Leadership Message from Interim Dean Anil K. Rustgi about the Fall 2020 Semester

Last Friday, President Bollinger announced a revised plan for the fall semester that will scale back residence-hall living for Columbia’s undergraduate students. All undergraduate courses will be conducted virtually, and only those undergraduate students whose personal or academic circumstances make it difficult or impossible to continue their studies remotely will be allowed to live on campus. Plans for the remainder of the university, including the medical center, remain largely unchanged from what we have announced previously.

For those at the medical center whose work or study can only be done on site, we have made transformative changes to our physical spaces to minimize risk. We have greatly reduced the number of people in our facilities in order to allow proper social distancing; we have implemented an internally run testing program and daily symptom attestation; and we have configured the air handling systems to bring fresh outside air into our facilities rather than recirculate indoor air. We are providing face coverings for all faculty, staff and students, as well as sanitizing stations and other improvements. For faculty and staff working on site, we are also offering assistance with child care and transportation, both of which had been identified as crucial needs.  

These and other changes are allowing thousands of medical center faculty, staff and students to work or study on site each day. Through a thoughtful combination of on-site and remote work, our academic and clinical programs are fully operational and remarkably productive. I would like to express my deep gratitude to the hundreds of people across the medical center whose meticulous planning and hard work have helped us reach this point. The spirit in which individuals across the organization have pulled together to solve problems and support one another has been inspiring. Together we have learned to adapt so that our core missions of patient care, teaching, research, and service to our community can advance despite the historic global challenge that we are confronting.  

In closing, I would like to note that tomorrow, August 18th, marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing the right of women to vote. While this was an important step toward a more equal society, it also reminds us—in the context of our current national dialog on anti-racism—that we have more work to do, as a nation and as a university, toward the goal of true equality for everyone. You will be hearing more about the university’s work and our work in this regard in the weeks and months ahead.


Anil K. Rustgi, MD
Interim Executive Vice President and
Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine