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Rutgers to close for rest of semester, students to take online classes only

<p>University President Robert L. Barchi said students will receive prorated refunds for housing and dining expenses, and will be notified about moving out of residence halls.</p>

University President Robert L. Barchi said students will receive prorated refunds for housing and dining expenses, and will be notified about moving out of residence halls.

University President Robert L. Barchi announced Tuesday all classes will be held remotely for the remainder of the semester due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, according to a University-wide email. The University was previously scheduled to reopen April 3. 

“These are the right actions to take for the health of our community,” Barchi said, according to the email. “But I know I speak for all faculty and staff when I say how deeply we will miss the vibrancy that students bring to our campuses each spring, and how incomplete this year will feel without our commencement ceremonies.”

Barchi said the decision was made based on new social distancing protocols announced by government agencies, according to the email.

“This weekend, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance recommending that for the next eight weeks events of more than 50 people be canceled or postponed,” he said, according to the email. “Directives urging that even smaller gatherings be canceled or postponed have flowed from both the White House and the State House.”

Remote instruction will not apply to clinical instruction, Barchi said, according to the email.

Barchi said all University-related events, including Rutgers Day and commencements for all campuses, are canceled through May. The University is currently reviewing whether commencements can be rescheduled, but he said these changes will not affect the University’s ability to grant degrees to graduating students, according to the email. 

Students living in residence halls will receive information in the coming days on when they will be able to move out as well as prorated refunds for housing and dining expenses, Barchi said, according to the email. He did not say whether campus fees, computer fees, parking passes or other fees will be refunded. 

Barchi said the University is continuing to work on ensuring academics and research remain uninterrupted due to remote instruction by developing telecommuting practices. He said more information will be provided to faculty and staff this week.

Rebecca Givan, vice president of the Rutgers American Association of University Professors — American Federation of Teachers and professor in the Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations, said despite all of the work being put into developing remote instruction practices, faculty are likely to face many challenges.

“Above all, we face the fundamental problem of delivering content online that was designed to be delivered in person,” Givan said. “Rutgers faculty and teaching assistants are committed to their students and will do the best they can, but this is a crisis and no-one is confident about how things will unfold, including remote classes.”

Givan said the instructional support staff has been working to help faculty navigate the process of moving their classes online, but potential issues include students not having internet access at home as well as technology systems becoming overloaded and failing. 

Givan said the University should adjust its grading practices due to the abrupt switch to remote instruction and the potential challenges it poses. 

“Switching grading to Pass/No credit (from regular letter grades) would relieve an enormous amount of pressure on students, and would be an acknowledgment that this situation is not normal, and these classes will not be the same as normal classes,” Givan said.

Barchi said he acknowledges the adjustments students, faculty and staff have had to make due to the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the email. 

“I want to thank every member of our community for the grace and flexibility with which you have responded to this historic crisis,” Barchi said, according to the email. “You have shown resolve, toughness and an incredible determination to make it work.”

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