Art History and Archaeology COVID-19 FAQs

Last updated: Monday, May 25, 2020.

For all official COVID-19 updates from GSAS, please visit:

Health Questions

Are students or faculty who contract the virus requested to report that either within the department or to the university?

No, matters of personal health are confidential. There is a CU hotline, 212-854-9355, but it is for information only.

Additional information here:

Can Columbia student health insurance be extended post-graduation?

Arts & Sciences administration is discussing the matter with State authorities.


Will Fall 2020 be online?

No decision has been made yet about Fall 2020 instruction. A decision will likely be made in June.

GSAS announced on May 13 that it will offer continuing Master’s students who are working on their theses the opportunity to take language courses relevant to their research in the SPS 2020 summer session. What is the procedure?

Continuing Master’s students who wish to take summer language courses relevant for their thesis research should:

1. Have their MA Program Director certify that the courses are necessary for thesis research by sending a message of confirmation to

2. Check summer registration appointment times on SSOL, and register for the approved course(s).

Please note:

Students may register for up to 8 credits of relevant language coursework offered by the Columbia Summer Session.

Students who take only language courses this summer should register by the point through the Summer Session.

Students who take language courses this summer in addition to courses that will not count towards their degree requirements should register by the point through the Summer Session.

Students who take language courses this summer in addition to courses that will count towards their degree requirements should register for the appropriate residence unit category.

Students who register for a residence unit category and take courses in addition to the approved language course will receive a prorated fellowship based on the total number of credits taken.

Students should complete the Summer Tuition Credit form and indicate clearly that they are a Master's student. The GSAS Office of Financial Aid will apply a tuition credit to students’ accounts on or about July 10 and will reverse any late fees that may have accrued for the summer term. Students with late payment fees on their student account at the start of the fall 2020 semester that are due to the summer tuition credit should contact the Office of Financial Aid for assistance.

Students are responsible for all course fees.

Students must complete all courses for which they receive Summer Tuition Credit. After the tuition credit has been awarded, students will be solely responsible for the tuition if they drop courses after the full-tuition refund deadline set by the Office of the Registrar for the session in which the courses are taken.

Some MA students are hesitant to register for fall courses. What should they do at this time since no announcement has been made about the Fall 2020 semester?

GSAS advises that continuing students should register to make sure they get the courses they want. If they decide later that they don't want to take classes in the fall, they may drop the classes before the end of add-drop and receive a full refund.

Many courses have books on reserve that students will no longer be able to access. Instructors also typically require students to complete research projects that depend on access to non-circulating collections. Will course requirements change for the remainder of the semester?

Yes, instructors and students alike are encouraged to maximize use of materials available online, modifying assignments based on our new circumstances.

If students must take more than one incomplete this semester, will it affect their academic standing?

We recognize that with the libraries closed and only limited resources available online, students may not be able to research and write seminar papers for their Spring courses. In the event a student must temporarily take more than one incomplete, we will ask GSAS that it not affect the student’s academic standing. That said, students are strongly encouraged to complete coursework if possible.

A mail of March 20 from President Bollinger stated that “all classes this semester will be graded pass/fail.” May students petition to receive a letter grade instead?

No, this is not an option.

Update April 1: A final letter grade may be used ONLY for Master's theses where academic work on the thesis spanned multiple semesters of formal MA thesis classes.

I opted to take a course for R credit at the beginning of the Spring 2020 semester. Can I still receive R credit?

As of April 5, the university will permit the use of R credit since it is consistent with the intent of mandatory Pass/Fail grading this term.


A number of students have qualifying exams scheduled for the following weeks. Should they postpone them?

No, if at all possible, students should take their exams using Zoom. Postponing may have longer term consequences for their progress through the program. All students preparing to take exams should discuss the situation with their committees.

Are in-person orals and defenses still permitted, or must all be done remotely?

As non-essential personnel have now been asked not to come to campus, all exams and defenses should be conducted remotely. Please write to Nicole Meily for more information.

Will there be any change to the structure and content of oral exams, in view of the library closure?

