Chancellor's Message to RU-N Community on Returning in Fall 2020
Dear Rutgers University – Newark community members,
I write to follow up on President Holloway’s message from earlier today and to give some more details specific to Rutgers-Newark, as the path to and through Fall 2020 is becoming considerably clearer. In close coordination with deans, faculty, and staff members, colleagues across Rutgers and academic, advising, administrative, and student affairs offices, as well as having gathered feedback from undergraduate and graduate students, we have compiled a working plan for Rutgers-Newark that describes what we envision the fall semester looking like for us.
Our working plan reflects acute awareness that Rutgers-Newark is an exceptionally mobile university community with an overwhelming majority of people who commute to and from our campus from widely varied locations and local circumstances, including nearly 90% of our students. We know that students, faculty, and staff will continue to face a wide range of personal and localized challenges for months to come. Cognizant of that and consonant with the detailed Rutgers-wide plan, “Returning to Rutgers: A How-To Guide To Repopulating Rutgers Spaces,” and the guidelines of the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, our plan prioritizes the health and safety of our campus and community members.
I strongly encourage all members of our community to review these reports. They articulate parameters that have informed our own planning thus far and reflect our ongoing partnership with colleagues across Rutgers as we continue to develop context-sensitive plans that require further consideration. Among those critically important areas are: student, faculty, and staff training; self-monitoring and health protocols; preparing workspaces and classrooms with equipment and signage to meet hygienic and social distancing guidelines; calibrating transportation plans with anticipated levels of students, faculty and staff expected on campus; and developing individualized management plans for all administrative offices to assure the health and safety of all community members while assuring that services will continue to be provided without interruption through tele-commuting and staggered in-person staffing, as needed. Of course, all plans must remain contingent on continued progress being made across our community and our state in mitigating the effects of COVID-19.
I urge you to read our working plan for the greatest level of detail we can offer at this moment regarding instruction, research, and student life. To enable us to provide the most robust learning and working environments possible under still-evolving conditions, continued patience is needed from all as we account for the impact on specific degree programs and courses, as well as specific staff plans. Below, I provide an executive summary of key sections of that document to provide a sense of our overall direction and the expected modes and scales of our community’s interactions and operations.
We are organizing virtual town hall meetings starting the week of July 13th for new and returning undergraduate and graduate students, and for the faculty and staff councils. We will share more information about these very soon.
Deep thanks go to all of the faculty, staff, students, and academic and administrative leaders who have provided such thoughtful and insightful input to our plans thus far, and whose wisdom we will continue to draw upon as we move forward together.
Working Plan for Fall 2020
For Fall 2020, we will utilize a 3-component model for courses that are usually held on campus: (1) instruction and materials delivered remotely for asynchronous learning, (2) synchronous remote interaction, and (3) in-person instruction where feasible. Most undergraduate and graduate courses will be conducted remotely. In the coming weeks, the deans will communicate directly with the students, faculty, and staff of their schools/colleges regarding how instruction will be conducted in each department and course for Fall 2020. Overall, however, we are prioritizing for in-person instruction those courses in which use of the university's physical infrastructure can most benefit instruction, and in which it is feasible to adhere to the strict precautions of public health officials (e.g., when classes sizes are small and large classrooms are available). In close collaboration with the deans, at this time we have established the following overall plans for selectively prioritizing some in-person classes in some schools and colleges.
- The School of Arts and Sciences-Newark is prioritizing in-person instruction for social work and urban education internships, upper level undergraduate laboratory courses, selected Arts, Culture, and Media courses, and graduate courses that involve experimental work in laboratories.
- Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick is prioritizing the following programs for in-person instruction: Executive MBA, Master of Financial Analysis, and first year students of the full-time MBA.
- Rutgers Law School is prioritizing in-person instruction for clinical work as well as some skills classes.
- The Graduate School-Newark is prioritizing graduate coursework relying on hands-on training and specialized equipment for in-person interactions, while virtual tools will continue to be available for dissertation and proposal defenses, qualifying exams, professional development, and job search preparation such as mock job talks. Graduate students will gradually return to laboratories for their research, depending on public health guidance and university guidelines.
