This message may have been inevitable since the coronavirus crisis humbled the globe and ushered in the stunning experiment in education and social relations in which we are all now participating.
Sadly, the odds have become impossibly long for a robust on-campus spring semester. Governments and health experts have asked institutions to slow the spread of coronavirus by cancelling large and high-density gatherings and practicing social distancing. Governor Murphy has directed colleges and universities in New Jersey to implement remote instruction until the state health department deems it safe to return to in-person instruction. With the case I announced yesterday, COVID-19 has affected the campus community directly. Given the rapid spread of the virus we must anticipate that there will be more cases to come affecting students, faculty and staff.
In these circumstances we have determined with disappointment yet necessity that we must extend remote instruction through the end of spring semester 2020 and cancel all remaining campus events through the end of this semester.
The extension has many implications. Students approved to stay on campus will remain on campus to complete classes remotely amidst minimal campus services, as previously communicated. Residential Education and Housing will contact other residential students about access to the residence halls to gather belongings and formally check out of on-campus housing. We seek to coordinate campus visits so that residential and non-residential students who need to obtain personal belongings in academic buildings that are essential to completing the semester or who need to return or pick up athletics equipment can do so in a single trip. As you can imagine, this is a complex and precise operation subject to state and federal guidance and the imperative to protect the health and safety of our students, their families and our staff. Please do not come to campus until you have confirmation to do so.
By the end of the semester, we will process prorated room, board and selected fees refunds (for seniors) or credits to accounts (for non-seniors). We understand that there are varied circumstances among you; please be patient as we manage the specifics.
All-but-essential staff will continue to work remotely as communicated by supervisors and in campus messages. TCNJ travel through the end of the semester is canceled. The provost will follow up with faculty about access to offices and labs and other adjustments for the remainder of the semester.
In all instances, please continue to visit the COVID-19 website for details and updates. These will include information on May-mester and Summer sessions yet to be determined.
I hope it comes as some comfort in this cavalcade of unhappy news that we will joyously commit to a two-phase commencement for the Class of 2020.
The first phase is a “remote yet intimate” opportunity to mark the moment on May 21, 2020. Seniors will receive their caps and gowns in the mail by late April and we are developing creative ways to share a virtual, multi-modal experience. Start thinking now, for example, of the clever and personal ways you will decorate and show off your caps.
The second phase will be in-person, on-campus academic ceremonies when you join your fellow graduates, cross the stage and hear your name called in front of family and friends. Date(s) and arrangements for these ceremonies are still to be determined—the commencement committee is monitoring public health guidance and will be reaching out to senior class officers—but the Class of 2020 can count on the pomp and circumstance of a graduation.
A typical spring semester is chock-full of activity and culminating events. There is no getting around the fact that this one will not be typical. With your help and engagement, though, we will keep it meaningful and positive for students, faculty and staff alike, using social media and other opportunities to practice community care, spirit and resilience.
TCNJ, we are lion strong. Thank you for your remarkably thoughtful input in recent weeks and for your ongoing support as we manage this unique and memorable semester together.
Yours with a roar,
Kathryn A. Foster