HOBOKEN, NJ - Navigating the complexities of COVID is proving difficult for educational institutions worldwide. Here in Hoboken, Stevens Institute of Technology is revising its plans for the Fall 2020 semester, announcing a dramatic decrease in the number of students and classes being held on-campus.
Citing coronavirus spikes in young adults, quarantine restrictions, plus concerns from staff, students and medical professionals, Stevens President Nariman Farvardin announced the new reopening plan last week.
"Based on all these inputs and with the goal of further reducing the density of the campus population, we have made the decision that only first-year students, new transfer students, and new graduate students will have the opportunity for an on-campus learning experience this fall. This mode will include a mix of in-person, socially-distanced hybrid learning and online instruction," said Farvardin. "All other students will continue to pursue their education online. Returning students who work on campus supporting Residence Life, classroom-based teaching and related activities, and in research labs, including Ph.D. students, will also be provided access to campus and must abide by all health and safety requirements."
In May, the school announced that they were preparing for a full return of on-campus activities, with a laundry list of COVID mitigation measures. Unfortunately the outlook has dimmed significantly since then, as the response to the virus presents new and unforeseen challenges.
"This decision was, without a doubt, among the most difficult and consequential that I and many members of our leadership team have made in our entire careers," said Farvardin. "We have approached this challenge in a consultative, collegial, and objective manner, and with the best interests of our university community in mind. We considered a range of options and variations on those options and ultimately arrived at this approach. In addition to considering and respecting the concerns and sentiments of our faculty and staff, the wishes of our students to return to campus, and evolving health conditions and new guidance, our priority has been the health and well-being of all members of our university community."
While the news is certainly disappointing for students and educators on campus, it will prove to be yet another body blow to the economy of Hudson County, where the absence of Stevens students will impact everything from local retail and hospitality to the rental housing market.
"We rely on Stevens staff, administration and grad students to keep us going. We hold wine tasting events for them, faculty dinner meetings, etc.," said Kevin Cocca, of Court Street Restaurant & Bar, half a block from the school. "The continued closure of the campus is just adding to the burden we face in keeping our business afloat."
Meanwhile, there are currently well over 700 rentals available on the Hoboken Multiple Listing Service alone—more than twice the average.