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Coronavirus Campus Communication 7/15/2020 – Official Message from the Office of the President

Coronavirus Campus Communication 7/15/2020 – Official Message from the Office of the President

Dear Students and Colleagues:

I write today to advise that after considerable internal planning and review of state, local, and federal guidance and data, the Fall 2020 semester at Ramapo College will feature a combination of limited in-person and remotely delivered instruction as well as modified levels of on-campus activity, residency, and programming.

The Ramapo College Restart Plan (hereafter “the Plan”) has been meticulously developed by a Task Force, numerous subcommittees, and a group of resource personnel. In sum, 48 members of the College, inclusive of faculty, staff, and managers, participated in its development.  We have outlined our return to campus with a phased approach, which is aligned with the three-stage approach communicated by the State of New Jersey.

Three Stages of Restart and Recovery

NJ’s three Stages of Restart and Recovery, as they pertain to higher education, are outlined at https://nj.gov/highereducation/documents/pdf/index/OSHErestart.pdf.  New Jersey is presently in Stage 2, and this announcement is predicated on the State remaining in Stage 2. Our Plan, however, provides the ability for the College to adeptly pivot from one stage to another.

For each Stage, the College has developed customized plans and protocols for research, transportation, computer labs and library services, dining, study abroad, and international travel.  I will not detail those here, but I strongly encourage you to review them on your own and with your peers. I will spend some time on the following areas of focus in the Plan: Safety, Health Screening, Testing, and Contact Tracing; Instruction; Residential Housing; Student Services; and Athletics. In addition, you can look forward to more targeted and detailed messages about our Restart from the Provost, Residence Life, our five Deans, Athletics, Human Resources, and others in the coming days.

RCNJ Restart

Safety, Health Screening, Testing, and Contact Tracing

The Plan delineates our protocols to foster a safe on-campus environment whether we are operating in Stage 1, 2, or 3. Details on cleaning and sanitization, face coverings, PPE, social distancing, health and safety tutorials and trainings, testing protocols, medical transports, work area and classroom configurations, visitor and guest restrictions, tracing applications, and more are outlined in the Plan.

Social distancing will be required and face coverings will be required in all indoor shared spaces and outside when social distancing is not possible. There will be consequences for non-compliance. In addition, an enhanced protocol and schedule of cleaning and sanitization of high touch surfaces, instructional spaces, work areas, and computing equipment will be mandated. The effective implementation of these mitigation strategies and countless others relies on every member of the College to participate in and adhere strictly and consistently to health and safety standards.  This is so important to our organizational and individual health.

Instruction

Students, let me be unquestionably clear on this front, your academic success remains paramount to all of us. You have come to Ramapo College to learn, to better yourself, and to succeed. We remain committed to your success and to ensuring a healthy and safe environment from which you can continue to grow as scholars.

We have conducted multiple surveys of students and faculty to assess their remote experiences in Spring 2020. The data gleaned revealed both strengths and opportunities for improvement. This data was shared with our Deans and faculty and has been used by many of them as they prepare their classes for Fall 2020 and commit to providing every student with a more fulsome and intentional learning experience. Further, I am pleased to report that the College, in partnership with community organizations, was able to meet the needs of students who reported, through the surveys and elsewhere, having insufficient technology or Wi-Fi for remote instruction, and we have every intention of continuing to do so for Fall 2020.

Should NJ remain in Stage 2, in-person instruction must be limited to labs, technical, clinical, or hands-on instruction as per State mandates. Should NJ advance to Stage 3 before August 3, most in-person instruction and other curricular activity will be permitted to resume in a modified fashion and will be conducted in strict accord with occupancy, health and safety guidelines. Should NJ regress to Stage 1, the College will revert back to remote operations and all in-person instruction, which is prohibited by the State during Stage 1, will immediately transition to virtual/remote delivery mode.

The Plan delineates several protocols for each of these instructional models. Each Dean has worked with his/her faculty in this regard and will provide updates on specific courses that will use at least some in-person, face-to-face instruction.  The protocols in the Plan go on to address classroom configurations, laboratory dividers, health screenings, technology, virtual office hours, attendance and related accommodations.

Residential Housing

Should the State remain in Stage 2 or advance to Stage 3, the College will limit residential occupancy to approximately 40% and 60%, respectively, and priority will be provided to students who are housing insecure, international students, EOF Scholars, students without transportation who are enrolled in classes held on campus, and others (as outlined in the Plan). More information on this prioritization will be communicated by the Office of Residence Life in the coming weeks.

Should the State regress to Stage 1, there will be no residential housing save for students who demonstrate extenuating circumstances. In addition, the College has established infection prevention measures for shared residential spaces, restrictions on guests and visitors, one-student-per-bedroom assignments, and we have set aside a number of residential units for self-isolation/quarantine.

Student Services

Regardless of Stage, the College will continue to provide students with the services they have come to rely upon. Advisement, wellness, account management, student programming, counseling, etc. will still be 100% available to students— albeit the delivery of these services may be largely remote. As the State continues to move through Stage 2 or as it advances to Stage 3, students can anticipate increased on-campus presence by several student service units.

Students should also expect to transition to an appointment culture for services rather than our more traditional drop-in practices. Waiting rooms will be modified. Group sessions, meetings, and programs, when possible, will be delivered through virtual technologies. Student-centered programming and events will also be modified in accord with occupancy and health and safety guidelines.

Athletics

All of the College’s Athletics activities follow the protocols outlined and agreed upon by the New Jersey Athletics Conference (NJAC) and the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) in order to provide ample measures to mitigate health and safety risks.

Should the State remain in Stage 2, varsity sports that are defined by the state as“low-” or “medium-” risk will occur in the fall (men’s and women’s cross country, tennis, men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey, and women’s volleyball), however, on-campus pre-season activities are cancelled. Safety and health considerations will be reassessed prior to the Winter and Spring seasons to determine which sports will be offered then. There will be no intramural or recreational sports. Should the State regress to Stage 1, there will be no athletics, intramural or recreational sports. Should the State advance to Stage 3, the protocols in place for Stage 2 protocols will continue and health considerations will be reassessed to determine whether intramural and recreational sports will be permitted.

The Plan goes on to detail the robust health training, screening and testing of student athletes and athletics professionals, safeguarding of fitness and sports equipment, as well as the management of team meetings, practices, transportation, and event audiences.

Looking Forward

Please note that the College has not made any decisions regarding the Winter term or Spring semester. We will make those determinations later this year in consultation with the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education and in accord with federal and state guidance.

The College remains committed to student success and campus safety and I am grateful for your continued contributions on these fronts.

Please take care of yourself and one another.

Peter P. Mercer
President