Back to Campus – Fall 2021

Faculty FAQs

We are excited to return to campus and our in-person activities. The vast majority of our campus community is vaccinated, and we will be able to resume much of the creative activities we could not engage in last year. However, fall semester presents some challenges as we navigate changing health guidance, new variants, and accommodate those members of our community who are not vaccinated for religious, health, and other reasons. As with all aspects of our pandemic response, we can only succeed through patience, open dialogue, and care for one another. We encourage faculty to communicate expectations to students clearly and to take the time to develop a safe and respectful classroom environment. We will update this site whenever necessary to reflect any shifts in our on-campus pandemic response.  

Can I ask my students if they are vaccinated?

Yes, you can, and you can explain to your students why this information is important in order for you to safely plan class activities. However, please note that: 
  You will be able access a list of the students in your class who should maintain physical distancing when possible directly through MyColumbia. Access this information only to inform planning class activities.  

Can my students ask me if I’m vaccinated? 

Yes, they can. You are not obligated to answer, but you may want to consider disclosing your own status as part of your introduction to your classes.  

Is social distancing still required?

Distancing still provides valuable protection for unvaccinated members of the community, but it is less essential than masking and vaccination. Since so many of our faculty, staff members, and students are vaccinated, we have relaxed social distancing expectations to allow for more flexible interactions in our classrooms. Please note that, in general: 
  We continue to cap classes at 75-85% of full capacity in order to allow unvaccinated individuals to maintain distancing as an added mitigation. If you have students in your class with medical or religious vaccination exemptions, you should consider planning class activities that allow those students to maintain physical distancing from other unvaccinated individuals.  

What about masks?

Masks remain an essential tool in protecting all of us from the risks of COVID-19. The CDC tracks community transmission by county, and they recommend that counties with Substantial or High transmission rates should institute indoor masking requirements for everyone – regardless of vaccination status. As long as Cook County remains at a Substantial or High level of community transmission, Columbia College Chicago will require everyone to wear masks. When the level of community transmission drops to more moderate levels, we can again relax this requirement for vaccinated individuals. 

My class includes activities that require some students to remove their masks. What should I do?

You should talk to your area coordinator or department chair. As we did last academic year, we can approve some masking exceptions for essential academic experiences. All exceptions should be reviewed by department chairs and deans so that we can add mitigations – like time limits, distancing, or protective screens – to minimize risk. 

I’m planning to have a guest artist/invited speaker visit my in-person class. What do I need to know?

We continue to support guest artists and guest lecturers on campus. As student-facing visitors, they should follow all of the expectations listed on this page of the Back Together, Columbia plan. As part of your department’s process for approving a campus guest, you should verify their vaccination status. Unvaccinated visitors are required to take COVID-19 test when they arrive on campus. Information about scheduling tests can be found here.

Can I change modalities for some or all of my students?

A sizable majority of our students have clearly expressed that they long to be together and in person. It is essential that hybrid and face-to-face courses provide a rich and full campus experience for them. If you are teaching a hybrid class, your syllabus should clearly state the schedule of in-person sessions, and it is essential that those in-person sessions are not cancelled or converted to remote activities during the semester, unless it is pursuant to a change in the campus safety policy 
If a student requests to attend a hybrid or face-to-face class online, they should be told that in-person course sessions are required. We continue to ask you to be flexible with students who must quarantine or isolate because of illness or exposure; you may (but are not required to) record or livestream your in-person class sessions to accommodate short-term absences. You may not change the modality of a hybrid or face-to-face course for individual students.

What if one of my students tests positive for COVID-19?

If a student tests positive, they should immediately contact Student Relations ( and Campus Security ( to report their case. This notification will trigger our contact tracing process, in which our team interviews the student to determine their activities and interactions during their infectious period. If the contact tracing team determines that a student attended in-person classes during this timeframe, the instructors and all students registered for those classes will receive a timely notification that someone in the class has tested positive. In most situations, this notification will simply advise everyone to self-monitor for symptoms.

If the contact tracing team determines that other members of the campus community were close contacts of the infectious individual, they will communicate additional precautions. Depending on the situation, these precautions may include testing 3-5 days after exposure and/or quarantine for up to 10 days. For more detailed information about our contact tracing process, please see the Back Together plan.

I would like to hold a class session outdoors or off campus. What should I keep in mind?

As a general rule, all college policies follow your class wherever it meets. Organized class field trips should adhere to all campus precautions in addition to any rules in place at the field trip location. If college protections are more strict than those of the host location, your class is expected to follow our guidance.

If your class is meeting outside, you and your students are only allowed to remove face coverings if you are able to maintain strict six-foot social distancing throughout the class session.

Can I eat and/or drink in class or at campus events?

Eating in classrooms is not allowed. Drinking in classrooms is allowed if a mask is only removed very briefly; the mask should be replaced immediately after. No food is allowed at events and meetings.

Eating is only allowed in designated areas: private office spaces and designated eating areas. If you have an office, eat alone. Eating a meal in shared work areas is not allowed. Drinking and snacking at a shared workspace is permitted if you remain masked when you are not actively eating or drinking. Full meals should be consumed separately in a designated eating space. In addition:

What should I do if a student isn’t following the rules?

If a student does not properly wear their mask or maintain the social distancing required when unvaccinated, we encourage you to calmly and discreetly remind them of campus policies. If a student repeatedly refuses to follow college guidelines, you should reach out to to address the violation. If someone is threatening the safety of you or other students, you should contact Campus Security immediately at or (312) 369-1111. 

Where should I tell my students to look for more information about college policies?

Additional information regarding college policies can be found on our website at the links below: