As a uniquely international community, SIPA is paying close attention to the multinational spread of the virus and to the advice of responsible authorities with respect to precautionary measures. Please refer to this page for updates specific to SIPA as well as announcements and helpful resources.

Columbia University Updates

COVID-19 Resource Guide

SIPA Community Updates

Updated Health and Safety Guidance for Fall 2021 - Friday, August 20, 2021

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

The start of the Fall 2021 semester brings with it a sense of excitement and renewal as our community prepares for a long-awaited return to in-person instruction and activities at SIPA and across Columbia University. In just a matter of weeks, students will be back on campus, faculty will be teaching from their classrooms, and the full vibrancy of SIPA’s intellectual and academic life will once again flourish inside the International Affairs Building.

Soon I will be sharing with you a preview of some of the exceptional faculty and visitors, courses, events, and other activities that will contribute to what promises to be a dynamic and engaging Fall 2021 semester.

However, as the past year reminds us, even as we prepare to return to campus, we must continue to take precautions and exercise our best judgement with respect to the pandemic, informed by Columbia University expertise and in accordance with state and local health guidance. To that end, today I am writing to share updated guidance and reminders of the policies and practices the University and SIPA are implementing to help provide a smooth and safe transition to fully in-person instruction and services for Fall semester. Please find below information about the University’s monitoring plan, policy around mask-wearing, events and visitors, testing, and other important procedures.

I am grateful to every member of our community for the extremely high rate of compliance we have seen with these existing procedures and policies as well as those newly implemented over the summer. I am confident that SIPA will continue to be an exemplar in this regard as we each do our part to keep our community safe.

Please read on for further information.

Sincerely yours,

Dean Janow signature

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law and International Affairs


Important New Guidance/Updated Protocols

In response to changed conditions as the pandemic has continued to evolve, the University recently issued important new guidance and updated protocols:

  • Covid-19 Monitoring Plan
    The Covid -19 Monitoring Plan is a comprehensive framework for Covid-19 risk assessment and management, with Columbia experts continuously monitoring public health conditions in New York City and standing ready to adjust the University’s policies if key metrics indicate that a change is necessary.  Currently, the risk level is Low /Yellow. I encourage you to review the Monitoring Plan to understand the four risk levels -- Lower/Green; Low/Yellow; Moderate/Orange; and Higher/Red -- and the adjustments in University policy that accompany a change in risk level. 
  • Mask-wearing to continue through at least September 30
    Mask-wearing will be required indoors for all students, faculty and staff through at least September 30. The continuation of the mask mandate is an additional precautionary measure that results from the University’s status in the Low/Yellow risk level under the Covid-19 Monitoring Plan.
  • Events and Visitors
    Earlier this week SIPA issued specific guidance on events and visitors, including conditions that attach to the current risk level denoted by the Monitoring Plan. We are currently in Low/Yellow risk level. Please refer to the SIPA events and visitor guidance here for detailed information. 
  • Voluntary Testing Program to continue through September 30
    Weekly voluntary Covid-19 testing will remain available through September 30 for asymptomatic vaccinated faculty, staff, and students not selected in the weekly random sample. The program will be evaluated by CU Health and may be extended beyond September 30 if conditions warrant.

Important Reminders

Every member of the SIPA community is required to complete the steps below before accessing campus and SIPA facilities:

  • Comply with the CU vaccine mandate
  • Sign the Columbia Community Health Compact
  • Complete the Required Covid Safety Training
  • Complete the Required Gateway Test for COVID-19
  • Download the ReopenCU App and complete the Daily Symptom Attestation

Thank you for reviewing these important updates and for your compliance with the University’s requirements for accessing campus this fall.

I look forward to seeing you in IAB in just a few weeks.


Policy on Events and Visitors for Fall 2021 - Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

As we prepare to resume in-person activities this fall at SIPA, we are mindful of the current environment in New York City with respect to the pandemic and the need to strictly adhere to both the University’s and SIPA’s COVID-19 plans and protocols.

In the coming week, I will be sharing a message highlighting the steps we are taking to ensure the continued health and safety of our community in accordance with the University’s COVID-19 plans and policies, including those recently outlined in Provost Boyce’s August 11 communication.

Today, because many in our community are already planning potential events and thinking about inviting speakers, I am sharing new guidance regarding the University’s policies and SIPA’s procedures for events and gatherings this fall. My hope is that the procedures below will clarify which kind of events will be permissible without additional approval and which will require approval from the Dean’s Office and the University to proceed.

The procedures below also include guidance for SIPA faculty considering inviting non-Columbia guest lecturers and speakers into the classroom this fall. In line with University guidance, all guests should be virtual unless it is deemed necessary to a course, an academic program, or a research endeavor, and must be approved by the Dean’s Office.

SIPA’s event and visitor guidelines are derived from the University’s policies, which I encourage you to familiarize yourself with at the links below. Importantly, however, the University’s policies are not static, and will be adjusted if conditions warrant, including possibly becoming more restrictive should the University deem additional precautions necessary. The attached chart has more information on the types of gatherings that are covered under these policies.

I believe the measured approach that we are implementing will contribute to the vibrant academic and intellectual exchanges that are essential to the SIPA experience, all the while prioritizing the continued health and safety of our community.

