When The College of New Jersey President Kathryn Foster announced the updated guidelines for the fall semester Monday — including all-remote learning and extremely limited on-campus housing and activities — she did so with a special note to the incoming class.
“I know this is not how you envisioned spending your first semester of college, especially after ending your senior year of high school remotely,” she said.
Of course, TCNJ’s updated guidelines — an revision to the Fall Flex plan it announced in June — put it in line with most other universities in the state and around the country. In announcing the move, Foster noted the following:
- To reduce on-campus density, housing will be granted only by exception, limited to students with particular and extraordinary circumstances.
- The school has made significant investments in delivering high-quality remote instruction. Faculty have participated in summer workshops on remote learning, course design and use of technology to help them revise and prepare dynamic courses for this mode of delivery, she said.
- Students can still expect individualized and small group mentoring and advising by committed faculty members. Foster said faculty are committed to ensuring that remote learning is equitable and inclusive, with every aspect of course design being considered to set up each student for a successful remote semester.
- Students also can expect robust virtual research opportunities and connection to internships and community-engaged learning, she said.
Foster stressed many of the virtual student support services originally outlined on the Fall Flex website will remain available under this plan. She said the career center will be offering remote career fairs and interview days. The Center for Student Success will offer its usual CSS Workshop Series and will add new topics specifically related to being successful in a virtual environment.
Students also will have access to TCNJ’s virtual computer lab, with a suite of software and technical assistance. Mental Health Services will be offering individual and group counseling as well as workshops throughout the fall 2020 semester, and Student Health Services will be scheduling appointments using a telehealth format.
Foster said the decisions did not come lightly — and are a result of the state remaining in stage 2 of its reopening plan.
“I understand that this revision to Fall Flex is a disappointment in a season of them,” she said. “From the outset of our planning this spring, we have followed the guiding principle that the health and safety of our community is paramount. In addition to state policy restricting what we can do this fall, we recognize numerous concerning factors, including the surge and resurgence of the virus nationally and locally, overburdened service and supply chains that interrupt our ability to satisfy health and safety protocols, and rising infection rates for younger people.
“Added to these is disquieting and incontrovertible evidence of community spread arising from group gatherings, including religious services, schools, sports practices, parties and congregate living arrangements such as nursing homes and dormitories. Together, these factors and forces led us like many others across higher education to conclude that we are best served by more severely reducing density and activity on campus this fall.”
Foster said the school will do its best to help incoming students feel welcome.
“Please know that we are developing new Welcome Week plans for you,” she said. “Consistent with state guidelines, we hope to augment virtual orientation experiences with in-person visits to campus to learn about services and meet with classmates, staff and others in socially distanced settings. First-year students and incoming transfers will receive an email in coming days outlining plans for virtual and possible in-person options.”