Fall 2021 Return to Campus Plan

Plan Contents

Last updated: 9/1/21

Columbia heads into the 2021 fall semester with a sense of cautious optimism, guided by the determination to rekindle a fuller sense of community and collaboration that can only be fully sparked by being together in person once again. We know that COVID-19 remains a presence in our lives and are committed to precautions that advance the health of those on campus and beyond.

COVID numbers in Chicago and Illinois are at record lows, fueled in large part by the vaccination of a large percentage of people in this region and elsewhere. While some variants have taken hold in the U.S. and other countries, the vaccine remains effective against them. As always, the college may adapt its offerings and modes of instruction if the situation changes significantly.

As it has been since the beginning of the pandemic, our response remains informed by science and public guidance. We continue to consult with prominent epidemiologists, Dr. Emily Landon from the University of Chicago and Dr. John Segreti from Rush University Medical Center, both of whom have helped shape and have expressed support for the following plan. A team of administrators has worked closely and regularly throughout the pandemic to coordinate planning and responses to COVID-19. These administrators also regularly consult leadership from the faculty senate and both the staff and part-time faculty unions.

We meet with outside COVID-19 experts weekly and continue to monitor the COVID-19 landscape, including variants; we stand ready to modify reopening plans as called for by the health situation. As it did last year, the college continues to do air assessments, and continues to use Ultra-Violet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) in certain instructional spaces and performs regular, daily cleanings.

A small number of individuals on campus will be receiving college-approved exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine for medical and religious reasons. Unvaccinated status brings added precautions, but beyond legitimate considerations, Columbia will not tolerate any mistreatment based on vaccination status. In addition, as we increase our in-person interactions, please keep in mind that individuals’ comfort levels may not be the same as yours, and continue to be patient and considerate with one another.

The following rules apply to all employees and students on campus. Any faculty member coming to campus for any reason will be subject to the testing requirement if they have not uploaded evidence of vaccination.

Everyone entering campus buildings is expected to agree to the following COVID-19 rules set forth by the College, which includes:

  • All individuals are required to wear a college-approved type of face covering at all times (except in planned classroom situations approved by the Office of the Provost and with added precautions in place, or in one’s dorm room).
  • If you are unvaccinated, you are in compliance with the College's testing and masking requirements.
  • You have not had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days.
  • You are symptoms-free (see list of symptoms below).
  • You are in compliance with any City of Chicago Travel Advisory.
COVID SYMPTOMS
  • a fever of 100.4 or higher
  • shortness of breath that cannot be attributed to another known health condition
  • a cough that cannot be attributed to another known health condition
  • a sore throat that cannot be attributed to another known health condition
  • a complete loss of smell or taste
  • vomiting or diarrhea
  • a headache or aches throughout my body that cannot attributed to another health condition

Upload evidence of vaccination to streamline your campus experience
(Required for students and vaccinated employees)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, “Vaccination is the leading prevention strategy to protect individuals from COVID-19 disease and end the COVID-19 pandemic. People who are fully vaccinated are at low risk of symptomatic or severe infection, and a growing body of evidence suggests that people who are fully vaccinated are less likely to have asymptomatic infection or transmit the virus that causes COVID-19 to others.”

For this reason, the College encourages everyone to get vaccinated if they are able and requires vaccination for all students. Please refer to the various vaccination sites available to students and employees.

Like many organizations across the United States, Columbia will apply extra precautions for people who are unvaccinated. In short, unvaccinated individuals will be required to mask, test regularly, and physically distance where possible.

Columbia is requiring all students to provide evidence of vaccination. Employees are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated and are also required to report their vaccination status to the College. (On July 8, 2021, the CDC announced that preliminary data indicates unvaccinated people account for 99.5 percent of deaths from COVID-19.)

VACCINATION PAST KEY DATES:

JULY 9
Deadline for employees to upload their vaccination cards to COVID Navigator. Employees without evidence of vaccination in the system will be subject to testing.

JULY 15
Deadline for students to update the college regarding their vaccination status. 

RESIDENCE-HALL STUDENTS CRITICAL DATES: AUGUST 20

Students in Residence Halls:
Residential students will need to upload their vaccination cards to MedProctor no later than August 20The deadline for residential students to upload their vaccination status is August 27, however, it will take 5 business days before your vaccination status has been processed and for your card to be activated. If your card is not activated, you will not be permitted to enter campus. You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the final dose.

NON RESIDENCE-HALL STUDENTS CRITICAL DATES: AUGUST 29

All students not living in campus housing:

Students who have not uploaded a vaccination record by end of day on Sunday, August 29 will have their classes dropped on Monday, August 30, and will not be able to re-register until they show evidence of vaccination. 
 
