Coronavirus updates for GSAS students

March 20, 2020

Dear Students,

This is our second bulletin to you regarding the fast-changing circumstances created by the coronavirus pandemic. The information that follows attempts to answer, to the extent that we can, questions that you or your faculty have conveyed to us. Please respond to this message if you need further clarification about any of the issues addressed below.



All classes will resume online on Thursday, March 26. The three-day extension next week announced by President Bollinger applies to all GSAS classes, students, and faculty.

All undergraduate classes you teach will be graded Pass/D/Fail; all graduate classes you take will be graded Pass/Fail.

This term, an exception will be made so that core and approved elective courses graded P/F that normally do not count toward an MA or PhD requirement will count toward the requirement. Academic programs will be given wide latitude in the implementation of these guidelines.

We hope this change provides relief to both students and instructors, and reduces the anxiety that has arisen from any new pedagogical challenges of remote teaching and learning —challenges due to unequal access to course materials or academic support, the rapidity of the transition, and the new need for asynchronous teaching and learning. We as a community would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the range of experiences of our students now located around the globe in the realms of medical care, housing, family and social support, and more.


The Columbia Libraries are, in their words, “committed to maintaining a vibrant online site of learning at the center of the University’s intellectual activities. Millions of items from our collections can still be accessed online. Our expert staff continue to remain available by chat, phone, email, or Zoom. We will continue to offer workshops and instruction sessions remotely. Most importantly, we are here to help you navigate new challenges in teaching, learning, and research.” Please continue to check this Columbia Libraries page about online research support, which includes sections on reference and consultation; access to e-resources; and temporary free access to additional resources: it is updated regularly. 

That said, we realize that remote library access is not sufficient for all students. Please consult your advisor about how you can advance projects remotely, and to determine appropriate adjustments of internal deadlines for distribution of materials.

MA students writing theses normally due in May should consult their program directors about options for thesis completion this spring, summer, or fall.  

PhD dissertation deposit for a May degree normally has a deadline of May 1. GSAS has worked with the Registrar this year so that PhD students may deposit by May 22, 2020, and still have a May 2020 degree conferred. Students who deposit after May 22 will be eligible for the next degree conferral in October.

Other PhD program deadlines are internal, governed by departmental expectations and GSAS policy. We ask all programs to exercise maximum flexibility at this time while we try to maintain as best as we can a sense of academic progress while taking into account the real restrictions and anxieties during this time of upheaval. Faculty should feel free to consult GSAS for any modifications or extensions.


PhD students on spring fellowship, whether teaching fellowship (salary and stipend) or dissertation or dean’s fellowship (all stipend), will continue to receive their funds on the normal schedule for the entire term. GSAS will disburse summer stipends to PhD students in their funding years (1-5) through the same process and schedule as previous years. If you wish to request an early disbursement of the summer stipend, please write to [email protected].


There is no directive for graduate students to leave New York City or Columbia housing. Most of our students have chosen to stay in Columbia housing; some have decided to return home temporarily or for the long term. Some students are being relocated from International House to Columbia Residential spaces.
Students who left housing before their eligibility expired and wish to return to university housing in the future will be given priority status at the time of reentry. We have conveyed to Columbia Residential the concerns we have received about moving out from your current assignment. See this FAQ page if you have additional questions about your housing options. You may also contact Columbia Residential at 212-854-9300 or  [email protected].


If you have the Aetna Columbia Student Health Insurance Plan, you have national and international coverage. Please see here for more information, and contact Columbia Health and CUIMC Student Health Service for questions about referrals. Please find additional resources below:


ISSO is working remotely but is operational and will continue to respond to email, process online applications, mail documents and update website information. Go to the ISSO COVID-19 Hub for ISSO operations, FAQs, updates and resources.

We will issue more of these bulletins as required. We know that uncertainty is one of your biggest concerns, so we will keep communicating any new information that is crucial for you to know. Be well; stay well. Please.


Carlos J. Alonso, Dean
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences