Rutgers University’s new leader, Jonathan Holloway, has opened his time in office with the first challenging decision of his presidency: How to handle Fall 2020, the college’s first full semester since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Holloway told the campus community in a letter Monday that the semester will include “a majority of remotely delivered courses with a limited number of in-person classes.”
One critical aspect of the semester is that on-campus housing will be “extremely limited,” the letter said. Chancellors of the various campuses — including New Brunswick, Camden and Newark — will determine how to prioritize housing requests and the university staff will be available to communicate with those who have already placed deposits.
Holloway went on to explain: “Because of the ongoing requirements for social distancing and, guided by our paramount priority of safeguarding the people of our university community, we determined that most courses this fall will have to rely on remote methods of instruction — delivered both in real time and asynchronously.”
While the majority of undergraduate courses will be conducted remotely, those that benefit from direct access to campus facilities will be held in person, the letter said, with appropriate precautions. They include courses that involve the arts, laboratory or field work, and clinical instruction, for example.
In addition, campus events will remain suspended in the fall, while athletics decisions will be guided by state and athletic conference requirements and policies. Student services such as health and wellness counseling will remain available, in some cases remotely and in some in-person.
“This decision was not made easily or hastily,” Holloway said in his letter. “We have had extensive consultation with our public health experts, faculty, deans, provosts and chancellors over the past several months. We have wanted very fervently to be able to resume some version of a normal semester. But, given the continued increase in COVID-19 cases across the country, the near-term outlook for the public health crisis in our state and the uncertainty about the course of the pandemic, we had to make a difficult decision.”
The letter said the COVID-19 telecommuting policy for faculty and staff will remain in place through at least Aug. 31.
Holloway said the university has not determined its course of action for the winter session or spring semester yet.
“As your new president, I would like nothing more than to declare that it’s safe to resume the normal course of operations across all of Rutgers for every member of our community,” he said. “I can assure you that we will do all we can to move toward that goal, knowing how vital our in-person interactions are to the vibrancy of a university.
“And, in the meantime, we will strive to ensure the highest-quality academic experience for all our students, who remain at the center of our mission.”