TCNJ changes plans for fall semester and will continue with remote-only courses

Due to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in the state, the College of New Jersey has decided to shift to remote-only courses for the fall semester.

College of New Jersey President Kathryn Foster announced the move in a letter to the campus community on Monday.

“When I wrote in late June to announce the TCNJ Fall Flex, our plan for fall semester, I indicated that it was predicated on Governor Murphy moving the state to stage 3 of its reopening plan,” Foster wrote. “As of today, and influenced by the recent uptick in the rate of transmission in New Jersey, the state remains in stage 2 with likelihood of staying at this stage into the fall.”

Foster wrote that because stage 2 status places ongoing restrictions on on-campus operations, and for other reasons, the fall plan has been revised. The College of New Jersey will offer all fall 2020 courses in remote-only mode, house only a small population of residential students on campus, and further reduce in-person, on-campus activity.

“I understand that this revision to Fall Flex is a disappointment in a season of them. From the outset of our planning this spring, we have followed the guiding principle that the health and safety of our community is paramount,” Foster wrote. “In addition to state policy restricting what we can do this fall, we recognize numerous concerning factors, including the surge and resurgence of the virus nationally and locally, overburdened service and supply chains that interrupt our ability to satisfy health and safety protocols, and rising infection rates for younger people. Added to these is disquieting and incontrovertible evidence of community spread arising from group gatherings, including religious services, schools, sports practices, parties, and congregate living arrangements such as nursing homes and dormitories. Together these factors and forces lead us like many others across higher education to conclude that we are best served by more severely reducing density and activity on campus this fall.”

Foster said school officials have been preparing for the remote-learning-only contingency as part of planning for fall 2020. “We have made significant investments in delivering high-quality remote instruction. Faculty have participated in summer workshops on remote learning, course design, and use of technology to help them revise and prepare dynamic courses for this mode of delivery,” she wrote. “Students can still expect individualized and small group mentoring and advising by committed faculty members. Faculty are committed to ensuring that remote learning is equitable and inclusive, with every aspect of course design being considered to set up each student for a successful remote semester. Students can also expect robust virtual research opportunities and connection to internships and community-engaged learning.”

The school’s career center will be offering remote career fairs and interview days, and students will have access to TCNJ’s virtual computer lab, with a suite of software and technical assistance. Mental health services will be offered on an individual and group basis, workshops will be offered throughout the fall semester, and health services will be scheduling appointments using a telehealth format.

To reduce on-campus density, housing will be granted only by exception, limited to students with particular and extraordinary circumstances.

“To the incoming Class of 2024, I know this is not how you envisioned spending your first semester of college, especially after ending your senior year of high school remotely,” Foster wrote. “Please know that we are developing new welcome week plans for you. Consistent with state guidelines, we hope to augment virtual orientation experiences with in-person visits to campus to learn about services and meet with classmates, staff, and others in socially distanced settings. First-year students and incoming transfers will receive an email in coming days outlining plans for virtual and possible in-person options.”

School officials will host town hall meetings this week via Zoom for students, parents, and staff to answer questions. Faculty members will receive more information about fall academic plans by Tuesday. Staff members will also receive more information about plans in the coming days, Foster wrote.

“Among the lessons from the spring and summer is that the TCNJ community, including families, alumni, and neighbors, possesses exceptional resilience and capacity to adapt. In an environment in which no aspect of our lives and society has been untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Foster wrote. “I remain grateful for your intrepid response to disruption and the dauntless way you manage change. I hope this revision to fall plans, although not what many wanted, nonetheless provides one element of certainty and focus in an uncertain and indefinable time.”