains a threat to our region. To protect our community’s health and safety, it remains paramount that we maintain low density in all of our buildings well into the new year.

That is why I am announcing today that Teachers College will continue offering courses primarily online, with some exceptions, and continue remote operations for non-essential employees, through the winter and spring of 2021. Providing early notice of our plans will give everyone more time to build on the progress we have made this fall and to plan effectively and appropriately for the next term.

Below, you will find some details about what our plans for the winter/spring term will mean for our community.

Course Delivery

As with the fall semester, we are committed to supporting students, including international students, in taking courses in the location of their choice. Instruction for spring 2021 classes will be delivered largely online, with a small number of hybrid courses. We are prudently expanding the number of “hybrid” programs with in-person courses.

Hybrid course offerings include most fieldwork/placement courses (e.g., internships, practica), a variable-credit version of the Winter Roundtable course, and other courses with pedagogical elements that require some in-person instruction. Students in hybrid courses will have the option to access courses online or in person. In-person content will be delivered using best practices as outlined by the state Department of Health and federal Centers for Disease Control, including advanced cleaning and sanitation protocols, reduced classroom density, mandatory face coverings, and upgraded ventilation standards.

Residence Halls

We currently have on-campus residential units available for any student who would like to live safely on campus during the winter/spring term. To ensure the living environment remains as safe as possible for our residents, we will continue enhanced cleaning and sanitation of the residential buildings and common areas. Moreover, all units that we offer meet the health guidelines from New York State and the federal Centers for Disease Control.

We encourage all returning and admitted students interested in living on campus to apply for housing as soon as possible through the Office of Residential Services.

Remote Work

All non-essential work will continue to be performed primarily online. We do allow limited non-essential work activity to take place on campus in strict adherence to our 0% to 25% On-Site Employee Modelwhich has allowed us to maintain physical distancing in the workplace by resuming limited on-campus activities within the lower risk category. Nonetheless, we aim to keep our on-campus population density as close as possible to 0%, and, therefore, strongly encourage non-essential employees to continue working remotely.

Campus Access

We will continue to require all TC community members planning to enter campus to complete the campus access requirements implemented in August, which include the following:

  1. Submit a negative COVID-19 Test Result
  2. Complete the TC COVID-19 Health and Safety online training
  3. Complete TC Qualtrics Daily Health Screening

COVID-19 Testing

Any student or non-essential employee who wishes to enter campus beginning in the spring semester will be required to submit a new COVID-19 test result in order to enter campus, even if you have been on campus regularly during the fall semester. The test result must be submitted within 14 days prior to your entering the campus for the first time. Testing is not required for essential staff who have been consistently working on campus prior to August 1st. Additional details about this requirement can be found on the testing information webpage.

TC COVID-19 Health and Safety Training

Everyone will be required to complete the TC COVID-19 Health and Safety Training, which covers health and safety guidelines for those on campus, as well as information about the health and safety measures being taken on campus. Those who have already completed the TC COVID-19 training will not be required to retake the training, since the health and safety guidelines for on campus activity will remain unchanged for the spring semester.

Daily Health Screening

Everyone who plans to enter campus will continue to be required to complete the Daily Health Screening via their smartphone, PC, or other mobile device each day they plan to come to campus.

Campus Activity

Group gatherings outside of approved in-person courses or essential staff functions will not be permitted on campus, and must continue to be conducted virtually via video or teleconference. Individual study will be allowed in the computer labs, the Dining Hall, and the library. We will continue to offer limited library services for safely picking up or returning printed materials. Please note that if conditions significantly improve, we may reconsider these policies over the course of the spring semester.

We understand that while the majority of our operations are remaining largely unchanged for Spring 2021, you may still have questions about your access and engagement as a member of the TC community. We invite you to visit this FAQ page for responses to some of the questions you may have about the semester ahead.

Closing thoughts

The experience of the past seven months has tested our stamina, resilience, patience, and character. While we have proved equal to every task before us, I recognize how daunting it must feel to brace for seven more months of remaining physically apart from one another. It becomes all the more important that we remain as attentive to our physical and mental health as we stay focused on our work.

Finally, a reminder: Next Tuesday, November 3, is Election Day, and it is of paramount importance that each of us votes. To ensure that every member of the TC community has the opportunity to vote, Election Day is also an official paid College holiday. 

While none of us can predict the outcome of this most consequential election, the aftermath under any scenario will present daunting challenges for us as a College and a society. Nonetheless, I remain optimistic about the future, and confident that we will emerge from 2020 as better colleagues, a more united and caring community, and, as a College, a stronger, more effective force for social justice and the public good.

While I dearly wish we could be together in person to offer one another encouragement and support, please know that I am thinking about you each and every day, and that I remain deeply honored to serve you.

Tom Signature

Thomas Bailey
President, Teachers College