Students who have not yet begun the vaccination process can still do so, with three important conditions:  

  1. The first dose MUST occur no later than August 29; at which time you must receive either a first dose of Pfizer or Moderna or the single dose of Johnson & Johnson.  
  2. Students who receive a first vaccine dose between the 25th and 29th will only be able to begin classes on September 13, and will miss the first week of the semester.  
  3. Any student starting the semester with only one dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine will need to produce a negative test that is no more than two days old to enter campus buildings. Only tests conducted on campus are acceptable to fulfill this requirement. Students will need to keep testing until they reach two weeks after their second dose.  

Students who received a first dose no later than August 24 will be able to start the semester normally on September 7, but will be subject to the same testing requirement as above. 

Students who hold a college-approved vaccination exemption will be able to attend class, subject to meeting the COVID testing requirement (details below). 
 
Students who receive a dose after August 29 will not be able to attend in fall semester, except for international students who just arrived and had no access to vaccination in their home country. 
 
Uploading your vaccination status is also REQUIRED to start the semester  

Being vaccinated is not enough: you must upload your vaccination card hereFailure to upload your vaccination status may disrupt your ability to start attending classes, even if you are vaccinated. 

If you receive an on-campus vaccination at 618 S. Michigan, you do not need to upload a COVID-19 vaccination card; the College will receive the information from the CareATC team administering doses.  If you would like to receive your vaccine on campus, schedule an appointment online through the VAXQ website
 
Please note: Once Columbia has received documentation that you are fully vaccinated, it will take 5 business days to update your record and for your Campus Card to become active. If your Campus Card is not activated, you will not be permitted to enter campus so you must upload ASAP.  Please factor this into your plans when visiting campus. 

This deadline extension brings a couple of caveats: 
  • If you get a dose August 25-29 you will miss the first week of classes. 
  • If you elect to take the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine you will need to test every two days until two weeks after the time you receive your final dose. 
Data shows that the first dose of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are comparable to the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine, but that is only the case if one waits at least two weeks after the dose is received. Therefore, if you vaccinate between August 25 – 29 you will not be able to attend classes during the first week of the semester. However, if you vaccinate by August 29, you will be able to start the fall semester during the 2nd week of classes on September 14.

THIS IS NOT AN EXCEPTION FROM GETTING BOTH DOSES. Because you will not be fully vaccinated as defined by the CDC until after two weeks after your second dose, (and in fairness to the fully vaccinated people on campus) we are putting in place a testing requirement on top of the requirement that you remain masked at all times like all other members of the campus community.  

Students who choose this option will have to follow additional steps before they can attend classes without the below, restrictions.  

Students with just one dose of Moderna or Pfizer will need to:    
  • Test for COVID-19 on campus regularly: To enter any campus building, these students will need to show evidence of a negative COVID-19 test that is no more than two days old. Only COVID-19 tests taken on campus at 618 S. Michigan will be accepted. Students will need to do this until they are two weeks past their second dose of the vaccine course. To make an appointment, please call 844-766-3775 (phone line is open Monday-Friday from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.; leave a message on the weekends--no appointment guarantee). Walk-ins are not permitted.   
  • Get their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna in a timely fashion  (three weeks after the first dose of Pfizer, and four weeks after the first dose of Moderna) in order to finish the semester. The second dose is required to get the vaccine’s full efficacy and durability.    
The Moderna vaccine is available on campus (in limited supply). 
For information on the requirement and on how to upload your vaccination card, please go to https://www.colum.edu/immunization. Students with questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccination policy, how to submit their COVID-19 vaccination card, and how to request an exemption can email columbiacentral@colum.edu.   


SEPTEMBER 7

Employees must be fully vaccinated and must have already submitted their evidence of vaccination or College issued COVID-19 exemption.

Faculty should upload their vaccination cards no later than a week in advance of their planned return to campus in order to allow for processing time. As soon as the college receives evidence of vaccination and updates it to the system, individuals will no longer be required to test.

How to upload vaccination status:

  • Students can capture an image of their COVID-19 Vaccination Card and upload it to their MedProctor account.
  • Employees can upload their vaccination information via Covid Navigator

Vaccination status will be kept confidential; only those with a legitimate business need to know will have access to someone’s status.

Vaccination status will be automatically coded into a person’s Campus Card (ID) and vaccination will allow for normal entry into College facilities – all others will need to show evidence of a negative COVID-19 test to enter.

Students without evidence of a completed COVID-19 vaccination by September 7 will be barred from attending in-person classes and entering other campus facilities unless they are granted a College-approved COVID-19 vaccination exemption.

Students who are granted a College-approved exemption and unvaccinated employees will be required to provide COVID-19 test results dated no more than two days old for each visit to campus.

