Dear Members of the Monmouth University Community:
Since early April, members of our Fall Task Forces, drawn from every area of the University, have been developing plans for a variety of scenarios in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. All along, our goal has been to ensure that we can continue to deliver an outstanding education while protecting the health and safety of all members of the University community. These are unprecedented times, and I have greatly appreciated your patience and goodwill as we have managed through them.
At this time, I am pleased to share with you Monmouth University’s plan to return to campus in the fall in a significantly modified in-person format, which includes a combination of in-person instruction, online courses, and hybrid course delivery. This plan allows us the flexibility to prioritize the health and safety of our University community while delivering the best possible academic and campus life experience for our students. The various components of this reopening plan meet – in many cases, exceed – all guidelines issued by the State of New Jersey, which are among the most stringent public health guidelines for higher education in the nation. The full plan and related details will soon be available on our University website, but I’d like to outline some key details here.
General Safeguarding, Screening, and Testing. General health and safety will be a shared commitment between the University and each individual student, faculty member, or staff colleague. A COVID-19 orientation will be required for all members of the University community prior to the start of the fall semester. Masks or other face coverings will be required inside buildings, including in all classrooms, labs, and dining spaces. Individuals may remove their masks outside only when social distancing is possible; otherwise, masks or face coverings must be worn. Students may remove their masks once safely inside their individual residence hall rooms, but masks are required in all common areas. Hand sanitizers will be readily available in every building, and we will implement enhanced sanitation protocols, including more frequent cleaning of bathrooms, common areas, and classrooms. All students, faculty, and staff will be required to complete a daily questionnaire to identify possible COVID-19 symptoms. Students may be asked to display evidence of having completed the questionnaire prior to entry into the classroom and other designated areas on campus. In addition, temperature checks will be required in order to gain access to certain high-traffic areas, such as Magill Commons, the Guggenheim Library, the Ocean First Bank Center, and the Great Hall. Testing will be readily available by appointment through Health Services for all students who display symptoms of COVID-19 or who have had a direct contact with a known positive COVID-19 person. Students will be required to self-quarantine until the test results are available. Additionally, a 14-day isolation period is required for all individuals who test positive. Students who live within 100 miles of the campus will be encouraged to return home for the quarantine/isolation period. Otherwise, a separate residence hall on the campus will be available to house students in quarantine/isolation.
Academic Calendar. At this point, we will proceed with our planned fall calendar — opening on Tuesday, September 8, and concluding on Tuesday, December 22. We understand that many institutions have already elected to close their campuses at the Thanksgiving holiday. We, of course, will consider such action, if necessary, but we will reserve making a decision on that until November 1 so that it may be informed by the best public health information available at the time. If we send students home at Thanksgiving and complete the semester wholly online, we will refund any unused room and meal plan costs for the remainder of the semester, just as we did during the spring semester.
Instruction, Academic Support, and Internships/Clinicals. Academic instruction and support for the fall semester will include a mix of in-person, hybrid, and online coursework. This mix of delivery methods offers increased flexibility for students, enhanced health and safety protocols for all members of our community, and as much accommodation as possible for socially distanced classes on campus. We have offered training in online delivery to our faculty – including through our Summer Online Academy – to enhance faculty expertise in delivering content remotely. The flexible grading policy from the spring and summer sessions will continue in the fall as a way to support our students through this unsettling time of their academic journeys. The final course schedule will be available by July 31, allowing students to understand fully their learning modalities in advance of the start of the fall semester and providing plenty of opportunity to switch courses, if desired. The Guggenheim Memorial Library and various computer labs will be open and operational, but they will be subject to the same social distancing and capacity limitations as all other buildings on campus. Fall internships and clinical fieldwork will be available upon approval by the student’s faculty advisor and site supervisor. Study Abroad programming will be canceled for the fall semester.
Student Services. All student resources available through the Center for Student Success (including advising and tutoring), Health Services, Disability Services, and Counseling & Psychological Services will be accessible to students through a mix of in-person and remote access.
On-Campus Residential Housing & Dining. We will honor all housing contracts for the fall semester. Students may continue to live together in our residence halls, subject to social distancing guidelines and enhanced cleaning protocols. Consistent with our general safeguarding guidelines, masks or other face coverings will be required in the residence halls at all times, except in a student’s room. Unfortunately, all public lounges in the residence halls will be closed, and no guests or visitors from other residence halls will be permitted, consistent with New Jersey state guidelines. Dining services will be available to all students, featuring a new mobile ordering app that enables students to order their meals in advance. Meals will be ready for takeout, with additional outdoor space available where students can sit and eat. Indoor seating will be available, subject to strict social distancing protocols.
Athletics & Extracurricular Activities.
Update as of July 27, 2020–Monmouth University, in conjunction with the unanimous decisions made by the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Council of Presidents on Monday, has made the difficult but necessary step to cancel all fall athletics contests.
The State of New Jersey has advised colleges and universities to adhere to NCAA and athletic conference guidelines to manage athletic competition. As such, fall athletics at Monmouth are scheduled to compete, consistent with extensive healthcare regulations and competition modifications. Club and intramural sports can continue to compete, subject to strict social distancing requirements and other safety protocols. Other student organizations are free to meet, but they will feature a mix of socially distanced in-person gatherings and remote online meetings.
Events & Visitors. Planned campus events and activities are subject to the prevailing public health guidance. As such, it is unlikely that large-scale events such as Homecoming, the Career Fair, and Family Weekend will go on as scheduled, but we will make final determinations on if or how these activities will take place as we get closer to the scheduled dates. We will significantly curtail the number of visitors to campus and will require all visitors to submit the COVID-19 health questionnaire and comply with campus safety protocols.
Throughout this pandemic, our decisions have been grounded in public health considerations and directives from local, state, and federal government. At present, the State of New Jersey sits in Stage 2 of Governor Murphy’s reopening plan. All of our plans are contingent upon the State moving safely to Stage 3. Our plan reflects the best available guidance for safely re-opening our campus, and we will continue to act and respond in the context of this emerging guidance. If anything should change here in the State of New Jersey – for example, if we cannot move from Stage 2 to Stage 3 and need to continue remote instruction – we will notify you as soon as possible.
As we move forward together, we will rely upon Monmouth University’s core values, which prioritize a safe learning environment and mutual respect for each member of our community. Successful implementation of our plan is dependent on each one of us accepting the shared responsibility to keep the University community safe and healthy through our individual actions. I thank you in advance for your commitment to each other.
Please be on the lookout for additional information throughout the summer. If you have questions, please feel free to email us at FallRestart@monmouth.edu. My fellow administrators and I stand ready to address your questions and concerns as fully and as quickly as possible.
Dr. Patrick F. Leahy