I look forward to welcoming you back to SIPA this fall.


Dean Janow signature
Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law and International Affairs


Read about SIPA's procedures regarding CU’s policies on events, gatherings, and academic visitors for Fall 2021


Planning for Fall 2021 - June 3, 2021

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

I write to provide a further update on our plans for the Fall 2021 semester. Since my last communication, conditions in New York City have continued to improve and vaccinations have increased substantially. The University currently expects that all classrooms will be at full occupancy.

Accordingly, we are now planning for a full resumption of in-person instruction this fall. This means we expect students, faculty, and staff to be present on campus. The promise of returning to in-person academic life holds great excitement, and I know we all look forward to once again seeing each other around Columbia’s International Affairs Building and participating in the rich array of activities that have long contributed to SIPA’s intellectual vibrancy and uniqueness.

Our ability to achieve this goal rests upon the cooperation of our entire community, and it will be incumbent upon each of us to take some specific actions to ensure our collective safety. Crucially, the University has mandated that all students, faculty, and staff must be vaccinated:

  • On April 19th, the University announced that all students who access campus beginning in Fall 2021 must be vaccinated. All students – new and continuing – should plan to be vaccinated well before the start of Fall semester. It is everyone’s responsibility to understand the University’s health and safety policies and protocols, and you can learn more here.

With classes starting on Thursday, September 9, SIPA staff will be working with all students, faculty, and staff to help prepare you for our full return to campus.


This week all students (domestic and international, new and continuing) will receive a mandatory questionnaire regarding plans for arrival on campus. We ask that you return it promptly — no later than June 11— so we can learn more about your plans and assist, where possible, if you are facing obstacles.

International students who are concerned about travel restrictions and visa delays must immediately consult with Columbia University’s International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) for assistance and options. Late arrivals may be accommodated, on a case-by-case basis, for a limited period, but our assumption remains that students will attend classes in-person.  

This week we will also publish a series of Frequently Asked Questions that provides further guidance and which will be updated regularly throughout the summer. A link to these FAQs will be provided along with the questionnaire.


All faculty are expected to teach in-person this fall and Associate Dean Hazel May will reach out to faculty shortly to communicate further about classroom instruction and contingency plans.


We will take a phased approach for the return to in-person work for SIPA staff.  The timing of your return will largely depend on your role and responsibilities, with the expectation that the majority of staff will return to campus starting in mid-to-late July to allow time to prepare for the arrival of students and faculty in the fall.  Staff will receive a separate communication with more detailed information soon.

Lastly, I want to thank everyone for their patience and flexibility. As we all have learned over the past year, public health conditions can change quickly. The University and SIPA Administration are constantly assessing and evaluating our plans in light of conditions on-the-ground, as well as any requirements of New York State. Conditions may require adjustments, but as of today we are optimistic that we shall be able to resume in-person academic life and that the rigorous protocols implemented over the past year at SIPA and across Columbia University will keep us all safe.

I look forward to welcoming you back to campus in the coming months. Until then, we will continue to provide regular updates throughout the summer.

Sincerely yours, 

Dean Janow signature

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs 
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law and International Affairs 


Random Sample Testing Program - Friday, March 5, 2021

Dear SIPA Community,

While some good news regarding COVID-19 can be gleaned from the decrease in cases, albeit slow, and the increasing number of individuals getting vaccinated, there remains a long road ahead for all of us. The daily number of new cases in New York City and test positivity remain substantial. To that end, we write today to invite your continuing commitment to contributing to creating a safe campus. Below, we provide critical information regarding the University testing program, particularly with regard to required random sample testing.

Random Sample Testing 

All Columbia University graduate students, faculty, and staff who access campus are required to participate in the ongoing random surveillance testing program. Each week, a new random sample (at present 10%) of those accessing campus is selected and notified by email of a required test.

You are required to participate every time you are notified by email that you have been selected (with no more than 1 test per week). The email you receive is sent by [email protected]. Even if you have been tested recently, either at Columbia or another site, if selected for random testing, you are still required to be tested during the dates noted in the email. Keep in mind that if you are participating in weekly testing, you do not need to have an addition test if selected in the same time period.

If you are selected for random testing and do not have a test in the date range noted, you will receive a red pass on the ReOpenCU app for not fulfilling the testing requirement. Should that happen, you can regain access by having a test, returning home until the app updates (within 72 hours), and then you will be able to again access Columbia campuses or facilities. There are no exemptions to this process and vaccination status has no impact on testing requirements. 

Weekly Testing Available 

As a reminder, voluntary weekly testing remains available to you. We encourage you to take advantage of this resource and participate every week. To schedule your appointment, go to the Columbia Health Online Patient Portal.  

Other Actions 

By now each of us is deeply familiar with wearing masks, washing/sanitizing our hands, physical distancing, avoiding non-emergency travel, and participating in vaccinations (if you are eligible). Please continue your diligent efforts, as these steps, combined with testing, can help our entire community maintain a safe environment.

Thank you for continuing to Keep the Compact and we wish you a successful conclusion to the academic term.