Students who had been planning to take oral exams in the weeks after Spring Break and who feel that the closure of the libraries significantly impeded their preparations should speak with their advisors and indicate 1) what the student had covered before last week, 2) what the student can still do with online resources, and 3) what it is no longer possible to study.

If, following this conversation, the student and the advisor agree that the exam can still reasonably go forward, those three questions should provide a new framework for its content.


Many students cannot satisfactorily complete their coursework or make progress in their research without access to Avery Library. Is it possible that some books may be allowed to circulate on an exceptional basis?

This possibility was being examined by the library staff when it was announced that the whole library system would close. There is at present no way for anyone to check out books.

AHAGA is gathering a list of online resources here. Columbia’s libraries are also actively working to expand their online resources to assist students. Please visit this page:

Please also write to if there are library materials that you can’t access remotely.

What can I do if there are library materials I can’t access remotely and I would like a librarian to help?

Per GSAS’ May 13 message to MA students: please write to and Columbia Libraries will get in touch with you about your research needs.

MA students have had to pay for research materials due to library closures. Could the Department create a compensation fund for students?

The Department is looking into this.

Will MA students lose access to their UNIs and library privileges if they defer their graduation to October 2020?

Student UNIs and library privileges will not expire. Students can still access online library resources to finish their theses. The GSAS Library Affiliation Form is not needed in this case.

Graduation dates and requirements

For graduate students who want or need to complete in May, can GSAS extend the deadline for the completion of degree requirements (including thesis deposit)?

On April 1, GSAS confirmed the following extended deadlines for May degrees:

For the PhD: students must deposit their dissertations by May 22, 2020.

For the MPhil: GSAS must receive the MPhil application by May 29, 2020.

For the MA: students must complete coursework in time for their MA programs to submit graduation lists to the Registrar by June 4, 2020.

Revised GSAS policies are archived here:

The current submission date for the MA thesis is May 4, 2020, and the current commencement date is May 20, 2020. How flexible is the May 4 deadline? Is it possible for a student to submit an MA thesis closer to the commencement date and still receive a May degree?

Update, May 14: MA students may deposit their thesis until June 4 and be cleared on that day for graduation and still receive the MA degree on May 20, 2020.

For those who want or need to complete in May, what is now the procedure for submitting the MA thesis?

Instead of submitting a final bound copy of the thesis in person to Nicole Meily, as is normally required, students should email her a PDF version of their final thesis (i.e., the version that your advisor has approved). Once the Department office reopens, Nicole will add these to the students’ files.

Students should also complete an MA Thesis Approval Cover Sheet and email this to their advisors. Once advisors have signed the sheet, they should email it to Nicole, CCing the student. Alternatively, they can write an email to Nicole, confirming that they have approved your thesis, CCing the student. All MA thesis advisors will be informed of the new procedure, so that they know what to do/expect.

For students who cannot complete their MA theses in May, what are the alternatives?

The main alternative is to take an incomplete for the thesis and apply for an October or February degree. Students can work remotely while finishing their theses and do not need to be registered at Columbia during the summer and fall while completing their thesis. The IN will be changed to a letter grade once the thesis is approved by the advisor. Once the grade is submitted, the student will be cleared for degree conferral.

Will deferring a degree date impact the visa status of international students?

According to Dean Alonso, if otherwise graduating students took incompletes in their spring classes, they would not need to register again; they could complete their work during the summer or fall and have the marks of incomplete changed to letter grades and be certified to graduate for the next degree conferral. If international students do not wish to complete the degree requirements remotely (from their home country) but instead wish to remain in the US after the spring term, they would have to be registered. We have asked for GSAS for clarification on what this means in terms of costs.

Will the GSAS Convocation and University Commencement still take place?

These events took place online. Please visit the GSAS and University Commencement websites for more information.

Employment, Career Development, and Alumni Events

Will departmental research assistantships be created in the near future?

The Department is looking into this. Graduating students do not qualify for RAships paid through Columbia, but professors can hire students privately at their discretion (international students should consult with ISSO about their eligibility for such positions).

