The president of the College of New Jersey announced in a campus-wide email Friday that courses will be online for the rest of the semester and commencement will be postponed.
“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,” TCNJ President Kathryn Foster wrote. “Governments and health experts have asked institutions to slow the spread of coronavirus by canceling large and high-density gatherings and practicing social distancing.”
The governor 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.
“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,” Foster wrote. “The extension has many implications. Students approved to stay on campus will remain on campus to complete classes remotely amidst minimal campus services.”
All non-essential staff will continue to work remotely. Travel through the end of the semester is canceled. University staff members will coordinate visits to campus for students to pick up items they need from their dorms. The college will prorate room and board refunds for seniors and credits for underclass members by the end of the semester, Foster wrote.
A TCNJ history professor tested positive for the coronavirus and informed the public about it himself on Facebook Wednesday night. The college confirmed that the faculty member tested positive on Thursday.
“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,” wrote Foster in her Friday letter.
“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,” Foster wrote.
The college will celebrate seniors’ accomplishments in a “remote yet intimate” online gathering on May 21. Seniors will receive their caps and gowns in the mail by late April. “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,” Foster wrote.
The second phase of the celebration will be in-person ceremonies once it is safe to hold a public gathering.
“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,” Foster wrote. “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.”