The outside of Blanton Hall on a sunny day with students walking around.

Message to Students – March 17, 2020

From Dr. Karen L. Pennington, Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life

Posted in: Coronavirus

Graphic of coronavirus

Dear Students:

Based on communication we have received from students, there is some confusion about Governor Phil Murphy’s Executive Order released yesterday, Monday, March 16. The facts are these:

Yesterday afternoon, the presidents of the state’s colleges and universities had a conference call with the Secretary of Higher Education in order to clarify the intent and meaning of the Governor’s Executive Order. The result of that conversation included the following specific clarifications by the Secretary:

  • Institutions of higher education have not been closed.
  • Institutions of higher education are required to offer all instruction through distance modalities.
  • Residence halls, food venues on campus and other institutional facilities may remain open.
  • Remote-working arrangements should be employed to the extent possible that permits continuation of necessary operations.
  • Every effort should be made to incorporate precautionary social distancing into on-campus arrangements.
  • The 8 p.m. curfew is not required, but suggested, and is not intended to prohibit utilization of a University facility after that time.
  • All activities that involve bringing groups of people together should be canceled.

The University’s current plan is entirely consistent with all of that guidance, as noted in President Susan A. Cole’s message to the University community on Monday, March 16.

In addition, we are following the guidance of the Governor and public health authorities to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.


  • We will offer 100 percent of our courses online.
  • We will remain open, so that critical functions can be maintained, including, critical Student Support, Information Technology, Human Resources and Financial Aid.
  • Remote-working plans are being implemented in all units to the extent consistent with maintaining critical functions, and many employees are already working remotely.
  • We are increasing physical distance between people in our workspaces, holding meetings via phone or video conferences, staggering shifts and separating work groups into different locations.
  • Dining spaces will remain open with some tables and chairs removed to increase space and eliminate grouping. Increased “Grab and Go” options will be available for resident students wishing to eat in their room rather than the dining hall.
  • The Student Recreation Center will be open but activities may be limited in order to reduce crowding.
  • All performances and athletics contests have been canceled and no group events will be held until further notice.
  • University facilities will continue to be available to students and employees who need them.
  • As this is a rapidly changing situation, the University is still in discussions in regards to housing, parking and meal plan refunds.The University’s current goal right now is to ensure the health, safety and wellness of the campus community. An outcome on this decision will be made at a later date and residents will be notified accordingly.

As President Susan A. Cole has said, the University has two critical current objectives. First, to protect the health and safety of our students and campus community. Second, to enable our students to complete the academic term. We can only do that successfully if we work together with reason and respect.

These certainly are unusual and difficult times and we will do our best to ensure that students’ needs are met as effectively as possible. Our efforts may change as the situation evolves and I am extremely grateful to all of the faculty, staff and student employees who are working so hard on this complex effort.

Dr. Karen L. Pennington
Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life