- The School of Criminal Justice and the School of Public Affairs and Administration will conduct all classes remotely.
Support for Students and Faculty for Remote Instruction
Assuring that faculty and staff have the technology and support needed to implement instructional plans and that students have the technology, connectivity, and support needed to participate fully and robustly in courses regardless of the mode of instruction are among our very highest priorities. Throughout the spring, we surveyed faculty, students, and staff to identify individuals who may not have the hardware or bandwidth to engage fully in remote teaching, learning, and support and have found solutions for them through expanded equipment loan programs, connection with service providers, and the dissemination of less technically demanding tools and practices. We will continue this work, but we also look forward to enabling faculty, students, and staff who may have less than ideal work environments at home, or for whom access to disability accommodations and services are important, to return to campus to access services and use offices, libraries, and computing labs once again. During Spring 2020, we had extensive one-on-one consultations with students to provide technological support needed to enable full participation in remote coursework; we will continue this for Fall 2020, including discounted purchases of equipment and software, as well as making computers available on loan when needed. Students who believe they may need such assistance are urged to contact the new RU-N Launch Pad for Student Technology by email or phone at 973-353-5083 to enable us to help find the best solution.
The university has outlined recommendations for the laptops that will meet the majority of students’ needs; purchase options and technical specifications are available from Rutgers Kite+Key Tech Store. Students can access and review discounted systems that may be available by logging in with their Rutgers NetID. The university provides software for free or at a greatly discounted rate on the University Software Portal; required software like anti-virus and Microsoft Office 365 can be downloaded and installed at no charge. The university has also compiled a list of providers that are offering free WiFi during the COVID-19 pandemic, available by visiting the myRUN technological resources page. On-campus computer labs will be open in the fall, operating with social distancing and hygienic measures in place, and Help Desk services will continue remotely. The university’s robust and successful network of instructional support services for faculty members continues this summer through P3: A Collaboratory for Pedagogy, Professional Development and Publicly-Engaged Scholarship and the Office of Technology and Learning Spaces.
Academic advising will proceed through the summer and fall primarily with tele-advising. Supervisors of advising offices are developing plans to provide for staggered in-person office coverage calibrated to state guidelines to allow for in-person meetings when needed; limited in-person advising of students is anticipated to be by appointment. In-person interactions would employ hygienic and social distancing measures.
On Campus Housing and Dining
Approximately 30% of campus housing will be available to students in the fall. Housing will be available to student populations who may need to live on campus, graduate and professional students, and international students. Housing deposits will be refunded for students whom we will not be able to accommodate. Students wishing to apply for on campus housing must do so no later than July 15, 2020. All students living in residence halls will be tested for COVID-19 prior to moving in, reside in single rooms, and will be required to social distance, wear masks, and participate in periodic preventative screenings, as needed. Residence hall lounges will be closed and floor events and group meetings will not take place. Guests will be limited; no overnight guests will be allowed. Dining will be available on a takeout and “grab and go” basis; mobile ordering will be an option. Dining halls will remain closed until such time that they can be safely re-opened. Students, faculty, and staff will have the option of eating in outdoor campus spaces or in socially distanced spaces that will be designated for eating and studying.
As has been communicated to the Rutgers-Newark research community, the research plan involves increasing university research capacity/density in 25% increments, then assessing the results before engaging the next phase. Currently in the second phase, we are operating with approximately 50% of our research capacity and will escalate toward full restoration as state guidelines allow. Advances toward full restoration will occur as state guidelines and additional factors allow, such as the reliability of the supply chains, building maintenance, housing and transportation permit. A four-week long period of satisfactory stability at each level with be a prerequisite for embarking onto the next step.
A negative test for the COVID-19 virus will be required for researchers to work on campus. Faculty advisory groups have been identifying and fleshing out issues specific to research settings in social and behavioral sciences, humanities, agriculture, biomedical sciences, physical sciences, animal research and clinical research. Return to Research plans collected from the Principal Investigators will provide detailed insight into specific conditions in their research setting that will inform how research administrators within schools manage the safe return to research by disciplines from the humanities to community-based research sites. The resumption of full-scale research will be guided by:
- Compliance with relevant federal, state and local laws and Executive Orders
- Striving to return all researchers to full capacity as soon as possible in a safe and sustainable manner
- Strategic use of scarce resources in staffing and operations to achieve maximum impact from research and attract external funding
- Ability to respond effectively to new developments in the COVID-19 pandemic
- Attention to the specific health conditions and risk factors of all individuals
- Action in a coordinated way across all Rutgers locations.
