Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (July 20)

Good morning. In my weekly message to faculty and staff, I noted the passing of two icons of the American Civil Rights Movement. I hope they won’t mind if I repeat that very short note here.

John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian were leading figures in the struggle for racial justice in the 1960s. On camera, in print, and throughout their lives, both men defined decency, courage, and the seemingly unlimited capacity for compassionate humanity. They represented the very best of our ideals and continued to remind us of how far short we are of that perfect union. We are a better country because of them.

  • I want to welcome back to campus our beauty profession students. Our dedicated faculty and staff have created a safe learning environment for our students to continue their professional studies. I’m thrilled they are back on campus and I wish them great success as they try to complete their rigorous program of studies. Welcome back.
  • Some remarkable data from the state of New Jersey Department of Labor: since March 15, 2020, New Jersey has paid out $10.7 billion in unemployment compensation; a total of 1.35 million residents have filed unemployment claims; and 96% of those claims have been approved.
  • This week our Foundation staff will launch RV LIVES, our dynamic campaign designed to raise funds for our students. The pandemic has disrupted the lives of so many students and we must do everything we can to help. We have set a goal of raising $100,000 by the end of this year. I hope you will all find a way to support our students. More details to follow.
  • Executive staff have revised our Student Leave of Absence policy, allowing students greater flexibility in times of emergency to pause their education without penalty and to return when conditions improve. Once the new policy is reviewed by Forum and posted, I will provide a link so that everyone may access the revised policy.
  • Fall enrollment continues to build – although we are still far behind our projections. Last week, we were 17.9% behind our budget target (for credits), but we are closing the gap each week. If you are a current student and you have not yet registered for the fall semester, please try to do so as quickly as possible while sections and seats remain available.
  • RVCC is beginning to explore a potential partnership with RWJ Barnabas Health. The possible collaboration would focus on entry-level employees, providing them with pathways to associate degree programs that would promote career advancement.
  • In these fast-evolving times, I have an athletics update. IN short, we are moving all sports to an abbreviated spring schedule. Athletes will train and practice in the fall – safely – and then participate in conference competition in the spring. The NJCAA has endorsed this plan for all New Jersey community colleges.
  • I’ve attached the latest edition of our always inspiring stories about front line workers, RVCC Heroes.
  • Governor Murphy has signed New Jersey’s COIVD-19 Emergency Bond Act. This act allows the state to borrow up to $9.9 billion. These funds may ( I repeat, may) be applied to our FY21 state operational aid and may restore some or all of our funding.
  • Last week, RVCC’s COVID-19 Testing Site served 113 residents. The site is scheduled to be open on Thursday, July 23, and will limit registration to two hundred people.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (July 13)

Good morning. Perhaps some of you know, that I grew up in Preston, a dark, dreary, and depressing city in the northwest of England. Imagine my utter astonishment, then, when I discovered a comedy series on Amazon Prime titled Warren – yes, set in Preston. Favorite lines so far: “Well, Preston’s a s***hole isn’t it?” and “Preston’s two best buildings are the bus station and the railway station. They’re both exit points.”

Some updates:

  • Officials at Princeton University are requiring every undergraduate student who intends to return o campus this fall to sign a “social contract.” The contract demands that each student “follow health and safety protocols and observe behavioral expectations designed to promote the well-being of everyone.” If students violate these health and safety rules, they may be removed from campus.
  • A reminder about email security. We’re seeing a lot of fraudulent activity online, especially examples of phishing. IT will be sending out a communication about how to maintain online security. If you encounter any suspicious email or other questionable activities, please report the incident to IT immediately.
  • RVCC’s COVID-19 Testing Site will be in operation this Thursday (July 16, 2020), opening at 10:00 am.
  • Two important updates from Bruce Yellin, RVCC Project Director, Safe Communities Coalition. First, the Safe Communities Coalition of Hunterdon/Somerset Counties will host a virtual screening of the Coalition's newest documentary, The Fentanyl Factor on Wednesday, July 15th at 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm.  For those who have not seen it, this film was produced by the late RVCC adjunct professor, Harry Hillard in 2019. The film features local stories of those affected by the opioid epidemic and the role of Fentanyl in the opioid crisis with Q&A and a panel discussion.  Please be advised that some of the stories in the film could be a trigger for those with addictions. 