Dean Janow signature

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law and International Affairs

Colleen B. Toomey
Senior Associate Dean 
School of International and Public Affairs


Spring Semester Message Regarding COVID-19 - Monday, January 11, 2021

Dear students, faculty and staff,

I hope you enjoyed a restful holiday break.  For returning students, welcome back to SIPA and a special warm welcome to our January entering class!

In anticipation of the start of the Spring 2021 semester, I am dedicating this community message of the new year to COVID-19 health and safety updates and reminders.  I have asked Senior Associate Dean Colleen Toomey, who is SIPA’s designated COVID-19 Safety Coordinator, to join me in this communication. 

This is a hopeful moment for all of us because we are on the cusp of vaccine distribution that can end the worldwide pandemic.  Until then, however, the situation is especially precarious. COVID-19 continues to spread within communities worldwide. We must redouble our efforts to protect one another by adhering strictly to the requirements of the Columbia Community Health Compact. 

We identify in the following paragraphs sources of information to ensure that you will be able to access campus this semester and hopefully remain in good health until the administration of vaccines: 

Access to Campus:  Mandatory Gateway Test Requirement
You have received several messages about the University’s new COVID-19 gateway testing requirement, but the requirement bears repeating, both for newly arriving students and for those who previously were tested during fall semester. To ensure access to campus facilities you must complete your gateway test by January 25; after that period, access privileges to campus facilities will be removed until the gateway test requirement is completed.  Please visit the University’s Covid-19 Testing Program Website for more information and to schedule your gateway test.  Once the gateway test requirement is satisfied, Columbia Health is encouraging graduate students, faculty and staff accessing campus facilities to participate in weekly COVID-19 testing.

Columbia Compact
We all must continue to abide by the Columbia Community Health Compact.  The health and safety of our community depends upon our adherence to its core commitments, which include mask-wearing, physical distancing, routine hand washing, completing Columbia’s ReOpen CU Covid Symptom Self-check App before coming to campus, staying home when sick or following possible exposure to COVID-19, and other measures.

NYS Quarantine Requirements
Please comply with New York State travel and quarantine regulations upon your arrival in or return to New York.  Quarantine requirements will be attested through the Reopen CU App.

Vaccine Distribution
Vaccine distribution is now under way for certain groups within the Columbia community and more broadly across the NY region and nationally.  The University's plan for vaccinating faculty, students and staff is being developed in conjunction with federal/CDC and New York state guidelines and will proceed accordingly.  The University has prepared a preliminary vaccine FAQ here.  The FAQ will be updated as additional information becomes available.

Extension of University Travel Restrictions
Columbia-sponsored travel during the spring semester, including over spring break, remains subject to the University’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions.  These restrictions include strong advisories regarding personal travel. 

Start of Spring Semester and Important Dates
As a reminder, the first two weeks of classes for the Spring semester (January 11 through January 23) will be fully online in an effort to facilitate the completion of gateway testing and quarantine requirements.  Below are a reminder of additional notable dates with respect to the Spring academic calendar: 

  • January 18, Monday – Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday observed – no classes
  • March 1, Monday-March 5, Friday – Spring Recess – no classes
  • April 15, Thursday – last day of classes
  • April 16, Friday-April 19, Monday – study days
  • April 20, Tuesday-April 26, Monday – Final Exams
  • April 28, Wednesday – SIPA Graduation
  • April 30, Friday – University Commencement

We will be sharing more information in the coming weeks about the many activities and events planned for our community during the spring semester. 

Welcome back to SIPA and best wishes for an engaging, healthy and safe semester. 

Sincerely yours,

Dean Janow signature

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law and International Affairs

Colleen B. Toomey
Senior Associate Dean


Fall Update and Planning for Spring 2021 - November 25, 2020

Dear members of the SIPA Community,

As we approach the upcoming Thanksgiving break, I want to take a moment to wish all of you a restful period. Even in this global pandemic, I hope you are able to find ways to safely connect with family, friends, and loved ones, even if only online. 

I also want to briefly update you on a few important matters related to campus safety, courses, and plans for Spring 2021. 

Campus Safety and Travel 

I am grateful to our students, faculty, and staff who, under the challenging circumstances we all are experiencing as a result of the pandemic, have consistently prioritized the health and safety of the SIPA and Columbia community. We must not let our guard down. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in New York City and elsewhere, it is important that we continue to follow all University health and safety protocols and strictly adhere to the Columbia University Health Compact. 

At this time, the University is strongly recommending against non-essential travel. If you must travel, Columbia’s Voluntary Testing Program has been expanded to cover travel-related testing (before you go and after you return). Please keep in mind that all travelers returning to New York are required to comply with state and local regulations, including observing State of New York quarantine requirements. 

Study Spaces 

With exams quickly approaching and final papers due soon, I want to remind our students that we continue to offer enhanced study spaces in the International Affairs Building and Lehman Library. If weather conditions permit, tents will also remain available for individual studying and small group meetings (subject to the University’s updated guidance about group gatherings). We understand that the University may be installing heaters to make the tents more comfortable. 

Additionally, international students may take advantage of the Columbia University Global Centers as well as Columbia-Designated WeWork sites. For more information, visit the University Initiative for International Students website 

Spring Classes  

As of this writing, while we are closely monitoring conditions in New York and on campus, we currently anticipate that SIPA will continue to offer in-person and hybrid classes after Thanksgiving break through the end of the Fall semester. 

