Message from Chancellor: Responding to Evolving Challenges
Dear Rutgers University – Newark community members,
As our community faces challenges at this moment unlike anything that most of us have ever seen, I write first and foremost to thank all who are rising to meet these challenges by marshaling both the very best of their knowledge and expertise and the very best of their humanity. Thank you for contributing to our collective efforts under rapidly evolving circumstances that practically defy imagination.
Earlier today, Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order establishing new restrictions on gathering and other areas of our collective life in New Jersey, including a mandate that higher education institutions cease in-person instruction, effective Wednesday, March 18. As you know, we at Rutgers-Newark and across Rutgers already have moved in this direction.
In preparation for our transition to fully remote instruction next week, faculty members are finalizing both their instructional plans with their departments and deans for going fully remote in each class and their communications plans for explaining to students in each class how instruction will continue in this mode. We offer deep appreciation to our faculty and the staff supporting instruction for pivoting so very quickly in this massive transition.
We offer equally deep appreciation to our staff in roles across the spectrum—from administrative offices, academic departments, and research labs to maintaining buildings and safety and security—whose herculean efforts are enabling us to help the university navigate through truly uncharted terrain. Our Student Affairs and Facilities staffs, in particular, are exercising exemplary professionalism as we strive to accommodate residential students who have no viable option but to remain in university housing while we continue remote instruction.
Reflecting the extension of efforts state-wide, regionally, and nationally to support mitigation of the spread of COVID-19, we are taking the following additional measures.
* We have been encouraging supervisors to exercise flexibility in allowing employees to work remotely. We are now urging supervisors to make arrangements to assure a skeletal presence, as necessary, to maintain business continuity, while increasing flexibility for as many employees as is feasible to work remotely until further notice, in accord with Governor Murphy’s executive order. Supervisors are urged to be sensitive to employees’ home situations, as reflected in Senior Vice President Vivian Fernandez’ message of March 12. Wherever employees must be physically present, best practices in social distancing should be used.
* Effective Wednesday, March 18, we are activating swipe access to all Rutgers-Newark buildings to further minimize the number of people in our buildings and help safeguard the health of faculty, staff, and student users who must be on campus. All faculty, staff, and students will be able to access the Paul Robeson Campus Center, Blumenthal Hall, and Dana Library, as well as the buildings in which they are employed. Law students additionally will be able to access the Center for Law and Justice, including the Law Library. In light of this important change of protocol, all Rutgers-Newark community members should be sure to have their IDs with them whenever they are on campus.
* Effective tomorrow, March 17, 2020, admittance to all Rutgers University Libraries, including Dana Library and the Law Library at Rutgers-Newark, will be limited to users with current Rutgers IDs.
* Our Facilities staff is in the process of sanitizing all buildings. While this takes place, some areas to which we normally have access may be temporarily unavailable for use, so we ask for patience while this critically important work is done.
* This week (Spring Break), Starbucks and JBJ Soul Kitchen are open for grab-and-go food; Stonsby Dining Center is closed this week and will reopen on Sunday, March 22.
I could not be more proud of our community and I am beyond grateful for the generosity of spirit I see in the actions of so many. I see in those acts, large and small, a fundamental characteristic of the Rutgers-Newark community, as well as our broader Newark community: resilience grounded in the determination to overcome obstacles and the recognition that we cannot do so without relying on each other.
I offer special thanks and special words of encouragement—on behalf of us all—to our students. You reflect Rutgers-Newark’s resilience profoundly. We are so grateful that you are who you are, bringing your full selves to everything you do here. We are grateful to your families and your communities for shaping you and supporting you in your educational journey even as it takes unforeseen turns. All of that is why our highest priority is to do everything we can to help you remain on track to earn your degrees and make a difference in our world—a world that needs you now more than ever.
In the coming weeks, each of us and all of us undoubtedly will be tested in even more ways than we can foresee. As these tests unfold, let’s remember that our strength lies in each other.