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Academic Components of the College's Restart Plan

TO: All Students, Faculty, and Academic Affairs Staff

FROM: Dr. Susan Gaulden, Interim Provost / Vice President for Academic Programs

 

Dear Students, Faculty, and Academic Affairs Staff,

By now I hope you have had a chance to review the Ramapo College Restart Plan, which is posted on our website (www.ramapo.edu/health/coronavirus-covid-19/). I am writing to summarize the most important academic-related points of our Plan and to share a few additional important and practical details related to the following Plan components:

  • Instruction;
  • Computer Labs/the Library;
  • Research; and
  • Study Abroad and International Travel.

First, it is important for everyone to understand that the Restart Plan and College operations must align with all State mandates and NJ Office of the Secretary of Higher Education requirements, which vary depending on the Stage of reopening the New Jersey is in. Governor Murphy decides the State’s reopening Stage, which varies from 1 (most restrictive) to 3 (least restrictive) before returning to normal operations. New Jersey is in Stage 2 currently, but this could change depending on the presence and effect of the pandemic.

For planning purposes, some lead time is also needed by the College to prepare for Fall 2020 classes, which includes adjusting class instruction modes and schedules and reconfiguring labs, classrooms, and studio spaces. Therefore, the decision on how to proceed with the Instruction component of the Restart Plan will be made based on whatever Stage the State is in at the end of day on August 3, 2020. The other academic-related Plan components listed above can more easily pivot from one Stage to another and so the deadline to decide how these other operations will proceed is less strict.

Details are provided below for each academic-related Restart Plan component. Details on other Plan components (i.e., General Safeguarding; Screening, Testing & Contact Tracing Protocols; On-Campus Residential Housing; Student Services; Transportation; Dining; and Athletics) are available in the Restart Plan itself.

Instruction

The Fall 2020 academic calendar has not been changed (www.ramapo.edu/academic-calendars/future-calendars/). Fall classes will begin on September 2, 2020 as planned.

If the State is still in Stage 2 as of the end of day on August 3, 2020, the Fall 2020 semester will proceed as follows: Only labs, clinical rotations, and hands-on classes are allowed to be held in person on campus, while all lecture and seminar classes must be delivered remotely by State mandate. In addition, virtual class options must be offered for students and faculty who are immunocompromised or at risk of contracting the virus. This means that the majority of the Fall 2020 semester will consist of virtual classes, but some face-to-face, in-person lab, Nursing, arts, and conditioning/exercise classes will be offered at Ramapo College if NJ is in Stage 2 on August 3rd.

If the State advances to Stage 3 by August 3rd, a larger variety of face-to-face, in-person classes will be offered on campus. However, the State still requires us to provide virtual classes for students and faculty who are immunocompromised or at risk, so at least some sections of courses will be delivered remotely. If any student is unable to attend in-person classes held on campus but there is no virtual option, academic advisors must help find an appropriate course substitution or assist in modifying an academic plan so that all students will still be able to make academic progress.

(Note: If the State is in Stage 1 at the end of day on August 3, 2020, all Fall 2020 classes will be delivered remotely to follow state mandates. If the Stage is lowered at any point during the fall semester, Ramapo must pivot and follow the Plan for that Stage. On the other hand, if the Stage is increased at any point during the fall semester, class delivery mode will not be adjusted. This is because there will not be sufficient time to prepare the classrooms or adjust class schedules, and it may not be possible for all enrolled students to attend in-person classes without having planned to do so in advance.)

I am grateful that our faculty are developing high-quality, engaging virtual classes that will provide ample learning opportunities for all enrolled students. I expect that much of this work is being guided by the results of surveys that were administered to Ramapo students in April and June, and that our faculty are well aware of students’ class delivery and instructional technology preferences and technology available to them off-campus. I am sure you join me in anticipating and expecting that students enrolled in virtual classes will have an excellent, enriching academic semester.

Faculty and students participating in on-campus classes will have to wear face coverings and abide by social distancing guidelines, which our classrooms, labs, and studio spaces will be reconfigured to meet. Other changes to our typical class experiences will be communicated through training that everyone will have to complete before returning to campus. Please also be aware that faculty office hours and academic advisement sessions will continue to be conducted remotely for the most part although exceptions may be granted on a case-by-case basis provided all health and safety measures are observed.

