March 3, 2020 at 10:16 p.m.

School updates on the coronavirus outbreak

Dear CSSW Community,

I am writing regarding the coronavirus outbreak. Please know that School and University leaders are monitoring conditions very closely, and that the well-being of our CSSW students, faculty, and staff is of the utmost importance to us. We understand that many of you are very concerned, not only about the possibility of exposure to the COVID-19 virus, but also about the impact such fears are having on your personal and mental health, daily interactions, and engagement both in practicum and in classes. At times like these, it is important to remember that CSSW is a community of mutual support.

It is critical that we remain informed to the greatest degree possible about the outbreak and its consequences. The University’s preparedness website is updated regularly with the latest information; please check it frequently for the latest news:

You must take good care of yourselves. If you are not feeling well, please rest at home. In this way, you can safeguard your own health and also reduce the risk of transmitting any infection to others.

I fully recognize and deeply respect your great commitment to your practicum placements and the populations we serve. Be assured that CSSW deans will continue to monitor the situation closely. In consultation with Columbia health experts and the NYC Department of Health, any plans for possible adjustments to practicum placement obligations will be communicated to all students by Dean Kathryne Leak.

Throughout this time, we must support one another. Assistant Deans Moira Curtain (Advising) and Karma Lowe (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) will be facilitating a community dialogue next Wednesday, March 11, from noon to 2:00 p.m., in Room C06, to provide a supportive space for all in our CSSW community to share how you’re feeling about the COVID-19 outbreak and the pervasive reporting about the virus.

In addition, we are disheartened by reports of discrimination and xenophobia related to the virus. If you have observed any incidents of bias or discrimination within our School, please reach out to Karma Lowe, Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, at

Depending on further developments, we recognize that final semester students may also be concerned about meeting academic requirements for graduation. Please know that we will work together to address these issues and help to keep you on track for completion in the most efficient and effective way possible.

After careful consideration, the University has imposed certain restrictions on travel to protect our community members. Please note this statement from the Provost’s message Tuesday morning:

All Columbia affiliates are strongly urged to postpone any non-essential international travel. For students, all upcoming travel outside the United States organized, led, or financed by Columbia is suspended until further notice.

Remember that support is always available if you need it. University Life offers student resources, and HR’s Employee Assistance Program offers free, confidential counseling to faculty and staff.

The situation is evolving rapidly. Allow me to reiterate that the leadership of the School and University will remain intently focused on this issue. We will communicate latest developments just as quickly as we can.

With best regards,

Melissa D. Begg
Dean & Professor
Columbia School of Social Work