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Rutgers to continue remote instruction for Fall 2020 semester with limited exceptions

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University President Jonathan Holloway announced the Fall 2020 semester will consist of mostly remote classes with a limited number of in-person classes due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a University-wide email sent today.

"We have wanted very fervently to be able to resume some version of a normal semester," he said, according to the email. "But given the continued increase in COVID-19 cases across the country, the near-term outlook for the public health crisis in our state and the uncertainty about the course of the pandemic, we had to make a different decision."

The limited number of courses that will operate in-person are ones that require campus facilities, Holloway said, including certain classes in the arts, laboratory work, field work and clinical instruction. These classes will operate while taking health precautions, and chancellors will update students regarding these courses.

At a press conference today, Executive Vice President for Strategic Planning and Operations and Chief Operating Officer Antonio Calcado said Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences officials are working to build a testing and contact tracing program from scratch for people returning to campus.

Holloway said the University is taking what it learned from last semester's online classes and applying them to the upcoming semester, according to the email. Additionally, he said Rutgers will continue to invest in instructional technology to improve remote instruction.

"All classes that are taught remotely will meet the standards and expectations of the world-class institution that Rutgers is," he said, according to the email.

In a separate email, Rutgers-New Brunswick Chancellor Christopher J. Molloy said the New Brunswick campus' plan for remote instruction is called "R-connection."

"I am writing to assure you that while the delivery of our educational and social experience will be different in the fall, it will be no less impactful," he said, according to the email. "R-connection is our plan to deliver remote education and virtual student engagement in innovative ways that ensure our connection as a Rutgers-New Brunswick community remains strong and vibrant despite our physical distance."

Molloy said the Schedule of Classes will be updated by August 1 to reflect the remote status of the majority of classes, and added that only in "rare circumstances" will students attend class in-person. This update will not affect current course registrations or create time conflicts, he said, but students who want to change their schedules are advised to wait until after August 1.

The Daily Targum previously reported the Board of Governors passed a resolution to freeze costs of tuition, housing, dining, mandatory student fees and residence education, which would normally have increased for the upcoming year. The Board of Governors also passed a tentative budget due to financial uncertainty caused by COVID-19, with one of the causes being a potential drop in enrollment.

Holloway said at the press conference that despite the majority of students working from home next semester, tuition will not be lowered any further. He said this is because the money is needed to ensure the University can maintain its usual operations.

"In order to deliver the quality of education that we want to deliver - that we expect to deliver - the tuition is built into that machine," he said. "We do charge, I think, really the bare minimum. Now you may feel differently and parents may feel differently, because I know it's not inexpensive, but it is hard to imagine charging less given the complexity and the infrastructure demands of Rutgers in terms of what it costs for attendance."

Due to social distancing requirements and the limited number of in-person classes, on-campus housing will be "extremely limited," Holloway said, according to his email. Residence Life will be able to answer questions from students who have already made housing deposits.

At the press conference, Holloway said the University will only be able to house approximately 25 to 30 percent of students.

At the New Brunswick campus, Molloy said housing will be limited to apartment- or suite-style housing where students can practice social distancing, according to his email. Some graduate students, international students who cannot travel home and students with hardships such as food or housing insecurities will be prioritized for housing. Residence Life, the Office of Off-Campus Living and Community Partnerships and the Office of the Dean of Students can help students explore housing options and alternatives, he said.

The University will continue to operate student services, including academic, health and wellness counseling, with an increased online capacity and a limited in-person capacity, he said. Informational technology (IT) infrastructure and library services will also be available for students, Holloway said, according to the email.

Campus events will remain suspended in the upcoming semester to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but the status of fall sports is unknown. Decisions will be made based on state guidelines as well as policies from athletic conferences, Holloway said, according to the email.

Molloy said staff members are creating new programs for New Brunswick students to stay connected while working remotely, including special virtual events and social media tools, according to his email. Additionally, many clubs, learning communities, organizations and activities will move to an online format.

Although most students will not have access to most aspects of campus, mandatory student fees will not be reduced because many services are being offered remotely, according to the R-connection website. The Targum previously reported mandatory fees include the campus fee, which covers health, recreation and student centers, student events, concerts, campus buses and athletics, school fees, which are are specific to each Rutgers school and the computer fee, which helps pay for internet access, email services, instructional technology and computer labs.

Despite the University's efforts to make remote instruction as similar to a regular semester as possible, Holloway said at the press conference that it is impossible to predict how today's announcement will affect enrollment.

"My fingers are crossed that our numbers will hold, because people will still recognize the great value of a Rutgers education - and I think it's a fantastic value, and it's a fantastic education - and we'll deal with the consequences."

Holloway said all the changes to University operations are important, yet not easy, according to his email. He said administrators are committed to maintaining a high quality academic experience in the upcoming semester.

"As your new president, I would like nothing more than to declare that it's safe to resume the normal course of operations across all of Rutgers for every member of our community," he said, according to the email. "I can assure you that we will do all we can to move toward that goal, knowing how vital our in-person interactions are to the vibrancy of a university."

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