Have any career development and alumni events been planned?

Par GSAS May 13 message to MA students: The GSAS Alumni Association is planning events for 2020 graduates. The first in the series will be held the evening of Thursday, May 28. Register here for more information. New virtual networking events will appear on the 2020 Graduates page as soon as available.

Workshop series targeted at graduating MA students (but open to all): Job Search Strategies During COVID-19

What support does GSAS offer with job searches during COVID-19?

There are targeted programs for both MA and PhD graduates.

As MA students learned in a May 13 message from GSAS, they may join GSAS Compass – the new Graduate School career development unit – for a weekly workshop series in June. Designed for MA students and 2020 graduates seeking jobs during the pandemic, it will focus on what students can do this summer. Dates and times will be announced soon.

As of July 1, Rachel Bernard, the Director of Graduate Career Development in GSAS and Associate Director, Francesca Fanelli, will be taking over individual career counseling from the Center for Career Education. They will be holding one-on-one meetings with recent graduates of GSAS (MA and PhD) to assist them in their post-graduate goals. Sign up will be through the GSAS Compass website.

CCE’s page on career exploration for Humanities PhDs:

Are there resources available to locate remote work opportunities during the pandemic?

Job boards for remote work:

International Students

Link for information: ISSO is fully operational. Please write to them at if you have specific issues and concerns.

If you are on a Fulbright, we strongly encourage you to please get in touch with your country’s Fulbright liaison.

Since classes have been moved online, what will happen to the status of international students?

The Department of Homeland Security has permitted international students to maintain their F-1 status while completing coursework online or abroad. Students must continue to be enrolled on a full-time basis.

I deferred my graduation from May to October 2020. What will happen to my status? Do I still need to register? Can I finish my thesis abroad?

Students can still maintain their immigration status and take an IN for the thesis course and work remotely over the summer without having to register and pay tuition.

As announced by ISSO in February, students who have applied for OPT to stay in the US would not need to be registered either, and could complete their thesis work in the US.

Without the ability to travel, how can I renew my visa?

Students can stay in the country with an expired visa, so long as they are registered and not violating the terms of the visa. Students can use an expired visa to apply for CPT and OPT.

Is it too late to apply for OPT?

If you are graduating on May 20, 2020, it is not too late. You need to be in the US in order to apply. Please contact ISSO if you are currently not in the country.

If I can’t renew my visa, can I still enroll in courses or teach?

Yes. You can and should enroll to maintain your status, even with an expired visa. If you have a teaching appointment, you can teach with an expired visa.

For students stuck abroad, are there stipulations for how long they can stay outside of the US without affecting their visa status?

There are no stipulations as long as courses remain online. You don’t need to update your address until you return to the US.

If I need more time to complete the program, will that have an impact on my F-1 visa?

In general, students who need more time to complete the program should file for an extension of their I-20 to extend and maintain their status. Please consult the ISSO website for further instructions.

Can international students teach online in the Fall?

No information about Fall 2020 has been announced. Once a decision is made, ISSO will work to see what guidelines and policies are put into place. Please stay tuned for more information.

Use of offices and other Schermerhorn spaces

A March 16 message from the Provost stated: “Only essential research will be permitted to continue and only personnel who are essential to conduct the permitted research and to maintain the equipment and other laboratory assets may remain on campus.” Many faculty and staff members have their books and files in their offices. Are they still permitted to enter those offices?

Effective March 22 at 8pm, routine office use is no longer permitted. Faculty may use offices when it is necessary in order to keep up the School’s distance learning efforts.

May students use the Stronach Center?

No, use of common areas on campus is prohibited until further notice.

Will mail delivery continue to Schermerhorn?

As of March 16, the University was continuing to deliver mail to departments as usual. It will soon change its procedures, however, and deliver mail to a central location. An announcement about this is forthcoming.


A message from President Bollinger instructed all undergraduates who could leave campus housing to do so. Does this apply to graduate students as well?


If students opt to move out of Columbia housing this bring, must they remove all their belongings or may they leave things until they return? If they fully vacate their apartments, will they be able to move back into housing when the crisis is over?

