Campus Services Express Program Provides Integrated Service to Residential Students during Precautionary Quarantine

Despite an unprecedented beginning to the Fall term, the departments within Columbia University Campus Services committed to providing above-and-beyond care. To make the transition to campus as smooth as possible, particularly for those students observing the 14-day precautionary quarantine, Campus Services delivered key items to residence halls during the Check-In period and first two weeks of the Academic Year.

October 01, 2020

The start of the Fall 2020 term presented a handful of never-before-seen obstacles at colleges and universities all over the world, which were reported on widely in local and national media.

While the majority of Columbia undergraduate students are learning virtually off campus, some have returned to the residence halls for a number of reasons related to personal or academic needs. Following the protocols in place by New York state, the CDC, and the University’s COVID-19 task force, those coming to campus from a restricted state/territory or from level 2 or 3 countries defined by the CDC were required to observe a 14-day precautionary quarantine upon arrival.

The departments within Columbia University Campus Services stepped up to the plate with an integrated solution to take care of all residential students, whether or not they were observing the quarantine period. The Campus Services Express program—a collaboration between Columbia Dining, Event Management, Lerner Hall, Health, Housing, Mail, Print, Transportation, and the University Bookstore—delivered key items like food, mail, packages and course materials directly to the residence halls from Wednesday, August 26 through Saturday, September 19.

During the Check-In process, Columbia Housing assigned temporary rooms to 350 students needing to quarantine. For the first two weeks of the term, these students were not able to leave their room (unless to use the restroom or for medical reasons), enter another resident’s room, or use building amenities like laundry facilities or lounges. Through Campus Services Express, these students were able to receive their essential items delivered directly to them.

Fresh-cooked meals for students on the Columbia Dining Plan were also delivered two times a day: lunch and dinner. Dinner included a continental breakfast for the next day. Students got to pick their meals by ordering through the Columbia Dining Order mobile app, with the option to share any allergies or dietary preferences with the Dining team. Prior to moving in, each Plan holder received two cases of water, a case of juice, and a case of Dunkin Donuts cold coffee, as well as other dining supplies, like plates, cutlery, and condiments.

A Columbia Confessions Facebook post that reads, "6015. Shout out to Columbia Dining and Housing.  I thought moving in was gonna be chaos and that the food was gonna be bad, but move in was super easy and I am getting SO MUCH good food.  Seriously, people don't appreciate how nice things are around here.

“We delivered more than 20,000 meals (approximately 1,100 each day) to the residence halls as well as 2,444 pieces of mail or packages,” said Neftali Rivera, Assistant Director of Operations, Columbia Mail and Transportation, and co-coordinator of the Campus Services Express program. “Food, parcels, Bookstore items—students were able to get everything they needed safely, without leaving their residence hall.”

Medical support through Columbia Health was provided to all students in quarantine, as needed. This included medical check-ins, psychological support (access to individual counseling and virtual support spaces), and communication with the point of contact in their school to provide academic materials and study support for students in isolation.

The deliveries themselves were another avenue for University staff to check on quarantined students and make sure they were doing well. If a student failed to pick up a lunch or dinner order, for example, the Campus Services Express staff alerted the Residential Life team to reach out to the student.

Scott Wright, Vice President of Campus Services summed up the program by saying, “I am proud of the Campus Services team, but not surprised. The pandemic did not change our approach to student service, it altered what must be done to deliver great service. Our motto is: We Create, We Deliver. The demands of supporting students during the pandemic meant we needed to literally create a delivery service, Campus Services Express, to ensure a smooth and positive experience for our residential community. The team approached this opportunity as a moment to excel; a chance to exceed expectations and offer returning students a safe, warm welcome back to campus.”