In his message last week, President Bollinger discussed the approach of the University to the coming spring semester. For our part, SIPA will continue to offer all courses online and some courses via hybrid and in-person instruction, subject, of course, to public health conditions and safety considerations. 

Our Office of Academic Affairs will publish the Course Bulletin for Spring 2021 during the first week of December, which will indicate which courses will be offered via hybrid and in-person instruction. 

Graduate Student Survey  

I am grateful to all students who took time to participate in the University’s recent Graduate Student Survey. The survey yielded important insights and learning from the fall semester. The majority of students who responded to the survey rated their overall experience as satisfactory or very satisfactory. Moreover, the survey also reaffirmed that while many elements of online and hybrid instruction are working well, there are also challenges and some areas need further refinement. We have taken this feedback to heart and are already integrating changes into our Spring 2021 teaching modalities and course guidance. Faculty continue to work to transform their courses for both online and in-person instruction to ensure that we will again offer a robust curriculum with excellent instruction. 

Thank you, again, for all that you have done this semester to support each other and the SIPA community. My best wishes again for a restful Thanksgiving break. Please stay safe wherever you might be. 

Sincerely yours, 

Dean Janow signature

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs 
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law and International Affairs 



Fall 2020 Update - October 26, 2020

Dear Members of the SIPA Community,
I write today to share a brief update since my last communication at the start of the school year. The fall has been active, with more than 1,000 students undertaking online and in-person classes with great success, dozens of engaging virtual events, and many other activities.
As the semester began, we knew it would be unique in many ways but also continue the traditional SIPA experience. Campus is certainly quieter, but as always, SIPA is a hub of great vitality, intellectual engagement, and scholarly activity. I invite you to read the brief SIPA highlights below, and also take a moment to read Interim Provost Katznelson’s recent message about the current environment at Columbia and plans for 2021.
I look forward to sending further updates later this semester. Until then, I hope you are all staying safe, and thank you for contributing to SIPA’s vibrancy and our educational mission.
Sincerely yours,

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law and International Affairs


Curriculum and Instruction

Our initial surveys indicate that about 35 percent of students are enrolled in at least one in-person class this semester, with the remainder online. Twenty-five percent of classes are being taught in Hyflex classrooms, allowing simultaneous in-person and remote participation.  Feedback thus far has been extremely positive.  In the course implementation survey at the end of the third week, roughly 75 percent of students rated their courses as “very good” or “excellent”.  This is a credit to the faculty who spent considerable time over the summer redesigning their courses for online delivery, and to our students who are engaging in their online and hybrid courses with the same enthusiasm and seriousness they normally bring to SIPA classrooms.
SIPA faculty continue to redesign courses with the expectation that spring semester will again be a combination of online and hybrid instruction.  We will be guided, of course, by public health considerations and University decisions.

Campus Safety

The latest report from the University indicates 35,075 COVID-19 tests have been conducted since June 22nd, with 24 total positive tests, for a positivity rate of .07% among students, faculty, staff, and affiliates who have been tested. We will continue to monitor these results weekly and make any necessary adjustments should the circumstances warrant. I thank those of you on campus for adhering to social distancing and other safety requirements within the International Affairs Building and across the University. All of us must do our part and uphold the Columbia Community Health Compact.

Virtual Engagement

SIPA events are always a highlight of the semester, and we have been hosting some truly insightful and engaging discussions since the start of the year. Whether it is our weekly lecture series on policymaking in the throes of a global crisis led by Professors Jeff Sachs and Scott Barrett, or our series on how central banks are responding to the pandemic, or SIPA’s participation in ClimateWeek NYC 2020 through the Center on Global Energy Policy, we have been contributing our knowledge and expertise in important ways. You may find links to these and other events on SIPA’s YouTube Channel
We have many other events planned, including a new series around the 2020 Elections, which has already featured events on topics such as speechwriters and elections; online political advertising; race, inequality, and US elections; the election through international eyes; and will also include a few more upcoming events:

  • US Elections, Foreign Policy, and National Security (November 6th, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. ET)
  • Managing Presidential Transitions and Governance: Perspectives from the White House (November 9th, 1:00 - 2:15 p.m. ET)
  • US Elections and Domestic Policy (November 13th, 1:00 to 2:00 ET)

Stay tuned for more information and additional announcements in the coming weeks.

New Study Spaces, Library Hours, and More

We have made several adjustments to SIPA facilities since the start of fall semester to enhance the study environment for students and those on campus. A few examples:

  • Lehman Library has expanded its reservation periods for dedicated study space to four hours (the previous duration was two hours). Students may visit here to reserve a seat. Reservations may be made up to two weeks in advance. 
  • We are increasing the number of rooms in the International Affairs Building that are reserved for students to use as study halls, workspaces, or as places to log into online classes (with headphones). The Office of Student Affairs has created a scheduling system for each room, available here (UNI required).
  • We have restored furniture in Publique café on the 6th floor of IAB to provide more spaces where students may talk or use phones comfortably without disturbing others.
  • As we communicated earlier this semester, SIPA has reserved the Ancel Plaza tent exclusively for SIPA events and activities every Thursday from 3 - 6 p.m. through the end of November. Seating under the tent also is available for students when the tent is not otherwise being used for University events.

