Covid NJ: Questions Remain As Universities Plan For A Return To Campus

Source: New Jersey

As state officials expand access to coronavirus vaccines, college and university decision makers are beginning to sort through a return to in-person learning this fall. Some of the Garden State’s most esteemed universities have already informed staff they should prepare to be in the classroom full-time.

A memo sent to faculty and staff at Princeton University informed them that those working remotely would return to campus “on a rolling basis,” but that all of them should plan to be on campus in the fall.

Rutgers, the largest university in New Jersey, is perhaps the first in the nation to put forth a mandate that students be vaccinated before returning to in-person classes this fall. Gov. Phil Murphy said he was “very impressed” with Rutgers’ decision, but he hasn’t issued guidance for other colleges and universities.

Joe Cardona, the vice president of school relations for Rowan University, told Patch that the college isn’t requiring a vaccine “at this moment,” but is “working on plans to get students who meet NJ’s eligibility requirements vaccinated as soon as possible.”

A Fairleigh Dickinson spokesperson told Patch that while the university is planning for a return to campus in the fall, college officials have yet to finalize a vaccination mandate.

Rowan University President Ali Houshmand said he was hopeful the school could reopen in the fall, Montclair State officials confirmed that students would return in the fall, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology is planning for “primarily in-person learning.”

Rider University president Gregory G. Dell’Omo and Provost/Vice President of Academic Affairs DonnaJean Fredeen perhaps defined the feeling best, saying they were “cautiously optimistic” about a return to campus. The College Of New Jersey president Kathryn Foster offered a similar sentiment, saying the intention “is to return to an on-campus semester,” but noting that those plans are “necessarily qualified at this point.”

“We have missed the energy our almost 10,000 students bring to campus,” said Stockton University president Harvey Kesselman. “We are excited to welcome them back, but we will also continue to implement whatever measures are necessary to protect the health and safety of our faculty, staff and students.”

Dr. Peter P. Mercer,Ramapo College president, praised employees and staff for adapting quickly in the face of the pandemic, but said it didn’t come without hardship: “Adaptation was and continues to be painful — but we budgeted in a way which has enabled us to recoup and to ‘flatten out the curve.'”

At most universities, it’s still unclear — but masks or no masks, in-person learning is in the plans for 2021.


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