As a uniquely international community, SIPA is paying close attention to the multinational spread of the virus and to the advice of responsible authorities with respect to precautionary measures. Please refer to this page for updates specific to SIPA as well as announcements and helpful resources.

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Updated: March 20, 2020
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Message from Dean Janow – March 13, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

I write to provide further updates on SIPA’s response to COVID-19 and to thank you for your cooperation, patience and courage during this challenging period.

As we learned in President Bollinger’s message of yesterday, all classes will now be conducted online for the remainder of the semester. All Columbia-related business travel, both international and domestic, has been suspended. The University is also strongly recommending the cancellation or postponement of all non-essential events of more than 25 individuals, until at least April 30th. At the same time, the University remains open and functioning.

Our primary focus at this time is ensuring the health and safety of our community while continuing our vital educational mission. I am proud of the extraordinary efforts that converted more than 250 SIPA courses to online learning earlier this week, thanks to the tireless dedication of administrators and faculty.

Going forward, we will endeavor to provide the highest quality of online learning possible by sharing best practices and resources. We are also thinking creatively about steps that we can take to keep our faculty and students engaged with each other and the world. Please feel free to share ideas with me or Vice Dean Scott Barrett or Associate Dean Dan McIntyre.

This is a period of anxiety and uncertainty. I particularly want to recognize the extraordinary response from our students. We appreciate your flexibility as we have transitioned to online learning and your openness to participating in our newly established virtual community.

Because our campus remains open, we are working closely with SIPA staff to initiate a pilot program to learn more about our capacity for mixed on-site and remote work, should this become necessary. We are committed to implementing this program in a way that maintains the health and well-being of our community and the continuity of our student and administrative services.

With spring break upon us, I urge you to continue to monitor your email for updates about changes with respect to University and SIPA actions and recommendations The University’s COVID-19 site provides a central repository of information, where updates are posted as developments unfold. SIPA’s counterpart site can be found here.

We know there are still many questions to answer. We will make every effort to communicate with you expeditiously as plans go forward.

I hope the week ahead is both restful and safe. We are here for you.

Sincerely yours,

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law & International Affairs


Message from Dean Janow – March 6, 2020

Dear SIPA Community,

I am writing to provide an update regarding SIPA's efforts to plan for possible adjustments to ordinary operations due to the COVID-19 outbreak. I also wish to thank you for your help and patience with preparations as we move forward.

As you know, I have established a COVID-19 Planning Group at SIPA (see membership, below). The Planning Group already has met several times. I will outline here a few of the initiatives under way, and provide periodic updates going forward as appropriate:

1. Preparing for the possibility of moving all SIPA courses online. It is possible the University will adopt remote education protocols depending on developments. SIPA is preparing to be ready to implement online education as soon as necessary, although we hope circumstances will not require this. The Office of Academic Affairs and Office of Information Technology are leading this effort and have begun communicating with faculty teaching this semester about the adjustments necessary to maintain the quality of our courses. Additional communications to students will be forthcoming.

2. Preparing for the continuation of student services and advising in the event of a disruption in classroom instruction. Administrative units with significant student service responsibilities, including all advising deans and assigned academic advisors, are preparing for a conversion to online and telephone support in the event of a disruption in classroom instruction or campus operations.

3. Preparing for possible work arrangement and staffing adjustments in the event of a change in Columbia University/SIPA operations due to COVID-19. SIPA will follow University policy in this event. We currently are considering a range of scenarios, from sustaining full staffing if circumstances permit, to reduced staffing with some staff telecommuting, to implementing remote work protocols in the event of a campus closure. In all scenarios we are planning for the continuation of services. We are consulting with unit directors and managers of each administrative unit with respect to planning for various contingencies.

4. Preparing for adjustments in event management. We are proceeding with caution with regard to event management, rescheduling or exploring virtual attendance options if feasible, but otherwise proceeding with events as planned consistent with travel requirements that may apply to international attendees and public health guidance applicable to all public gatherings. Given the changing nature of responses to COVID-19, new and different event guidelines and regulations are possible in response to developments. Until further notice, student organizations have been encouraged by the Office of Student Affairs to submit event requests for approval that the student leaders believe in good faith to be essential or critical to their mission, and to postpone or cancel other gatherings.

5. Communications updates. A dedicated component of SIPA's web site will report developments at the University and SIPA in light of COVID-19 and provide regular updates.

6. Facilities. We are working with University Facilities about adjustments to cleaning and sanitizing protocols appropriate in light of COVID-19. We are using our best efforts to maintain sanitizing stations throughout SIPA facilities in light of product shortages.

The situation obviously is fluid. We will be providing updates as circumstances and developments warrant. Thank you, again, for your patience and help with these efforts.

Sincerely yours,

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law and International Affairs

COVID-19 Planning Group
Colleen Toomey, Dan McIntyre, Patrick Bohan, Milena Cerna, Cory Way, Diya Bhattacharya, Harpreet Mahajan, Hande Mutlu-Eren, Andrew Johnson, Ted Stiffel


Message from Dean Janow – March 4, 2020

Dear SIPA Community,

I am writing to share some information about how SIPA is responding to the worldwide COVID-19 epidemic. SIPA is paying close attention to the multinational spread of the virus and to the advice of responsible authorities with respect to precautionary measures.

Currently, there are no known cases of COVID-19 among Columbia and SIPA students, faculty and staff, and the University’s core campus continues to operate normally.

As you know, however, the Provost’s Office yesterday announced that, effective immediately:

  • All University-sponsored international travel by students is suspended until further notice. This affects all SIPA-sponsored travel by students, including capstones, workshops, internships, and independently arranged travel in conjunction with academic requirements.
  • All University-sponsored faculty and staff travel to Mainland China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Iran and Italy remains suspended until further notice. Additionally, the Provost’s Office strongly urges all faculty and staff to postpone all non-essential University-sponsored international travel.

Even with respect to personal travel, the University is asking all CU travelers to register international travel through the University’s ISOS travel portal. Please contact Senior Assistant Dean Stefan Brown ( in the Office of Student Affairs if you have questions about registering your travel.

CU Health has issued guidance about the precautions each of us should take in our day-to-day activities. These include regular hand washing, staying home if we feel ill, and remaining alert for symptoms of COVID-19. The University’s Preparedness web site provides this and related information.

If you are organizing an academic event or program involving guests who have traveled recently in restricted areas or been exposed to COVID-19, please know that the guests must comply with the same protocols applicable to CU travelers (e.g., travelers who have been in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Italy, Iran, Japan and South Korea in the past 14 days must fill out a secure and confidential registration form and follow the guidance provided). The University will be issuing further guidance later today regarding social events.

I have asked Colleen Toomey, SIPA’s senior associate dean, to help coordinate the School’s planning and response to COVID-19-related issues, which will include managing a small internal working group of SIPA administrators. Further guidance as appropriate will be forthcoming.

I want to convey how appreciative I am of the supportive way in which our community has responded to the COVID-19 outbreak. I know that this is how we will continue to contend with COVID-19 and any other challenges that come our way.

Sincerely yours,

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Practice, International Economic Law and International Affairs


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