NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Rutgers University, which has been utilizing remote learning to instruct its 36,000 or so undergraduate students since March, will decide in July how to proceed during the fall semester.
The announcement was made by Rutgers President Robert Barchi during Tuesday’s Board of Governor’s meeting – his last before his eight-year run ends and President-elect Jonathan Holloway steps in.
Barchi said one of the factors that has made it difficult for the school to decide whether to open the campus to in-person instruction or to continue to operate via remote learning – or some combination of the two – is because federal and state COVID-19 guidelines continue to evolve.
He said he is sympathetic to students, their families and Rutgers faculty who are eager to know what instruction will look like come September.
“We realize that’s incredibly frustrating,” Barchi said. “We also don’t want to make a call prematurely that will limit our ability to move forward in the fall, nor do we want to make a call that will put faculty, staff and students at risk. So we have decided that we will put an eye toward a decision that will be made by the middle of July that will stand for the fall and our new president, Jonathan Holloway, will have the inestimable pleasure in making that decision as I am elsewhere. So, that’s the challenge he faces.”
Rutgers initiated remote instruction on March 10, the day after Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency in New Jersey and six days after COVID-19 claimed the first life in New Jersey.
Rutgers Day and the Scarlet and White Football Game were just two of the activities canceled and the 254th commencement ceremony featured prerecorded commentary from keynote speaker Lester Holt of NBC News.
In recent weeks, social distancing orders have been repealed to allow for outdoor dining and modified in-store shopping in non-essential businesses. Murphy’s Stay at Home order has also been lifted.
Tuesday’s meeting was held using teleconferencing technology.
Barchi offered a more definitive picture in the areas of research and graduate studies. The university hopes to be up to 100% capacity by the end of summer, with instructors and students taking regular COVID-19 tests. It also hopes to be able to have a combination of in-person and remote education with students whose education depends on access to research facilities being given access to campus facilities in the fall wherever possible.
The only thing definite about undergraduate studies at Rutgers come September is that Barchi will not be in charge.
“Because of the complexities that are created by adhering to distancing requirements in our residence halls, our dining rooms, our bus transportation system and in our classrooms, undergraduate education remains the most difficult area for us to plan,” Barchi said. “We’re still assessing our final status of undergraduate education on our campus for the fall. We’re still hearing changes all the time, what the federal regulations and state regulations are that impact on that. What I can say is that remote education will be part of our didactic mix in the fall.”