Dear Members of the TC Community,
I am writing to update you on our plans for the Fall 2021 term. I know that this has been a difficult year for every member of our community. We are all eager to get some rest from studies and work over the summer and, given the progress on vaccine distributions across the country, we look forward to returning to something more normal in the fall.
As we previously announced, summer classes will continue to be delivered online (with a few courses and some field placements taking place in a hybrid or in-person mode), and we will maintain the same pattern of remote work we have used this spring. International students needing some in-person courses should contact their program directors for more information. For more information on access to campus during the summer, please consult our “Campus Life During COVID-19” section of TC’s Preparedness site. Also, as previously announced to College staff, we will begin summer Fridays earlier than usual (beginning with Friday, May 7th) and close for three Fridays in the month of July (2nd, 9th, and 16th).
As for the Fall 2021 term, our academic operations will take place primarily in person. In all aspects, decision-making will continue to be informed by ongoing local, state, and federal health agencies.
At the same time, we will continue, as I wrote in my February 24 message, to ensure that every member of our community – faculty, students, and staff – has the support and training, especially technological training, they need to be effective and successful. And we will seize the opportunity to apply the innovative skills acquired and valuable lessons learned over the past year toward getting the most out of our work and endeavors as we move forward.
Our priority will remain as it has been: to ensure that all of our students, faculty, and workforce can flourish — and flourish safely.
We have heard from students, faculty and staff who are looking forward to in-person interactions and life in New York City. To that end, we are planning to offer as many courses as possible in person this fall. All students who are able to travel to New York should do so.
At the same time, we recognize that some students may be unable to travel to campus due to difficulties in obtaining a visa or health considerations. We will accommodate those students by enabling them to take courses online. Some classes with large numbers of students who are not in New York will be offered fully online, while in other cases students will be able to participate remotely in courses offered in person. Accordingly, we will upgrade classroom technology to support remote participation. We will remain in close contact with students throughout the summer to review their situations and determine whether they will be able to attend classes in person.
Campus life outside of the classroom is just as important as the TC academic experience, and we want to resume as many in-person activities and programs as possible. In preparation for a more active campus, various campus service functions and facilities will reopen in a phased manner. These include the cafeteria, computer labs, the library, and lounges. Additionally, student life programming across departments will resume. To the extent possible, we will introduce hybrid engagement opportunities for students who cannot regularly be on campus.
As we gear up for a resumption of in-person academic and student-life activities in the fall, we are also preparing to accommodate increased demand for student housing. As announced last month, we are already accepting applications for the 2021/22 academic year, and strongly urge all returning and newly enrolling students interested in living on campus to apply for housing as soon as possible through the Office of Residential Services. As always, we will maintain a safe living environment for our residents by continuing 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.
Updates on plans for staff
We know we cannot return to full capacity in the fall without the critical staff in every corner of the College who have kept TC running remotely and in person for over a year. We recognize that in-person staffing needs will vary across departments. To that end, we are developing a plan for a phased return to campus that will take into account these variations while also prioritizing equity across the College.
Right now, we plan to begin a gradual return to on-campus work on August 9. Supervisors will work with their staff to develop individualized return trajectories that make sense for their respective departments and provide staff with adequate notice. From the recent survey on returning to campus, we understand too that the primary concern across staff roles is the ability to return to a safe working environment. We have already improved indoor air quality on campus by installing more effective air filters in all heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units, and we are maintaining enhanced cleaning protocols. Our plans and preparations will prioritize this feedback, as we seek to balance health and safety measures with the operational needs of the institution.
On all fronts, we look forward to sharing more in-depth plans as they are developed. We are making plans based on the current public health outlook for the fall, including assumptions that available vaccines will be effective and that most adults will be vaccinated by the late summer. Should the outlook change substantially, we are prepared to adjust.
Vaccination requirements for students, faculty, and staff
Many of you may have read that Columbia University will require students on campus to be vaccinated, starting in the fall. We are reviewing our policy on vaccinations, and will update the community by the end of next week.
Celebrating Our Graduates
Finally, next week we will celebrate the conclusion of a successful academic year and congratulate more than 2,000 graduates. I invite you to share in next week’s virtual events, starting on Monday at 7 pm Eastern Daylight Time and culminating in a joyous Convocation ceremony on Thursday, April 29th at 8pm EDT. More information on the full week’s events can be found on our Convocation website.
In celebrating the conclusion to a successful academic year, I must acknowledge all of the problem-solving, hard work and sacrifice that contributed to our success. As I said at the outset, this has been a difficult year for everybody, and I will always be grateful for everything you have done to keep our community strong, focused and united in our mission to serve the public good. Please remember to be good to yourselves.
President, Teachers College