In the midst of this ongoing global pandemic, with its staggering infection rates, fluctuating risk levels, and ever-changing governmental guidance, my hope is that whether or not you have agreed with all of our decisions to date, you trust The College of New Jersey to consistently place your health and safety above all other priorities. You, the TCNJ community of students and families, faculty, staff, alumni, and neighbors, are the heart and soul of this institution. In making the difficult and often heartbreaking pandemic-related decisions required this spring and summer, we have taken and continue to take it as our serious duty and commitment to act in the best interests of the community.
With that lofty responsibility in mind, I write in light of Governor Murphy’s relaxation of certain state rules, specifically allowance for in-person instruction, to affirm TCNJ’s fall plans as announced in my campus message of August 3, 2020. These plans include delivering instruction this fall in a largely remote-only mode and keeping residential housing density relatively low for reasons outlined on the fall website and in Town Hall meetings last week.
Late yesterday, college and university presidents heard directly from the governor who, while noting the allowance for in-person instruction, acknowledged that the virus remains unpredictable, that bottlenecks persist in virus testing and in supply chains, and that individual and group behavior remains a wildcard for community transmission. In addition, virus surges have occurred in the wake of school and college openings around the country — factors cited also by Rutgers, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania and other regional institutions that, like TCNJ, will offer predominantly remote instruction this fall. This decision also considers seriously conversations in the past two days with state officials, trustees, cabinet members, and elected campus leaders, as well as input from those of you who have called and written.
The lifting of some state restrictions in the near term, though, may expand opportunities to bring students to campus during fall semester for special community activities and selected academic pursuits; we currently await additional guidance from the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education. We are planning in earnest with the hope that first-year students will participate in some activities in person. As circumstances surrounding progression of the virus permit, we may be able to schedule on-campus instruction opportunities or faculty- or staff-guided activities with students at all levels. We will share more about these opportunities with the community in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you hear directly from a faculty member that your small-group lab or technical experience will take place on campus this fall and you are interested in living in the residence halls, please apply via TCNJ’s MyHousing.
The prospect of coming together for meaningful and safe engagement this fall — the potential to see you again soon — is the upside to our continuing caution in this pandemic. Thank you for your stamina and circumspection in the face of ongoing sacrifice. Thank you, too, for your fortitude as we wrest a successful and productive fall from challenging circumstances and look forward to what we all hope is a TCNJ residential campus experience this spring.
With continued appreciation,
Kathryn A. Foster