As of March 16, students who opted to move out of Columbia housing were expected to remove all their belongings. Updates to this policy will be posted here:

If students opt out of Columbia housing now, can they move back into Columbia Housing again at a later time?

David Greenberg, EVP of Facilities and Housing, has agreed that students who break their lease now will receive priority to reenter Columbia housing. However, there will not be a guarantee that they will be assigned the same apartment.

(This was confirmed in an email sent by Dean Alonso to the graduate students on March 20.)

May students sublet apartments, beginning immediately rather than waiting until the summer?

Yes, but for the moment only to Columbia affiliates.

I will be in my eighth-year of the PhD program in 2020-21 and currently live in University Apartment Housing. Will an exception be made to the 7-year housing eligibility policy?

As of May 5, Columbia Residential is now permitting rising 8th-year PhD students to extend their leases until August 15, 2020.

Will graduating students receive housing extensions?

As of May 5, graduating students (MA and PhD) may extend their Columbia Residential leases until August 15, 2020.

Are there plans for Columbia Residential to provide rent relief?

On April 5, Columbia Residential announced that they are not able to provide rent relief for students who wish to keep their Columbia units throughout the summer and beyond.

Will there be a rent increase in Columbia Residential housing?

On May 9, GSAS announced that rent for graduate students (MA and PhD) continuing in Columbia Housing will remain at current levels for the next academic year.

Summer stipend support

If students opt to remain in their apartments, is there the possibility that the Department or the University will supplement summer stipends so that they will be able to pay Columbia rent?

On April 20, GSAS announced that students in years 1-7 will receive a 2020 summer stipend enhancement of up to $3,000. $1,500 will be distributed to all eligible students before June 1st; no application is required. Students may apply for a second disbursement of $1,500 if they do not have summer employment at the University. Application instructions will be forthcoming from the schools. The second disbursement will be paid by the end of July.

Is the summer stipend supplement taxed?

According to SFS, University does not withhold tax on stipends for domestic students. International students can expect to have the 14% withheld. Please see these pages for more information:

Can students who just defended but are within the years 1-7 limit receive the $1,500 installments?

Students who will graduate in May 2020 are not eligible for the stipend.

Are there any other factors besides summer employment that will affect whether or not a student will receive the second disbursement of $1,500? Will other forms of employment affect my eligibility to receive this second disbursement?

Any employment on campus in Summer 2020 will count. Students will have to decide after calculating potentially higher earnings from working vs not working and taking the second disbursement. If a student is offered to teach during the summer but declines, then they are eligible to receive the second disbursement of $1,500. A Columbia fellowship (with no services involved) does not count as employment.

In addition, casual employment for which the student earns less than $1500 will not stop the second payment.

Will there be any financial support for MA students?

At this time, GSAS has not made any announcements about funding support for MA students.

Is there additional financial support available to GSAS students?

On April 16, GSAS announced the GSAS Community COVID-19 Emergency Fund. Registered MA and PhD students experiencing time-sensitive financial emergencies can apply for grants up to $500. Please see this page for more information.

Summer funding, grants, and fellowships

Can the summer funding that students apply for through the Department, including Lee MacCormick Edwards and Casa Muraro fellowships, be awarded on an exceptional basis to research that is not performed on-site this summer?

While the Lee MacCormick Edwards Fellowships are primarily designed to support library, archival, and collection research in Europe between the months of June and August 2020, the Foundation has kindly granted us permission to support research activities that do not take place on site but can be accomplished with online resources instead.

We have been permitted to use Casa Muraro summer funds only for in-situ research in Venice. Funds cannot be disbursed until university policies allow travel again and when such research is possible again in the libraries and archives in Venice.

What is happening with GSAS Travel Fellowships?

GSAS is moving forward with the normal review process, in the hope that by August or September, it will be possible for awardees to travel.

Will there still be an opportunity for MA students to apply for summer thesis research funds?

Yes. A call for applications was not sent for this summer due to travel restrictions. We hope to solicit applications in the fall for potential research during the winter break.