We hope these improvements contribute to a more comfortable and accessible environment for those of you on campus.

SIPA Magazine

Finally, I am excited to share that the new issue of SIPA Magazine, our signature publication, is being sent out this week. We hope you enjoy reading about the amazing research and activities our community has undertaken over the past year, with a particular focus on COVID-19.  If you would like to read a PDF version of the magazine, you can do so here.
Thank you and my best wishes.


Fall 2020 Update - August 14, 2020

Dear SIPA Community, 

I write to affirm that SIPA is going ahead with its plans to offer a mix of hybrid and online courses this Fall. As announced at the beginning of the summer, all courses will be available remotely for all of our students, wherever they may be—in the U.S. or around the world. Nearly a quarter of our courses will be taught on-campus via hybrid modality—simultaneously for students attending in-person and online. We have designed our approach to instruction and SIPA life in the Fall to accommodate both modalities and to create a vibrant virtual community across our many programs, student services and co-curricular activities.  

As President Bollinger announced earlier today, the University will drastically scale back the number of undergraduates in residence on campus this Fall and will offer all undergraduate courses virtually. Important in President Bollinger’s announcement is the fact that a very large percentage of undergraduates are coming from states and countries that would require they be quarantined for 14 days in University-provided, single-person rooms. As President Bollinger put it, “while I have no doubt that we could ensure a safe quarantine period from a public health standpoint, two weeks is a long time to endure isolation, especially for students who will be leaving home for the first time.”  

Stepping back from the special challenges related to undergraduates, President Bollinger also reaffirmed that Columbia, particularly the professional schools, will continue to re-open as planned: “The careful metrics, grounded in science, that we have established to assess whether we have achieved the necessary conditions for return have been satisfied.” 

The University has developed extensive protocols to enhance health and safety on campus. Columbia University’s world-renowned public health professionals guiding this effort are actively monitoring developments in New York and on our campus. It is their judgement that current conditions permit a return to campus in the de-densified, physically distanced fashion that has been communicated previously—and for which SIPA and other schools have been preparing.  

According to our latest information, about 60% of SIPA students want to return to campus. Unlike new undergraduates, many SIPA students already live in New York City. For those who will need to quarantine, we expect they will find it less of a challenge than undergraduates.  

We have informed students of University public health and safety requirements, which include face coverings in all public spaces on campus, including classrooms. We also have provided students a list of hybrid courses to be offered on-campus, including reduced seating capacity in each classroom, due to physical distancing requirements. In addition, we have posted and continue to update an extensive Q&A about the coming year at SIPA.  

In this time of COVID-19 and the many adjustments that we have all had to make, the Fall will inescapably include many challenges. As President Bollinger stated so well: “we must assume we will be living with a significant degree of uncertainty for quite some time. That means many things. Among them, we must be prepared to shift as conditions change.” At SIPA, we are keeping this important point clearly in mind.    

It is also a historic time in the world and an extraordinary time to be at a leading school of global public policy. SIPA will offer its full curriculum of 250 classes this Fall, as well as robust co-curricular programming, student advising, career services and all the other types of activities that contribute to the intellectual life of the School. It is remarkable that since March, SIPA has undertaken more than 200 online academic webinars and co-curricular programs, including more than 100 during the summer.  

I hope that, even more than in usual times, we can work together as a community with a shared sense of mission and purpose. I know that we have an extraordinary faculty and staff that are deeply dedicated to supporting our students and delivering the best possible graduate education in global public policy. I look forward to joining you in that endeavor—both online and in-person, to the extent possible. 

Yours sincerely, 

Dean Janow signature

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs 
Professor of Professional Practice in International Economic Law and International Affairs 


Message from Dean Janow – JULY 8, 2020

Dear Members of the SIPA Community,

In his message yesterday to the Columbia community, President Bollinger provided a significant update on the University’s plans for the resumption of on-campus activities this fall. I encourage you to review it as it speaks not only to academic life but also important features of campus life going forward. I write today to reaffirm what we have previously shared with you about our plans for the fall, which have not changed, and to further clarify SIPA’s approach to the fall.

First, while the University has given schools the option to have a three-term academic year, SIPA will offer our full curriculum in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, allowing students to complete their coursework in the usual timeframe. As previously noted, there are no changes to SIPA’s fall academic calendar, which will begin on September 8th.  Spring semester, however, will start one week earlier than usual, on January 11th, and end on April 26th.  Commencement will take place that same week.  Once the University determines our designated date and time for commencement, we will share that information with you.

Second, as previously announced, all Fall 2020 courses will be offered online for the entire semester. In addition, a considerable number of these classes will be taught on campus. As I shared in my message to students on June 24th, if New York State and University public health policies allow, instructors will be able to teach from their regularly assigned SIPA classroom, and a limited number of students will be permitted to attend in person, subject to social distancing requirements. Faculty teaching in a classroom will simultaneously teach their online and on-campus students, utilizing newly installed audiovisual equipment.  University officials have informed us that in-person capacity will be 28 percent of the standard seating capacity and that work is underway to prepare classrooms to meet State and University public health guidelines.