The Registrar’s Office will update the class schedule in early August – after the State’s Stage is determined and in line with information collected in the Fall 2020 class delivery census currently being administered – to indicate exactly which Fall 2020 classes will be held virtually and which will meet in person for at least one session on campus. School Deans, who will have this information and can assist anyone who needs to adjust a class schedule in early August, will be sending their own communications to faculty and students soon.

 

Computer Labs/the Library

As per the NJ Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, computer labs and the George T. Potter Library must remain closed if the State is in Stage 1 or Stage 2. This means that these two important units will continue to offer a full spectrum of services remotely to faculty and students. Ramapo’s Information Technology Services (ITS) Department’s website (www.ramapo.edu/its/) provides  information on how to contact the Help Desk, remote resources, free downloadable antivirus software, and more. ITS is working on a solution, which will be in place before the semester begins, that will allow faculty and students to remotely access software that is available in our on-campus computer labs. Once this solution has been fully implemented, details will be shared with the entire campus community.

In Stage 2, the Library will be able to distribute materials via curbside pickup, which will require reservations. Information about curbside pickup will be available on the Library’s website (www.ramapo.edu/library/) where patrons can also chat with a Librarian, access databases, and more.

Once the State moves to Stage 3 (i.e., even if this happens after August 3, 2020), computer labs and the Library are allowed to open but must abide by State-established occupancy limits, which have not yet been announced. Appointments will need to be made, computer lab and Library patrons will have to wipe down their workstations before and after use, and Building Services staff will clean and sanitize these areas on a regular basis. Labs and library spaces will be reconfigured to align with social distancing guidelines and all who are present will be required to wear a face covering. Remote operations will continue to best serve those who are unable to come to campus and to reduce demand for in-person appointments.

 

Research

Academic research is permitted on campus in Stage 2 and Stage 3 with the approval of the School Dean and Provost. Social distancing guidelines must be observed by faculty and students conducting research either outdoors or indoors, and face coverings must be work if others are present. Those who share equipment will be required to wipe down or disinfect/sanitize each item before and after use to mitigate health and safety risks.

Research labs will be reconfigured to ensure adequate space between workstations and equipped with adequate sanitizing wipes and other disinfectants/cleaning supplies as appropriate. The College will supply personal protective equipment (PPE) if such is required for the space and or research being conducted to ensure safety measures are in place.

 

Study Abroad and International Travel

Students interested in studying abroad during academic year 2020-2021 should be directed to contact the Roukema Center for International Education (www.ramapo.edu/international/) for guidance. Ramapo will offer College-supported faculty-led study abroad programs, which are scheduled for Spring 2021, only if the State is in Stage 2 or Stage 3. Virtual/remote thematic international programs, language programs, and global internship opportunities are available for students who are interested in these experiences or do not wish to travel at this time and if the State is in Stage 1.

For students who wish to go abroad, only programs to destinations having a CDC alert level of 2 or below and no travel restrictions at or around the planned time of departure will be allowed to proceed. Faculty and students who participate in Ramapo faculty-led study abroad programs must participate in mandatory robust pre-departure orientations that provide detailed information on the COVID-19 global pandemic, health and safety while traveling, and contingency planning, which is in place for every program.

Ramapo requests that all campus community members who travel register their travel plans via the registries listed below. Faculty must obtain approval from their Dean and Provost for any College-sponsored or -supported travel, which will be severely limited this academic year for safety and fiscal reasons. Depending on the destination, travelers may be required to self-quarantine immediately upon return and will be notified of such requirements once they register their travel.

 

I hope the information shared in this communication addresses some of your questions and concerns about how Ramapo College is preparing for the Fall 2020 semester and beyond. We have all had to adjust to a new normal in a very compressed amount of time, and I applaud those of you who managed to do so with grace, grit, and a positive attitude.

Please know that the safety of our students, faculty, and staff is our highest priority. This, along with Ramapo College’s unwavering commitment to provide all of our students with the opportunity to make academic progress, was what served as the foundation of our Restart Plan. We are confident we can offer Ramapo students and faculty a safe, engaging academic experience and provide ample support to make the fall semester successful for all.

I am looking forward to seeing you back on campus as soon as possible. In the meantime, virtual connections will have to suffice. I hope you and your loved ones remain healthy!

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