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Coronavirus Campus Communication 4/16/2020 – Official Message from the Office of the President

Coronavirus Campus Communication 4/16/2020 – Official Message from the Office of the President

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends:

It has been two and a half months since the College issued its first communication regarding COVID-19. At that time, three cases of the virus were being investigated in New York City and none had yet been confirmed in New York or New Jersey. Recent data suggest that there are now nearly 203,000 confirmed cases in New York and nearly 71,000 confirmed cases in New Jersey. While the severity of this pandemic is captured, in part, by case numbers, the toll that it continues to take on our community and our region is truly unmeasurable. Our way of life has been upended, we have lost loved ones, and we have all begun contemplating a truly changed future.

I recognize the pain and anxiety that this turmoil is causing all of us, and the College aims to continue to provide, when possible, support and clarity to our students, faculty, and staff. I write to share with you several important updates on these fronts:

  • Summer Instruction and Operations: The College will continue remote course delivery through the summer sessions. This will not affect the majority of our summer course offerings, as the majority were originally planned to be delivered in online format. However, the face-to-face and hybrid sections will not meet on campus, and instead, the content will be delivered remotely. In addition, we hope to communicate on May 15 how, beyond remote coursework delivery, the College will operate for the balance of the summer based on criteria and guidance from the Governor, public health officials, and the CDC.
  • Student Refunds/Credits: The College will process credit adjustments relating to room and board, and parking for all students not remaining on campus as of March 23, 2020. Several factors are being considered in this process including the potential impact on federal and private financial aid for individual students before making any determinations. Refunds will be available for those not returning to the College in the fall.  We sincerely appreciate everyone’s cooperation as we work through the many details of this process.
  • Class of 2020 Commemoration: Although we cannot all physically gather together with the members of the Class of 2020 as we had originally planned to do on May 14 (Arching), May 15 (Undergraduate Commencement), and May 21 (Graduate Programs Commencement), the College will pay tribute to our graduating students on these days. I am looking forward to joining many of you over the next several weeks in contributing to a series of video, social media, and other virtual collateral dedicated to the Class of 2020 to be revealed on these days. This commemoration is not a virtual ceremony. I remain committed to eventually celebrating the accomplishments of the Class of 2020 in person – even if the timing and format is currently beyond our control.
  • Residential Student Belongings: Our College finds itself in a more challenging position than most other college campuses in that we are located in Bergen County, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in New Jersey. Because of this, our residential students have not yet been able to entirely move out of on-campus housing. When we approached public health officials with a plan to organize a full move-out, they did not approve the plan noting that such an event would pose major exposure issues and a public health threat. However, through collaboration with the Office of Residence Life and Public Safety, opportunities to secure essential belongings were provided over the past several weeks. We have drafted move out plans, but until the potential community spread of COVID-19 has reduced, we will not likely receive approval from public health officials to implement them.
  • April is dedicated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month (APIHM): Despite our remote operations, the College will recognize these dedications through a series of programs. It is imperative that as a part of this recognition we pause to consider, support, and empower those persons for whom these months are intended to honor.
    • SAAM: Crisis situations have a severe impact on victims/survivors of violence, especially those who are also members of marginalized communities. COVID-19 also increases risk factors for violence and isolates victims/survivors.  Please visit the Sexual Assault Resources webpage to learn more about how you can support survivors of sexual assault and violence.
    • APIHM: It is essential that our College demonstrate zero tolerance for discriminatory language such as “China coronavirus”, “Chinese coronavirus”, and “Wuhan Virus,” when defining this pandemic. To echo the sentiments of the San Diego-based Pacific Arts Movement, “Use of such language has led to an alarming increase in consequences ranging from unintended microaggressions to acts of violence and hate towards Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders – further encouraging xenophobia, racism, and dividing us all.” This type of behavior must be condemned and we all have a hand is doing so.  Please visit Asian Americans Advancing Justice webpage and the EDIC webpage to learn more about how you can support APIHM.
  • Leadership and Governance: Senior leadership, along with representatives of the Pandemic Assessment Team, meet and strategize daily. Further, The College’s respective governance groups (Board of Trustees, Student Government Association, Faculty Assembly, Ramapo Staff Association, Board of Governors, etc.) continue to advance initiatives and collaborate with one another.
  • Triumph and Compassion: Despite the unprecedented challenges of this semester, our students are surmounting obstacles and displaying their gumption and versatility in and out of the classroom. Our community is donating to the WeCare program. Our faculty and staff are crafting cloth face coverings for their colleagues and have created and delivered thank you packages to nurses at local hospitals. Our 3D printers are being deployed to make Personal Protective Equipment. Our Health and Counseling professionals are delivering sessions remotely. The list goes on and you can learn about many of these efforts through the College’s social media channels.

Through all of this, the College is modeling possible scenarios for the next fiscal year. All of the models presume significant financial shortfalls as a result of anticipated economic turmoil, as well as declines in auxiliary revenue, enrollment, and State support. We have already clawed back approximately $3M in unspent operating funds via cuts to expenses related to events, programming, and non-essential operations. Although the College stands to receive up to $4.6M in relief from the federal CARES Act, half of these funds will be issued as direct and immediate student relief (we will communicate more on this relief when the guidelines relating to the federal processing are released). The other half will likely be applied to our operational shortfall but, unfortunately, $2.3M is a small fraction of what will be needed to balance our budget.  We know that we will have to significantly change the way we operate without sacrificing our mission and commitment to our students but attempting to describe now what that might look like is impossible. When we know more, we will share more.

The College continues to closely monitor the health and safety guidance from the State, the CDC, and regional authorities. I encourage you to rely on evidence, official communications, and the guidance of experts as we continue to navigate this crisis together. Relevant Ramapo updates are available at www.ramapo.edu/health.

Please, I cannot say this enough, do your best to stay well and take good care of those around you. We will get through this.

Peter P. Mercer
President

Ramapo

Ramapo College’s COVID-19 Resource Page: https://www.ramapo.edu/health/coronavirus-covid-19/

Should you have questions:

  • COVID-19 State of NJ Hotline and Website: (800)222-1222 and https://covid19.nj.gov/
  • Ramapo College COVID-19 Information Line: (201)684-RCNJ or communications@ramapo.edu
  •  Students: Health related questions should be directed to Health Services at (201)684-7536
  • Students who are studying abroad: Contact the Roukema Center for International Education at (201)684-7533
  • Counseling Services: Mental health related services for students can be secured at (201)684-7522
  • Employees: Questions regarding employment should be directed to Human Resources at (201)684-7498 or hr2020@ramapo.edu