On July 20 we will provide students via the SIPA Bulletin and Vergil a full list of Fall 2020 courses. To the extent possible by that date, we will identify which courses will be offered only online and which will be taught from a classroom (in addition to online).  If we know at that time that a course will be taught from a classroom, we will provide information about the expected in-person seating capacity. We will provide updates on July 27, August 3 and August 10 about the online/on-campus status of courses. We will provide full information no later than August 14 about which courses will be taught from a classroom and which will be online only. As stressed by President Bollinger, “every decision we make related to resuming in-person instruction and residential life will be contingent on New York State moving into Phase 4 of its reopening plan,” and any in-person instruction will depend on conditions on the ground in New York City.

Third, this week’s advance notice from the Department of Homeland Security of new regulations regarding online courses has doubtless raised many questions among SIPA’s international students.  I am in complete agreement with President Bollinger’s statement that these regulations are deeply misguided and "the destructive and indefensible purpose driving these policies" requires us to remain focused on the steps we can take to support our international students who are part of our Columbia family.  Although we are pressing for detailed guidance from University experts, it is our understanding that SIPA’s hybrid model (a mixture of online and in-person classes) will allow international students to enter the US on a student visa as long as they do not take an entirely online course load while in the US. In the meantime, students with any immigration or visa-related questions should consult the International Students and Scholars Office (here).

Fourth, we are working closely with faculty to redesign their fall courses for online instruction or a hybrid format. Among other adjustments, we are helping faculty make provisions for students who take courses from disparate time zones around the world. For example, nearly all class sessions will be recorded and made available to enrolled students via CourseWorks. SIPA-IT is also upgrading audio-visual capacity in all classrooms, in order to facilitate simultaneous teaching of online and in-person students.

Fifth, we will continue to offer the full range of student services to all SIPA students, whether in person or online. Further information about enhanced student support and services will be shared over the summer by the Office of Student Affairs, Office of Career Services, and other SIPA offices.

Sixth, from the onset of the pandemic, SIPA has taken steps to increase financial support for students. The School is providing the largest amount of financial aid in its history. In addition, we restructured our emergency fund this past spring to provide for students facing significant financial stress due to the COVID pandemic. We will continue that fund through the summer and into the fall. I also am pleased to announce that we are increasing resources available in the emergency fund for continuing students (modified guidelines and application process will be announced shortly).

Finally, President Bollinger’s message outlined the strict guidelines that will apply to all who live, work, study and teach at Columbia. Please review those carefully. As you will see, persons on campus must wear a face covering at all times, unless they are in a private room with the door closed. In addition, there are physical distancing, testing, symptom self-check, reduction in density, enhanced cleaning and other requirements.  More information about detailed public health protocols on campus can be found here.

The virus has had a profound effect on our community and the world. As we move forward, please know that we are deeply committed to supporting the needs of all of our students, faculty and staff. SIPA is the world’s most global school of international and public affairs, and we are proud of the remarkable students that join us from the United States and around the world. We are committed, as stressed by President Bollinger, in finding ways to enable the international students who are in the US to continue to complete their studies and those who are overseas to continue to engage with our faculty and students and be part of our vibrant virtual community.

We recognize many of you have more questions about the fall semester, and we will strive to answer them as soon as possible.  We are committed, no matter the uncertainty and disruption around us, to provide a safe learning environment consistent with our educational mission and to provide the rich array of intellectual experiences that are the defining features of the SIPA education.

The year ahead will be filled with complexity and interest: it will be a year that brings a US presidential election, important opportunities to consider economic, environmental, political, racial, social and other challenges facing the world and the United States. And despite the uncertainties and the precautions we all must undertake, we will have opportunities to study, teach, learn and engage with the world and each other. Our mission and our work have never been more important.

I look forward to our fall together.


Sincerely yours,

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law and International Affairs


Message from Dean Janow – April 14, 2020

Dear SIPA Community,

As we continue to grapple with the many consequences of COVID-19, I write to share just a few dimensions of the ways that our community is deploying its knowledge, expertise and energy in support of each other and larger response efforts in New York City and, indeed, globally.

This is a historic moment in global public policy that brings to the forefront many of the areas that we engage at SIPA. In these unique times, we are reminded of the relevance of our work and our institutional and individual commitment to solve problems in the global public interest.

Members of our global SIPA community are sharing their expertise in so many ways.  Below are just a few examples.

SIPA Faculty

There is substantial work underway by our own faculty and across Columbia University to respond to the immediate effects of the COVID-19 crisis as well as to consider the changed world we face as this pandemic starts to move behind us. SIPA faculty have been thinking and writing about the impact of the virus on the U.S. and the global economy, differential impacts on emerging markets, and inequality effects; various climate, energy and environmental consequences across regions; national mobilization lessons; and many other dimensions.

Faculty have also inaugurated new research; joined projects with other external partners; provided advice to governments and businesses; and are broadly sharing their views in the media.  We have collected some recent writings and commentary here. I invite you to learn more about their efforts and visit this webpage regularly for updates.