Students who plan to live in the residence halls must be fully vaccinated by August 27 and will not be allowed to move in without evidence of their completed vaccination on file. Exceptions will only be made for students who have gone through the vaccine exemption process. This applies to those who have a medical or religious exemption, or those International students who arrive unvaccinated and will begin their vaccination process on campus. Those with exemptions will be required to get tested as described below.

International Students

All International students should abide by CDC guidance for their country.

Vaccination prior to arrival is strongly encouraged. Columbia will accept the vaccines with Emergency Use Authorization by the World Health Organization (WHO).

International students living in the residence halls who are not fully vaccinated will quarantine at the University Center campus housing and will not be able to move into their assigned residence hall until the quarantine and testing requirements are fulfilled. International students without COVID vaccine access in their home countries will be allowed to arrive unvaccinated but will be required to begin the vaccination process and will be subject to testing requirements until they are fully vaccinated.

Unvaccinated international students will be required to provide COVID-19 test results dated no more than two days old for each visit to campus until they are fully vaccinated. International students will have until the end of the sixth week of instruction at the latest to become fully vaccinated. Students can schedule their vaccination at Columbia’s vaccination site online at VAXQ.

Requirements for unvaccinated individuals

All students are required to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Only students with a religious or medical exemption that has been approved by the College and International Students who are in the process of getting vaccinated are permitted to remain unvaccinated. For assistance with medical and religious exemptions please contact Columbia Central at columbiacentral@colum.edu as soon as possible.

It is critical to remember that unvaccinated people have a responsibility to protect themselves and, more importantly, have an ethical responsibility to protect other unvaccinated people.

It is important to emphasize that everyone possesses one or more effective tools to protect their health regardless of what others do: vaccinated people are protected by the vaccine, and will wear a mask; unvaccinated individuals can protect themselves by wearing a mask, testing, and social distancing where possible.

Masking

All individuals are required to wear a college-approved type of face covering at all times (except in planned classroom situations approved by the Office of the Provost and with added precautions in place, or in one’s dorm room). 

In addition, unvaccinated individuals – or people who may be vaccinated but have not uploaded evidence of vaccination or people who may be vaccinated against COVID-19 but college records do not yet reflect their vaccination status – will be required to:

  • Socially distance whenever feasible.
  • Get tested regularly as described below. 

Vaccinated individuals are not required to socially distance or test, but always have the option of doing so.

Failure to wear a face covering as required will be subject to discipline, up to termination for employees, and up to expulsion for students.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s latest binding COVID-19 order says unvaccinated individuals should “wear face coverings when social distancing is not always possible.” Additionally:

  • As shown by studies and as emphasized by the experts at Rush and U of C, masking is a more effective barrier than social distancing, and protects individuals no matter the distance.
  • Masking is much easier to adhere to and enforce than social distancing.
  • Social distancing is not always feasible in all spaces if we are to return to as close to pre-COVID-19 classroom and work collaboration as possible – in fact, on our campus in general and in many of our academic disciplines in particular, proximity is essential.

Distancing
Unvaccinated individuals should endeavor to socially distance whenever feasible.

Testing
Unvaccinated individuals – or people who have not uploaded evidence of vaccination – will also be required to get tested regularly. A negative COVID-19 test that is no more than two days old will be required for entry into College buildings. Anyone unable to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test will be denied entry to the building. Only tests conducted on campus will be acceptable and only those tests will be linked to the building entry system.

  • Vaccinated individuals will continue to have the option to get tested on campus if they choose, but there is no requirement to do so.

Evidence of Testing
Those testing for COVID-19 will have to download Abbott's Navica app so they can show a negative result to Security to get into campus facilities. There will be a separate process to document a negative test for those who do not have smartphones; instructions on what to do will be available at the Campus Testing Facility at 618 S. Michigan Ave.

90 Day Testing Exception
If you are unvaccinated and recently tested positive for COVID-19, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Chicago Department of Public Health, individuals who have had COVID-19 may test positive for a duration of 90 days even though they are no longer sick. If an individual has tested positive for COVID-19 and been cleared to return to campus by the College, they are not required to be tested for 90 days.

Students

  • An unvaccinated student who has tested positive in the 90 days prior to their arrival on campus, and has informed the college of their positive test, will not be required to display a negative COVID-19 test within the designated timeframe* granted for their 90-day testing exception.
  • An unvaccinated student who has tested positive in the 90 days prior to their arrival on campus but did not report their positive COVID-19 test result to the College must provide medical evidence to receive an exception from the testing requirement. COVID-19 test results should be sent to deanofstudents@colum.edu.

