Dear Fellow Setonians,
We hope you and your loved ones are safe, healthy and enjoying the summer. This is a very difficult time for all of us at Seton Hall, and for our nation. The University is grateful for the multiple teams of faculty, staff and administrators from all three campuses who have been helping navigate the challenges created by the pandemic. Though we are separated physically, our community remains united in our desire to protect everyone’s health and safety, deliver an outstanding academic program, and provide an exceptional student experience.
Thanks to the efforts of so many, our University responded quickly to the pandemic, has regularly communicated updates, and was one of the first to announce reopening plans. More than 140 faculty, staff and students have worked on contingency plans across multiple teams and committees. We are grateful for their uncommon dedication and consistent emphasis on the principles and goals of our new strategic framework.
Like every other university, Seton Hall has had to make difficult decisions. Reopening and succeeding in the fall will require that we work together to ensure that the University offers the highly distinctive, engaging, and transformative educational experience our students need and want more than ever.
Last Friday, the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE) for New Jersey released long-awaited guidelines for the reopening of colleges and universities. Seton Hall participated in providing advice to state officials regarding prudent reopening plans. We are pleased that the majority of the state’s guidelines are fully aligned with Seton Hall’s ongoing reopening planning efforts.
Those guidelines require universities to file reopening plans for review by the state. Because New Jersey guidance is consistent with Seton Hall’s ongoing preparations, the University will file its plan as early as next week. Once reviewed by state education officials, we will immediately convey additional information to our community via email and the University website.
To facilitate this process, Seton Hall established the Re-Opening Operations Team (ROOT) to integrate plans from all sectors of the University for submission to the state; finalize campus operational details; and communicate with the community. Now that we have New Jersey’s reopening guidance, you will also receive weekly ROOT updates throughout the remainder of the summer.
This message will update you on our progress in preparing the University to reopen for the fall semester. We continue to map our safe return to campus through a comprehensive approach that accounts for myriad contingencies and makes paramount our community’s health, safety and sustainability.
- A review of remote learning revealed a strong student preference for in-person instruction in the fall and underscores the important role faculty and staff play in transforming lives. Students overwhelmingly want to return to campus and avoid remote learning as much as possible. As we announced last month and subject to state endorsement, Seton Hall will work to provide the option to students of studying entirely remotely or in reduced-density classrooms on campus via the HyFlex teaching modality. Once our plans receive approval from New Jersey officials, we will release details about how students can declare their preferred HyFlex option.
- Classrooms are being retrofitted with new technology to support remote learning and faculty training is underway. We are installing plexiglass near podiums and in other teaching spaces. We are scheduling courses to accommodate substantial reductions in classroom density while still working to meet students' learning preferences.
- Accommodations and Adjustments: As the University outlined in its message on Wednesday to faculty, clergy, staff and administrators, some members of the Seton Hall community may be unable, or reluctant, to return to campus to work. We understand. Many of these individuals may be concerned about how their age and/or underlying medical conditions could put them at greater risk for severe illness if they contract COVID-19.
Others may have personal or family circumstances that could lead them to ask for adjustments in their work arrangements. We want to respond to these concerns as compassionately, flexibly, and fairly as possible. Doing so requires two different processes:
- Employees who request accommodations for medical reasons will work with Human Resources to document the reasons for their requests; then, decisions regarding the type of accommodation to be offered will be made at the department and college levels. Starting that process in Human Resources enables us to protect the personal health information of employees who request accommodations.
- We also will respond to requests for adjustments in work arrangements for other (non-medical) personal and family reasons at the department and college levels. We are asking ROOT to advise and make recommendations regarding the scope and range of accommodations and adjustments to be made as we plan for reopening Seton Hall and serving our students this fall.
- Safety: We will provide employees and students with specific information about enhanced campus health protocols, including required personal protective equipment, physical distancing, mask-wearing and health screenings. We also are finalizing advanced cleaning and disinfection processes.
- Residence Halls: Consistent with state guidance, the University will have reduced density in residence halls. As is true for all universities in New Jersey, we are required to have residential quarantine and isolation accommodations. Seton Hall anticipated this guidance and has designated Ora Manor, an off-campus residential building, for short-term isolation and quarantine.
- Contact Tracing and Notification Practices: As specified by state education and health officials, contract tracing and notification will be coordinated by a statewide system in conjunction with campus health services at each New Jersey university.
Our reopened campus will look and feel very different this fall. We will end in-person instruction by Thanksgiving; we will institute elevated health and safety protocols, mask and physical distancing requirements; daily health screenings; and changes in instruction and service delivery.
The largest variable for success in the fall at Seton Hall, as at every college and university, will be how we, as individuals who care about each other and our institution, recognize the need to change our daily behavior to protect the health and well-being of our community. Ultimately, we are all responsible for keeping each other safe.
We are a resilient community; we know we will share in the success of Seton Hall’s 165th academic year. It will be a year like no other, but we are — and will remain — prepared.
We know you will have many questions, which we will continue to answer throughout the summer through regular ROOT communications and updates to the FAQ page. In the meantime, please visit our Planning for Fall 2020 website for additional information and to submit feedback.
Hazard Zet Forward,
Katia Passerini, Ph.D.
Provost and Executive Vice President
Shawna Cooper-Gibson, Ed.D.
Vice President of Student Services
Co-chairs Re-Opening Operations Team (ROOT)
Categories: Campus Life