Our faculty are also partnering on innovative University-wide initiatives. One such example is COVID Watcher, a joint effort among Columbia schools to build and deploy new research tools to predict COVID-19 hotspots and to help slow the spread of the virus. You can read more about this effort here.

SIPA Students

Every unit of SIPA is working to support our students and the SIPA experience in many different ways.  For example, theOffice of Student Affairs has established some specific programming aimed at advancing well-being. OSA has beenfacilitating Zoom wellness chats and weekly Group Wellness Sessions for students to hold discussions and participate invirtual wellness activity.  By popular student demand, OSA has also been sponsoring virtual yoga sessions facilitated by aprofessional yoga instructor.

The Office of Career Service also has been offering a variety of webinars geared toward the virtual environment. These include programs on “Repositioning Yourself for Remote Opportunities” and “Mastering Video Interviewing,” among others.

Students have been working directly in their own communities to support COVID-19 response efforts.  I share one example here. We know there are many others and look forward to sharing those with you.

SIPA Alumni

Our alumni are also rising to this challenge in cities and communities around the world.  For example, SIPA alumni have directly supported efforts in Taiwan to respond to the crisis and share lessons learned.  You may learn more here

SIPA and Columbia alumni from China also have donated more than 1.3 million renminbi and hundreds of thousands of protective masks, goggles, gloves, and suits, and other medical supplies to the Columbia University Medical Center and to other alumni in need.  We thank them for these efforts.

There are many other moving stories.

Convening And Engagement

While we have been forced to curtail our usual robust calendar of in-person events due to the virus, there is no diminution of convening and engagement. SIPA faculty and programs are continuing to undertake extensive programming online, including webinars, virtual conferences, forums, and more.

Our program and specialization directors have set up special sessions for each area and there is a growing number of highly topical webinars being launched.  I have included below just a few examples of recent and upcoming activities.  You should have received a more comprehensive events newsletter last week.

  • Monday, April 13, 1:00 to 2:00 p.m.  Julie Menin, Director, NY Census 2020, in conversation with Professor Ester Fuchs.  Hosted by the Urban and Social Policy Concentration.
  • Tuesday, April 14, 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. Echoes of 1918? COVID-19 and the Spanish Influenza Pandemic.  A discussion with Dean Merit E. Janow, Vice Dean Scott Barrett, and Professor Douglas Almond.
  • Tuesday, April 14, 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.  Science Journalism and COVID-19, featuring SIPA Adjunct Professor Claudia Dreifus and John Schwartz
  • Friday, April 17, 10:00 am. The Gendered Dimensions of the Pandemic: the implications of COVID-19. Hosted by the Gender and Public Policy Specialization
  • Friday, April 17, 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. Disinformation in the age of COVID-19, featuring Professor Anya Schiffrin and Emily Bell.  Hosted by Technology, Media and Communications Specialization (TMaC)
  • Wednesday, April 29, Tech and Entrepreneurship book talk with Hollie Russon Gilman and Alexis Wichowski.  Sponsored by the SIPA Entrepreneurship and Policy Initiative.

SIPA Research Centers

SIPA research centers are always a hub of vibrant intellectual engagement and outreach and this continues unabated. As one example, the Center on Global Energy Policy has been undertaking events, research, podcasts and articles on the energy impacts of COVID-19 and has created a website highlighting its efforts.  I invite you to learn more here.

I am very proud of our community in New York and around the world. We will continue to share additional updates and welcome hearing from you.

Thank you for all that you are doing to contribute to understanding the great challenges we face and supporting each other.

Sincerely yours,

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs 
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law & International Affairs


Message from Dean Janow – March 13, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

I write to provide further updates on SIPA’s response to COVID-19 and to thank you for your cooperation, patience and courage during this challenging period.

As we learned in President Bollinger’s message of yesterday, all classes will now be conducted online for the remainder of the semester. All Columbia-related business travel, both international and domestic, has been suspended. The University is also strongly recommending the cancellation or postponement of all non-essential events of more than 25 individuals, until at least April 30th. At the same time, the University remains open and functioning.

Our primary focus at this time is ensuring the health and safety of our community while continuing our vital educational mission. I am proud of the extraordinary efforts that converted more than 250 SIPA courses to online learning earlier this week, thanks to the tireless dedication of administrators and faculty.

Going forward, we will endeavor to provide the highest quality of online learning possible by sharing best practices and resources. We are also thinking creatively about steps that we can take to keep our faculty and students engaged with each other and the world. Please feel free to share ideas with me or Vice Dean Scott Barrett or Associate Dean Dan McIntyre.

This is a period of anxiety and uncertainty. I particularly want to recognize the extraordinary response from our students. We appreciate your flexibility as we have transitioned to online learning and your openness to participating in our newly established virtual community.

Because our campus remains open, we are working closely with SIPA staff to initiate a pilot program to learn more about our capacity for mixed on-site and remote work, should this become necessary. We are committed to implementing this program in a way that maintains the health and well-being of our community and the continuity of our student and administrative services.

With spring break upon us, I urge you to continue to monitor your email for updates about changes with respect to University and SIPA actions and recommendations The University’s COVID-19 site provides a central repository of information, where updates are posted as developments unfold. SIPA’s counterpart site can be found here.

We know there are still many questions to answer. We will make every effort to communicate with you expeditiously as plans go forward.