Second, Bruce and his Safe Communities Coalition colleague Amee Smolinsky have created the Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) Resource Webpage. Thanks to Mike Machnik and Qianquin Want for their help in making this resource available. To view the page, go to https://commons.raritanval.edu/studentserv/counseling/aod

Stay safe and try to catch Warren on Amazon Prime.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (July 10)

Good morning and happy Friday. As we wait for the impending rain from Tropical Storm Fay, some campus updates:

  • An important update from our facilities team regarding likely power interruptions on campus today (Friday, July 10, 2020):  To repair some persistent problems in our power plant, work will begin at 8:00 am and likely last most of the day. Power will be disrupted at various times for all campus buildings, excluding the Workforce, Arts, and Childcare buildings.  When the power is interrupted, emergency generators will come on and provide various levels of service to the remaining buildings.  Technology services and the data center will not be impacted.  However, those of relying on special access through your office computer will experience a loss of service until your computer is turned back on and the work completed.
  • Yesterday, RVCC’s COVID-19 Testing Site served 126 people. Testing will continue next week.
  •  Bergen Community College has decided to move most of its fall schedule to an online modality, reserving on-campus instruction for the sciences, the health professions, culinary arts, and some other laboratory courses. In addition, Bergen has suspended all sports programs and athletic competition for the fall semester.
  • Yesterday, Harvard University and MIT filed suit against the White House and its policy that bans international students from residency if they are only enrolled in online courses. Many more colleges and universities are likely to join the lawsuit.

Enjoy the weekend and continue to stay safe. More updates – and aimless pop culture references – on Monday. And one to leave you with: on this day in 1964, The Beatles returned to Liverpool for the premiere of their film A Hard Day’s Night (over 200,000 fans showed up at the Liverpool Civic Centre). Since then, this day has been renamed Beatles Day and continues to be observed in both Liverpool and Hamburg. The British actor Wilfred Brambell is featured in the film as Paul McCartney’s grandfather. He’s most famous, however, for his role as Albert Steptoe in the BCC television series Steptoe and Son. In the U.S., Steptoe and Son was remade as Sanford and Son, a Norman Lear production that premiered in 1972. Can you name any of the other U.S. television shows that were adapted from British originals, especially during the 1970s?

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (July 8)

Good morning. An update about road safety: clearly, we have little interest in road safety here as my son passed his test yesterday and is now endorsed by NJ’s DMV to operate a motor vehicle. I failed my test three times before getting a license. I’ve been in the car with my son…and the therapy is helping.

Very few updates:

  • Thank you to all the RVCC staff who are helping our admissions team. As we try to register and enroll as many students as possible for the fall semester, I’m very appreciative of all the support that admissions is receiving.
  • Some early information about food services for the fall semester. The main cafeteria will be closed; all food items will be available at the Starbucks location, operating as a “grab and go” service.
  • Another reminder to check in with security in the Welcome Center if you are visiting campus. Identify where you’ll visit and sign out when you leave.

As new cases seem to be on the rise, please take additional care and stay safe.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (July 7)

Good morning. Today, is National Strawberry Sundae Day (apparently, I missed National Squirrel Appreciation Day – January 21st - and National Bavarian Crepes Day - March 22nd).

Some updates:

  • A reminder that if you have not filed your FAFSA and you intend to enroll for the 20-21 academic year, you have until June 2021. It’s important to file so that you become aware of the range of student aid that might be available.
  • RVCC is asking Congresswoman Watson Coleman to support reinstating Pell Grants to incarcerated students. Recently, there’s been renewed interest in restoring this funding and Congresswoman Watson Coleman has been a very dedicated support of the community college sector and of the students we serve.
  • I want to thank Sanofi for their continued support of the Corporate Mentor Program at RVCC. Recently, they contributed $50,000 to continue the program for the next academic year. I want to thank Sanofi for their generous support of the program and their investment in our students.
  • I’m troubled by the recent decision that will force international students to leave the country if they are only taking classes in an online modality. International students are such an important part of American higher education and I’m bewildered by this decision.
  • Finally, am important reminder that if you do visit campus that you remember to check in with campus safety at the Welcome Center and that you identify the specific areas that you visit on campus. It’s very important that we maintain a log of visitors and that we can make sure cleaning protocols are followed. Thanks.