Effective the beginning of the Fall semester, Dana Library will be open to the RU-N community only, with sign-in procedures as required by the University, along with the usual requirement of patrons showing their Rutgers ID. Hours of operation will be 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday – Friday and closed on weekends. The first floor, third floor, and lower level will be available for use by library patrons, including computer labs and open study spaces for undergraduate and graduate students. Hygiene and cleaning protocols will follow CDC and University guidelines, along with best practices in librarianship; a Plexiglas screens will be installed at the Circulation Desk. The stacks will be closed and areas cordoned off to avoid foot traffic. Patrons will place holds on materials through QuickSearch and schedule appointments for pick up. Access Services will institute a paging service where staff will retrieve books from stacks and bring them down so that patrons can pick-up their materials from the counter; curbside pick-up also will be offered starting in early August. Reference and instruction services will continue to occur online. Group study rooms will be closed as they do not allow for social distancing. The Institute of Jazz Studies and RU-N Archives will be accessible online and in-person but by appointment only. Occupancy of the library will be monitored by security personnel and library staff to ensure that state indoor occupancy guidelines are followed.
Enrollment Services & Experience
Financial Aid, Registrar, Student Accounting, and Cashiering services will continue to be offered primarily through remote interactions, employing virtual meetings via video and phone calls. All student registration services (e.g., adding/dropping a class; cross-registration; unemployment tuition plans; adding a major/minor) will be virtual for Fall 2020. In-person consultations, when needed, will be arranged by appointment through an online calendar or email, including in-person payments. All visitors to the offices will need to wear masks. Faculty and staff members likewise will need to call ahead to ensure that offices are prepared to meet in-person. Students are invited to reach out directly through myRUN website, or call 973-353-1766 ext. 1 during business hours.
Student Life/Leadership/Service/Paul Robeson Campus Center Operations
All major programs and events will be facilitated virtually through digital platforms including WebEx, Zoom, and Instagram. Students will also receive communication through email, text message, and phone calls. Veteran Affairs, Undocumented Student Services, LGBTQ Student Services, Community Standards, Title IX and ADA Compliance, International Student Services, the Dean of Students and CARE Team will offer in-person, one-to-one advising meetings by appointment only, using social distancing and hygienic guidelines. Virtual office hours will also be provided. Selected spaces will be made available for student use; no large-scale, in-person events will take place. Some event spaces will be designated and arranged for social distancing to allow for studying, eating, and small meetings. Hand sanitizing, cleaning of high touch surfaces, and clear spatial designations, and PPE will be incorporated into all spaces that are open for community use. The Office of International Student and Scholar Services will provide virtual and in-person services, allowing new and continuing international students to complete visa documents and receive support for a variety of concerns.
The Career Development Center will continue and expand its successful slate of virtual events for students for the fall. The Center will provide career coaching, guidance and support for students in addition to panels and employer information sessions virtually. The CDC will use a mix of live, synchronous events, pre-recorded or asynchronous events, and a regularly updated presence in online spaces to provide a variety of venues for students to connect with the office and further their career preparation. Some scheduled, in-person meetings and guidance for students will be available, while employer information sessions and recruitment will continue virtually.
Health and Wellness
Health and Wellness departments (Student Health Services, the Counseling Center, Disability Services, Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance, and the Health Promotion Division) will continue to provide their services to students remotely. When in-person services are deemed necessary, they will adhere to health restrictions. Student Health Services will lead in providing COVID 19 testing for students, education and training on preventing the spread of the virus and monitoring the health status of those students who present with COVID 19 symptoms. The PantryRUN will continue to be physically open to Rutgers University community members three days per week; food will be distributed in pre-packed grocery bags as has been the practice since the start of the pandemic.