Reminders: January Term and Start of the Spring Semester

In preparation for the start of the January term, Dean Lester provides the community with an update on what to expect.

Dear members of the Columbia Law School community,

Happy New Year! I hope you and your loved ones enjoyed a festive and restorative winter recess. As we begin the January term—and anticipate the start of the spring semester next week—I wanted to provide you with some important reminders and updates about the public health protocols that will be in place this month.


  • All class sessions scheduled to take place between January 10 and January 21—including all meetings of Legal Methods II and other J-term courses—will be convened remotely. This short-term transition period, which spans the initial two weeks of our Spring instructional calendar in accordance with the University’s requirement, is designed to allow members of the Columbia community sufficient time to fulfill testing requirements and self-isolate, if necessary.
  • In-person instruction for all Law School classes will resume on Monday, January 24. This means that Spring semester courses will meet virtually during the week of January 18 (Monday, January 17, is a University holiday) and transition to in-person meetings starting on Monday, January 24.
  • The usual Law School protocols for student illness will apply once in-person instruction resumes; students who are ill or in COVID-19-related isolation will be excused from attending but will not have the option to participate virtually. Recordings of class sessions may be made available at the discretion of the individual instructor.


  • Students are strongly advised to get a PCR test 48 hours prior to arriving on campus. Those who test positive outside of Columbia must notify [email protected].
  • Additionally, all law students are required to get a Columbia gateway test within 72 hours after returning to campus, but no later than January 28. Testing appointments open up seven to ten days in advance. Schedule a COVID-19 test here. Walk-in appointments are not available, so please plan accordingly.
  • Faculty and staff are strongly recommended to get a PCR test, preferably prior to returning to campus, or through the Columbia testing facilities upon their return.


  • Isolation: Following updated guidance from the CDC, the University has modified its isolation protocols. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 may end isolation after five days (as opposed to ten days, which was previously recommended) if their infection is asymptomatic. Day 0 is considered the day of a positive test result.
  • Quarantine: Individuals who are fully vaccinated and boosted do not need to quarantine after exposure to an individual with COVID-19. Those who are NOT vaccinated, or who are eligible for a booster dose but have not yet received one, should quarantine for five days following such an exposure—where day 0 is the day of last exposure—provided symptoms do not appear. Regardless of vaccination status, if you have been exposed to COVID-19, you should get tested five to seven days after last exposure.
  • Please note: Due to emerging data about the behavior of COVID-19 within vaccinated and boosted populations, the University has updated its monitoring plan to place greater emphasis on COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths, rather than positive cases. The University has also made changes to its contact tracing practices now that the overwhelming majority (over 99%) of the community is vaccinated and not subject to quarantine requirements.


  • All members of the Columbia community—faculty, students, and staff—are encouraged to get a vaccine booster dose as soon as they are eligible, but must do so no later than January 31, 2022. Students should upload proof of their booster dose here. For faculty and staff, instructions on how to submit proof of booster dose will be made available by the University in the coming days.


  • Faculty, staff, and researchers who are able to work remotely should plan to do so through January 14. On-campus work schedules, same as those in the fall semester, will resume on Tuesday, January 18.


  • All Columbia-related non-academic gatherings on and off campus are suspended until the end of January. Academic events include classes, seminars, orientation sessions, and activities related to test-taking.
  • All affiliates are strongly urged to avoid indoor social gatherings wherever they are located, unless aware of vaccination and testing status of all attendees. Masking in these locations is also strongly recommended as well as in crowded outdoor social gatherings. Masking indoors at Columbia will continue through March 31, and we urge wearing of masks off-campus in all indoor public settings as well as in crowded settings when outdoors.
  • Building access for visitors without a Columbia Law School affiliation will continue to be limited to those who are essential guest speakers in a scheduled class session, CU affiliates with a day pass to the Law Library, or who are active clients of the Law Clinic. All visitors, excluding library users, must be pre-approved by the Dean’s Office and obtain a guest pass prior to entry. Pre-approval requests for Spring 2022 should be submitted here.
  • The Law School’s buildings (Jerome Greene Hall, William and June Warren Hall, William C. Warren Hall, and Jerome Greene Annex) are open and require a CUID card swipe upon entry, as was the case during the fall semester.

As more information regarding the public health conditions and the University’s operating protocols for Spring 2022 become available, continue to monitor your email and the Columbia COVID-19 website for updates. I also encourage you to register for and attend the webinars convened by University leadership; a recording of the most recent forum (held on January 4) is available here.

Thank you for your continued understanding, flexibility, and cooperation.


Gillian Lester
Dean and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law