March 13, 2020 at 9:19 p.m.

Update on COVID-19

Dear CSSW Staff and Faculty,

Please let me begin by expressing my profound thanks for your patience, strength, and support under circumstances that no one could have anticipated or even imagined. As you know, University and School leaders have been working continuously to support our mission and protect our safety. Our situation has changed again based on new data and developments, as described in President Bollinger’s email below.

I know that many of you have piloted working (and teaching) remotely this week, and I want to thank you most sincerely for your extraordinary efforts. As of this Monday, March 16th, only designated essential personnel should report to work on-site. All other employees are asked to report to work virtually according to procedures that will be shared by your department heads. If you are unsure whether you are “designated essential personnel,” please reach out to your supervisor for clarification.

As President Bollinger indicated in his message just now, this policy is being implemented to support public health efforts to reduce the population on campus in the coming days. This action will protect all of us – those of us in the building and those working remotely – by reducing contact.

I realize that some of you may need to come back to the building to collect needed equipment or other materials for working off-site. If so, please come to the building over the weekend to gather your things. If you cannot come this weekend, please come first thing Monday morning, and then exit promptly to perform your work remotely. Finally, please note that your supervisors and managers will be in touch with further guidance. They are ready to work with you to help you adapt to these new arrangements.

This is a remarkable time. You have my deepest respect and appreciation for the ways in which you have come together to address these unprecedented challenges. I am truly humbled by your dedication and perseverance. Let’s continue to support one another, in the true spirit of social work. We will come out of this stronger than ever.

Warmest regards,

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

I am writing, again, with two quick but important updates to the message I sent yesterday. Please understand that we are continually reassessing our position by the hour, as new information comes in and our judgments evolve. We are, of course, in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and with our state and city officials, as well as local experts.

The first is to express our support for all students who are able to continue to leave the residence halls at our request and pursue their studies remotely for the remainder of the semester. This is important for the goal of reducing our residential population to a degree that will lower the risk of transmission of the virus. We realize that modifying travel arrangements and moving belongings out quickly may impose financial costs that present a hardship for some students, and, to help ameliorate and expedite departures, we will provide up to $500 to any undergraduate who needs help in this regard.

The second is to say that, as of Monday, March 16, we are asking only designated personnel who are required to perform essential functions to report to work on-site. All other employees are asked to report to work virtually according to procedures that are being announced and coordinated by your home departments and schools. Our goal, as with our residential facilities, is to reduce the population on campus and to scale back as much as possible in order to keep people safe while maintaining the mission of the University.

I want to close this message today with a very special note of thanks to all those who will continue to perform essential functions on-site and to the doctors, nurses, technicians, aides, and all support staff at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and all their colleagues at the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, who are serving on the front line of this crisis. They deserve our deepest gratitude.


Lee C. Bollinger