I hope the week ahead is both restful and safe. We are here for you.

Sincerely yours,

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law & International Affairs


Message from Dean Janow – March 6, 2020

Dear SIPA Community,

I am writing to provide an update regarding SIPA's efforts to plan for possible adjustments to ordinary operations due to the COVID-19 outbreak. I also wish to thank you for your help and patience with preparations as we move forward.

As you know, I have established a COVID-19 Planning Group at SIPA (see membership, below). The Planning Group already has met several times. I will outline here a few of the initiatives under way, and provide periodic updates going forward as appropriate:

1. Preparing for the possibility of moving all SIPA courses online. It is possible the University will adopt remote education protocols depending on developments. SIPA is preparing to be ready to implement online education as soon as necessary, although we hope circumstances will not require this. The Office of Academic Affairs and Office of Information Technology are leading this effort and have begun communicating with faculty teaching this semester about the adjustments necessary to maintain the quality of our courses. Additional communications to students will be forthcoming.

2. Preparing for the continuation of student services and advising in the event of a disruption in classroom instruction. Administrative units with significant student service responsibilities, including all advising deans and assigned academic advisors, are preparing for a conversion to online and telephone support in the event of a disruption in classroom instruction or campus operations.

3. Preparing for possible work arrangement and staffing adjustments in the event of a change in Columbia University/SIPA operations due to COVID-19. SIPA will follow University policy in this event. We currently are considering a range of scenarios, from sustaining full staffing if circumstances permit, to reduced staffing with some staff telecommuting, to implementing remote work protocols in the event of a campus closure. In all scenarios we are planning for the continuation of services. We are consulting with unit directors and managers of each administrative unit with respect to planning for various contingencies.

4. Preparing for adjustments in event management. We are proceeding with caution with regard to event management, rescheduling or exploring virtual attendance options if feasible, but otherwise proceeding with events as planned consistent with travel requirements that may apply to international attendees and public health guidance applicable to all public gatherings. Given the changing nature of responses to COVID-19, new and different event guidelines and regulations are possible in response to developments. Until further notice, student organizations have been encouraged by the Office of Student Affairs to submit event requests for approval that the student leaders believe in good faith to be essential or critical to their mission, and to postpone or cancel other gatherings.

5. Communications updates. A dedicated component of SIPA's web site will report developments at the University and SIPA in light of COVID-19 and provide regular updates.

6. Facilities. We are working with University Facilities about adjustments to cleaning and sanitizing protocols appropriate in light of COVID-19. We are using our best efforts to maintain sanitizing stations throughout SIPA facilities in light of product shortages.

The situation obviously is fluid. We will be providing updates as circumstances and developments warrant. Thank you, again, for your patience and help with these efforts.

Sincerely yours,

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law and International Affairs

COVID-19 Planning Group
Colleen Toomey, Dan McIntyre, Patrick Bohan, Milena Cerna, Cory Way, Diya Bhattacharya, Harpreet Mahajan, Hande Mutlu-Eren, Andrew Johnson, Ted Stiffel


Message from Dean Janow – March 4, 2020

Dear SIPA Community,

I am writing to share some information about how SIPA is responding to the worldwide COVID-19 epidemic. SIPA is paying close attention to the multinational spread of the virus and to the advice of responsible authorities with respect to precautionary measures.

Currently, there are no known cases of COVID-19 among Columbia and SIPA students, faculty and staff, and the University’s core campus continues to operate normally.

As you know, however, the Provost’s Office yesterday announced that, effective immediately:

  • All University-sponsored international travel by students is suspended until further notice. This affects all SIPA-sponsored travel by students, including capstones, workshops, internships, and independently arranged travel in conjunction with academic requirements.
  • All University-sponsored faculty and staff travel to Mainland China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Iran and Italy remains suspended until further notice. Additionally, the Provost’s Office strongly urges all faculty and staff to postpone all non-essential University-sponsored international travel.

Even with respect to personal travel, the University is asking all CU travelers to register international travel through the University’s ISOS travel portal. Please contact Senior Assistant Dean Stefan Brown ([email protected]) in the Office of Student Affairs if you have questions about registering your travel.

CU Health has issued guidance about the precautions each of us should take in our day-to-day activities. These include regular hand washing, staying home if we feel ill, and remaining alert for symptoms of COVID-19. The University’s Preparedness web site provides this and related information.

If you are organizing an academic event or program involving guests who have traveled recently in restricted areas or been exposed to COVID-19, please know that the guests must comply with the same protocols applicable to CU travelers (e.g., travelers who have been in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Italy, Iran, Japan and South Korea in the past 14 days must fill out a secure and confidential registration form and follow the guidance provided). The University will be issuing further guidance later today regarding social events.

I have asked Colleen Toomey, SIPA’s senior associate dean, to help coordinate the School’s planning and response to COVID-19-related issues, which will include managing a small internal working group of SIPA administrators. Further guidance as appropriate will be forthcoming.

I want to convey how appreciative I am of the supportive way in which our community has responded to the COVID-19 outbreak. I know that this is how we will continue to contend with COVID-19 and any other challenges that come our way.

Sincerely yours,

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law and International Affairs


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