Update on Academic Planning for Fall 2020 Semester

Sent Monday, May 18, 2020

To the Campus Community:

I hope that you and your loved ones are doing well as we move together through this pandemic health crisis.

Thanks to the creativity and determination of our students, faculty, and staff, Rutgers University–Camden is concluding a semester that evolved rapidly and dramatically. While there were speedbumps as we were forced to swiftly transition our learning, teaching, and research experiences from face-to-face to remote opportunities for learning, our campus surmounted those obstacles and continued to press forward. I salute and thank all of you for accepting the challenges we confronted and elevating this extraordinary “COVID-19 semester” into an opportunity for growth and successful transition for our students.

For the upcoming summer session, Rutgers University–Camden – like other Rutgers campuses – will continue to offer courses and programming through digital instruction. Students who are interested in accelerating completion of their degrees can register for summer course offerings at Rutgers–Camden.

Last week, President Barchi shared a message that updated university-wide plans to resume on-campus operations and learning. Consistent with this message, we are pursuing plans for the fall semester here at Rutgers–Camden. The health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff drive our planning and decision-making while we are also adhering to the recommendations of federal, state, and local officials to follow social distancing and testing guidelines. Our response will be nuanced to reflect how our region is responding to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

In concert with other campuses of Rutgers University, we have developed a number of fall scenarios that we might encounter as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold. Clearly, there is no one-size-fits-all response to this situation. Our ability to continue to deliver world-class Rutgers–Camden learning experiences while maintaining safety standards for the health of our community will require flexibility as we continue to gather information about what this region may experience and as we consider the circumstances that can enable us to move toward more in-person instruction and serve the teaching and learning objectives that we are capable of supporting.

To that end, we are striving to develop potential approaches that may include a mix of face-to-face, hybrid, and digital instruction opportunities in the next academic year. In the fall, in-person instruction may be may be enabled where classrooms are large and classes can be sized to maintain social-distancing protocols – for example, laboratory spaces for art, nursing, and the sciences.

In some instances, class enrollments might be enabled by creative efforts to address both classroom size and social distancing models. For example, a hybrid model can provide students and faculty with valuable opportunities for in-person interactions by rotating portions of the class into face-to-face learning settings and other class time developed into synchronous or asynchronous remote instruction without use of physical classroom space. Remote learning can be offered for some courses, allowing students the chance to engage in coursework synchronously or asynchronously (on their own schedules) while remaining in close contact with their instructors and classmates.

Our academic deans in coordination with our provost are developing plans that will be incorporated into the university-wide strategy for reinvigorating Rutgers this fall during the coming weeks.

Let me be clear: all of these plans are contingent upon federal, state, and local guidelines regarding health and safety. While we do not yet know how our responses to the pandemic may evolve, we are envisioning a multitude of possible scenarios, and I wanted to share with you some of our preliminary thinking in this regard. As we all know, the trajectory of the pandemic can change on a moment’s notice, and our plans will adapt to assure the safety of our campus community.

During the summer, our faculty will continue to have opportunities to hone their teaching skills and develop best practices for remote and hybrid formats through a series of workshops offered by the Office of Instructional Design and Technology. Faculty, administrators, and other staff know that some of our students feel uneasy about courses that are offered remotely and we want to avoid creating a digital divide that hinders some students’ ability to thrive. Rutgers–Camden is committed to providing access to on-campus spaces and equipment that will enable our students to excel in their coursework and learning as we are faced with the complexities of protecting health and safety.

In addition to our focus on excellence in academic planning for the fall, we are striving to ensure a vibrant student experience that is a hallmark of our campus. The Divisions of Student Affairs and Student Academic Success have worked diligently during these past weeks to make certain that we continue to deliver these other services that our students require in order to thrive. We are also continuing to construct new ways to provide on-campus residential opportunities for students within appropriate legal, health, and safety guidelines. We are also examining how learning experiences such as internships and civic engagement can be reconfigured with best practices in mind and can be made available to help our students to hone their critical thinking skills in these redesigned activities.

During the next several weeks, we will be sharing more details about these plans as well as a timetable for our administrative staff to return to campus. The fluid nature of this pandemic poses real challenges for higher education across this country, but we are committed to maintaining Rutgers University–Camden’s commitments and reputation as a supportive, creative, and resilient community for students, faculty, and staff. I am confident that, working together, we can achieve the shared goals that define us.

You have my best hopes and wishes for good health and thank you all.

Phoebe A. Haddon, J.D., LL.M.
Chancellor

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