Employees

  • An unvaccinated employee who has tested positive in the 90 days prior to their arrival to campus, and has informed the College of their positive test, will not be required to display a negative COVID-19 test within the designated timeframe* granted for their 90-day testing exception.
  • An unvaccinated employee who has tested positive in the 90 days prior to their arrival to campus but did not inform the College of the positive test, must provide medical evidence to receive an exception from the testing requirement. COVID-19 test results should be submitted directly to Human Resources at humanresources@colum.edu.

*90 days is counted from the date of first symptoms, or the date of a positive test if the person was asymptomatic. This applies to people who have remained and remain asymptomatic since their recovery. People experiencing new symptoms should seek medical attention. 
 
It is recommended by the CDC that Individuals who have had COVID-19 receive the vaccination to protect them from potentially being reinfected with the virus. Those who have had COVID-19 can become vaccinated after completing quarantine. An exception to this recommendation is those who have received monoclonal antibodies. Those individuals must wait 90 days after recovering from COVID-19 to receive the vaccine.
 
Note: The College’s testing requirement is for individuals who are unvaccinated. If a vaccinated individual experiences a breakthrough infection and tests positive for COVID-19, stay home and report your case to securitycommand@colum.edu. Students should also notify Student Relations at studentrelations@colum.edu. Employees and student workers should notify their supervisor that they will be absent. 

Other Campus COVID-19 Precautions

The College is supplementing the masking requirement in several ways:

  • By maintaining capacity limits of 75 to 85 percent in instructional spaces
  • By requiring student vaccination
  • By requiring everyone who is unvaccinated to be tested
  • By conducting, as we did last year, an air assessment across campus. The College has already installed Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation equipment in air systems that serve spaces where higher-risk activities take place (singing, music, dance, theater).

If COVID-19 numbers in Chicago or on campus return to high levels, the College will employ a range of strategies to manage the health risks on campus, including modifying the above precautions and leveraging remote instruction as a last resort where needed.

Campus Visitors (including unregistered students):

Based on latest guidance from both the CDC and State of Illinois, masks are now required indoors at Columbia College Chicago. This applies regardless of your vaccination status -- please disregard any signage you may see on campus allowing some individuals to be unmasked.

Any unvaccinated guest lecturers or contractors providing services coming to campus for more than a one-time visit will be subject to the testing requirement if they are unvaccinated.

For legal and privacy reasons, Columbia cannot maintain medical information about non-students and non-employees. This includes not having emails where third parties disclose their vaccination status to a person affiliated with Columbia. For this reason, the person in charge of the meeting or the class that the guest is visiting may check via phone in advance if a visiting person is vaccinated, and will be required to certify that the guest/visitor has a vaccination card before allowing them to be unmasked. All guests must enter our facilities masked until they provide their host with a proof of vaccination.

It is the host’s responsibility to verify that a COVID-19 vaccination card is produced and to ensure the proper precautions are followed if it is not.

Separate and additional guidance will be issued pertaining to residence hall visitors.

Campus Events

The aforementioned guidance will be in place for all College events with no limit on COVID-19 related capacity.

Any non-Columbia guest attending a College event must follow all College guidelines and protocols.

Private, non-Columbia events that do not involve any Columbia students or employees are not subject to COVID-19 vaccination, masking, and testing protocols; however, such visitors must remain masked until they reach their final event location and in all public areas of the College. All outside events held on campus where Columbia students or employees are present must strictly adhere to Columbia COVID protocols.

Rules enforcement 

As stated above, failure to wear a face covering as required will lead to discipline, up to and including termination for employees, and up to expulsion for students.

Employees

  • Face coveringsManagers are responsible for addressing issues of non-compliance directly with their employees. In cases where there are concerns about exceptions or sensitive circumstances, managers should contact Human Resources for guidance. 

    Disciplinary action may include written warnings, suspension, or termination for failure to abide by the College’s safety measures.
  • Testing — Unvaccinated employees who are out of compliance with the testing requirement will be denied entry to campus buildings, unpaid time off will be applied to the day or days in question, and their managers will be notified. Unvaccinated employees who do not follow the testing protocols will be subject to discipline.

Students

  • Face coverings — Failure to wear a face covering as required will be subject to discipline, up to expulsion for students. 

  • Testing — Unvaccinated students out of compliance with the COVID-19 testing requirement will be denied entry to campus buildings and will be unable to attend class in person or take advantage of other campus facilities. Unvaccinated students not following the testing protocols will be subject to discipline.

Refunds of tuition, fees, and housing costs will not be issued to students who are disciplined for failure to follow Columbia’s COVID-19 policies.


As stated above, everyone possesses one or more effective tools to protect their health regardless of what others do: vaccinated people are protected by the vaccine, and may also opt to also wear a mask; unvaccinated individuals will protect themselves by wearing a mask, testing regularly, and social distancing where possible.

We look forward to welcoming everyone to a re-activated, re-energized Columbia campus this semester.