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Rutgers updates students on coronavirus procedures

Chancellor Christopher J. Molloy said the University does not want to extend the semester and will keep campus open to ensure "academic continuity." – Photo by Photo by The Daily Targum | The Daily Targum

Students and faculty are beginning to adjust to the changes in University operations as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues in New Jersey. 

University President Robert L. Barchi and Emergency Management Coordinator Antonio Calcado declared a University State of Emergency on Thursday to help mobilize resources to mitigate the impact of the outbreak on the Rutgers community, according to an official emergency proclamation. 

"The Emergency Management Team is authorized to promulgate such orders or directives as are necessary to deal with the risks associated with COVID-19, including but not limited to reduction of public services and diversion of University resources," the proclamation said.

Rutgers—New Brunswick Chancellor Christopher J. Molloy sent a University-wide email update on Thursday about the University’s response to the outbreak.

The Daily Targum previously reported that all classes will operate remotely from March 23 to April 3. Molloy said these policies are designed to preserve student well-being.

“While we acknowledge that the latest actions outlined by President Barchi may present challenges for some of you, we ask for your patience and flexibility. The coming weeks and months will bring uncertainty for all of us, but please know that your health and well-being are our foremost concern,” Molloy said, according to the email.

Molloy said despite the transition to remote instruction, the campus will remain open for the sake of “academic continuity,” according to the email. 

“This means we do not anticipate lengthening the Spring semester or halting the progress of students,” Molloy said, according to the email.

The University originally said international students, students living in University family housing or those with prior permission from Residence Life were the only ones permitted to stay in University housing, the Targum reported.

Since the initial announcement, the official Residence Life website has been updated and states those who live outside of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington D.C. or Massachusetts can remain in residence halls for the remainder of spring break if they submit a request. 

The Targum reported all students who did not receive permission to remain in housing over spring break were to leave by Thursday at 7 p.m. Ivanna Guerrero, a Mason Gross School of the Arts sophomore, said this restriction caused her to completely change her plans. 

"I had everything planned to move on Friday for spring break and had to scramble to find a ride for Thursday because they were kicking us out. My dad had to request to leave work early just so Rutgers doesn’t kick me out onto the streets," Guerrero said.

Dining services, bus services and student services will operate at reduced levels during the period of remote instruction, Molloy said, according to the email.

Busch and Brower Faculty and Staff Dining Rooms will open on reduced schedules during this time along with Woody’s Cafe and the Livingston Plaza Starbucks, according to the Rutgers Dining Services website. The Rutgers Student Food Pantry will remain open as well. 

Although parts of campus will remain open, the Division of Student Affairs sent an email to all off-campus students living in the area urging them to leave. 

The email stated the University community has a “moral obligation” to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and students should distance themselves from others to do so. 

“As a follow-up to the University’s decision to extend spring break and transition to virtual classes beginning on March 23, we are asking that students currently residing in off-campus rental housing give serious consideration to returning to their homes during the time that in-person classes are suspended,” according to the email.

The Division of Student Affairs also asked students who remain living off-campus to refrain from hosting social gatherings to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. 

As the University continues to implement changes to housing, they are also addressing concerns about how remote instruction will work. 

Guerrero said she does not know how online classes will operate. She said film majors such as herself rely on in-class acting, directing, feedback and other interactions. 

"All of our film teachers this week have told us they don’t know how this class would work online. We also depend on our friends and actors that are at Rutgers to help with our film productions. I feel like I’m not (going to) learn anything with our major being online and I’m going to be wasting money on tuition," Guerrero said. 

Linnéa Eberly, a Mason Gross sophomore, said she benefits from being able to interact with a teacher and is concerned about how students will stay motivated during the period of remote instruction.

"I have taken a few online classes before and have found that prerecorded lectures or uploaded powerpoints are vastly inferior to a classroom setting, which allows for and encourages an active dialogue between the teacher and students," Eberly said. "I’m worried that if the human component completely goes away, motivation to actually go through the course material will decrease since suddenly we are entirely responsible for learning on our own instead of having a set class time during which we have to show up and learn."

Mason Gross Interim Dean Gerald Beegan sent an email to students acknowledging their concerns.

"We understand that many Mason Gross classes do not seamlessly translate to online/remote instruction but your professors will be keeping in touch with you," Beegan said, according to the email. "Rest assured that the Mason Gross faculty, chairs and the Dean's office are working over spring break to come up with viable and creative plans for instruction and performance and exhibitions in the light of these difficult circumstances." 

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