BREAKING: Campus buildings, dorms to close; Columbia community member diagnosed with coronavirus

By Alexandra Yetter, Editor-in-Chief

Justin Anderson
Students pack up their belongings to leave the Dwight dorm building, Saturday, March 14.

Updated 03/19/2020 at 5:00 p.m. with additional information regarding the affected community member and the school’s process for notifying those who may have been in contact from Lambrini Lukidis, associate vice president of Strategic Communications and External Relations: 


Columbia will shutter its campus doors and residence halls in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

According to a Wednesday, March 18 email to students, faculty, staff and parents from President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim, all campus buildings and campus housing will close Sunday, March 22 at 5 p.m. until further notice.

Kim encouraged students in dorms to make travel arrangements, but if they are unable to move out by March 22, he advised contacting Director of Residence Education Kelli Collins to make alternative arrangements.

However, students were told they do not need to take all of their belongings with them, just items they need to travel. The college plans to update students living in residence halls about collecting the rest of their belongings at a later date, according to the email.

Associate Vice President of Strategic Communications and External Relations Lambrini Lukidis said the college is actively reaching out to international students to assist them with housing or relocation. For any students unable to relocate, Lukidis said the college will provide assistance.

“Because the majority of our students have already left campus, and many of our faculty and staff are practicing social distancing by working remotely, we have significantly lessened the risk of exposure on campus,” Kim said in the email.

Kim also reported that “a member of our campus community” self-reported being diagnosed with the coronavirus, or COVID-19, late on Tuesday, March 17.

“Like many communities around the world and across our country, Columbia has been touched by the coronavirus,” Kim said.

The college would not comment on whether the individual was a student, faculty member, staff member or administrator.

In response to follow-up questions from the Chronicle regarding the identity of the Columbia “community member” who self-reported being diagnosed with the coronavirus, Lukidis said the college could not comment on whether they were a student, faculty member or staffer for privacy reasons. However, she confirmed that the individual regularly accessed the 33 E. Ida B. Wells building.

Per CDC guidelines, Lukidis said the college has already contacted people who were determined to have been in direct contact with the community member, or people who may have been potentially exposed while being in the same space or touching the same equipment. She said that local health authorities were also informed.

“The college understands this is unsettling and people are anxious,” Lukidis said. “Please remember to monitor your symptoms, practice social distancing and contact a health care provider if you experience fever, coughing and shortness of breath.”

The individual is self-isolating and has not visited campus since March 13, the email stated. The person diagnosed with coronavirus reported only being in the 33 E. Ida B. Wells building, which was immediately closed for 48 hours for deep cleaning. Employees working in the building will be able to access it Friday, March 20 to collect their belongings.

Kim also provided an update on how academics will continue online-only for the remainder of the semester. On Monday, March 23, instructors will announce how classes will be run remotely.

“We anticipate that the vast majority of classes and associated course activities can be delivered in this manner,” Kim said in the email. “In the minority of instances in which instruction and course assignments cannot easily be delivered remotely, we will be announcing specific ways to address particular situations in coming weeks.”

Online courses will resume after spring break, beginning on Monday, April 6.

“Our goal is for all students to be able to successfully complete their spring semester coursework and for our graduating seniors to complete their degree requirements,” Kim said.


Check back for more updates.