What to Expect: Health and Safety on Campus this Fall

Dean Lester provides the community with an update on what to expect at the Law School in Fall 2021, particularly as it relates to public health. 

Dear members of the Columbia Law School community,

Over the next few weeks, we will welcome students, faculty, and staff to Columbia Law School for the start of the academic year. This transitional period brings with it excitement and hopefulness as we resume our fall rituals of learning, uniting—and reuniting—our community in pursuit of our shared educational and scholarly mission.

At the same time, as the pandemic continues to evolve, we remain focused on keeping our campus healthy and safe. Creating the conditions for a fully vaccinated community is the single most important and effective measure we can take, and I want to express my gratitude for the exceptional rate of compliance with the University’s vaccine mandate, which—within the Law School—stands at over 98%.

I write now to follow on yesterday’s message to faculty and staff from Provost Mary Boyce and provide you with an update on what to expect at the Law School this fall, particularly as it relates to public health. Please also review the Return to In-Person Instruction FAQs on the University COVID-19 website.

The Columbia University Public Health Monitoring Plan is a framework that will guide public health and safety protocols and adapt as local conditions change. Currently, the risk level is YELLOW/LOW RISK. As a result, the following protocols will be in place at the Law School, beginning on Monday, August 16:

  • Face Coverings and Distancing: Face coverings will be required indoors on campus for all Law School students, faculty, and staff, regardless of vaccination status. Those with approved medical or religious exemptions must also wear a mask outdoors and may practice physical distancing if feasible.
  • Building Access: Access to all Law School buildings will be limited to Law School students, faculty, and staff only. CUID card swipe and a Green Pass on the ReopenCU app will be required for entry. Individuals who are not members of the Law School community (including individuals affiliated with other units at Columbia) must comply with the terms set forth in the Law School visitor policy and obtain a guest pass from the Dean’s Office.
  • Events and Visitors: The Law School visitor policy has been updated to reflect that, per University guidelines, all non-Law School guests must be pre-approved by the Dean’s Office. In addition, please note that, under the Columbia Event and Gathering Guidance, capacity limits are currently in effect for social and extracurricular events (25 indoors, 50 outdoors), food must be served in “grab and go” single portions only, and conferences and symposia are restricted.
  • Isolation and Quarantine: Those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who show symptoms and are awaiting test results are required to self-isolate for 10 days after symptom onset or after receiving a positive test result. Any student with a positive test will be informed of their requirement for isolation, and the contact tracing team will determine if they had any close contacts and, if so, will reach out to those contacts with instructions. Fully vaccinated individuals identified as a close contact do not need to quarantine after exposure, and may continue to attend class. They should continue to wear a mask, get a COVID-19 test three to five days after exposure, and continue to monitor for symptoms for 14 days. Unvaccinated individuals identified as a close contact must quarantine for 10 days. Students who test positive should work with their instructor to ensure they are able to make up any missed class work.


Every member of the Law School community is required to complete the steps below prior to accessing campus.

  • Upload vaccine documentation
  • Sign the Columbia Community Health Compact
  • Complete the Safety Training
  • Get Tested for COVID-19
  • Download the ReopenCU App and complete the Daily Symptom Attestation

Note about Gateway Testing: All Columbia affiliates who will be accessing Columbia campuses during the Fall 2021 Term for the first time since January 2021 are required to complete COVID-19 gateway testing. No gateway testing is required for Columbia affiliates who have been present on campus during the Spring and Summer 2021 terms as they will have already completed one. If you do not complete the gateway testing requirement prior to September 2, you will not be permitted to access campus until you receive a negative result.

I look forward eagerly, and with great anticipation, to seeing you in our classrooms and corridors this fall. The shared values of collaboration and commitment, compassion and resilience, which have guided us throughout the pandemic, will continue to enable us to thrive as a community—curious, safe, and united.

Best regards,

Gillian Lester
Dean and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law