I hope you all continue to remain safe. I encourage all students to register for the fall and to not lose sight of your academic goals. I know that these times are certainly anxious and uncertain, but RVCC will continue to serve its students and to help all students transform their lives.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (July 6)

Good morning. Today, Rutgers announced that it will remain mostly “remote” for the fall semester.  There will be very few on-campus classes (lab work, clinical studies, and arts instruction), extremely limited on-campus housing options, and no campus events for the entire semester. It is not clear how athletics will be affected by this decision.

Some updates:

  • Late last week, RVCC was informed of its GEER allocation. We will receive $647,289 from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund. While we will have to submit individual applications in order to access the money, it is a much-needed addition to our revenue.
  • The state has released its Supplemental Budget for the 5th Quarter, a part of which is operating aid to community colleges. Reading the fine print, I calculate that the total allocation to the community college sector is $16,675,000. This week the community college presidents will propose a way to allocate these funds; it is likely that we will adopt the current operating formula to distribute funds. I will let the campus community know about the decision and communication our total allocation. In short, more encouraging news.
  • New Jersey’s independent colleges are asking the governor to recommend physical distancing in classroom space rather than making the six feet of separation a requirement. RVCC does not support this proposal and we will continue to reform our instructional spaces (or limit class size) so that we can follow CDC guidelines for physical distancing.
  • I continue to be grateful (and impressed) by the work of our Reopening Task Force. They continue to make progress regarding issues of compliance, of building access, of classroom and other instructional space adaptations, and of cleaning protocols.
  • On July 2, RVCC’s COVID-19 Testing Site served 152 residents, the highest number since opening. The site plans to open on Thursday, July 9th.
  • RVCC is looking at an opportunity regarding Montclair’s School of Conservation Campus at Stokes State Forest in Sussex County. If RVCC decides to move forward with this initiative, I will provide an update to the campus community.

As I see news reports from the south and the southwest, I remind you to be cautious and to be responsible. Enjoy the warmth. My boys, both racing fans, wanted me to acknowledge the return of F1 racing – so acknowledged.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (July 2)

Good morning. A reminder that the campus and all related offices are “closed” today (and tomorrow) in recognition of the July 4th holiday weekend.

  • As evidence that events and situations are changing on an almost daily basis – an update to my note yesterday about our athletic program. There’s a new proposal to shift some traditional fall sports to the spring; as a result of this proposal, we may now be able to offer basketball and volleyball in the spring and play a full season. We would move some outdoor spring sports to the fall. In this way, we can maintain our athletic seasons and offer RVCC student-athletes a full and complete season of competitive collegiate sports.
  • I’ve attached the latest edition of RVCC Heroes, and, as always, my thanks to the RVCC marketing and PR staff who make this publication possible.
  • An addition to my update about RVCC’s COVID-19 Testing Site. As I noted in an earlier message, you do not need a physician’s prescription to obtain a test (just register for an appointment at the County website and have a valid NJ ID). I should have added that testing is free of charge.
  • New Jersey’s Secretary of Higher Education Zakiya Smith Ellis is leaving her cabinet role next week to become Chief Policy Advisor to the Governor. I’m sure she will be successful in her new role and a valuable advocate for New Jersey’s community colleges.

In light of the recent news reports, I hope you are all staying safe and are mindful of the CDC guidelines. It is clear that facial coverings are crucial in preventing the spread of this virus and that we should wear them as an expression of our support for science. Enjoy this important celebration of the American experiment and remember how vital education is to the promise of that dream.

 

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (July 1 )

Good morning. My Prime Soundtrack just played 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love.” Forty-five years ago this month, I went to Cardiff Castle and saw 100c headline. Steeleye Span and Thin Lizzy opened. (Thin Lizzy rocked. I also remember that the rain never stopped and I don’t think I’ve ever – ever – been that wet. Good times.) I can’t believe I’m this old.

Some updates:

  • Assemblyman Greenwald (D- 6th District) intends to introduce legislation that would make the Community College Opportunity Grant program permanent (and not an annual budget appropriation). The program allows New Jersey residents with adjusted annual family incomes of no more than $65,000 to attend community college tuition-free.
  • Last night, RVCC’s Board of Trustees met virtually for the June Board Meeting. Among the many actions and resolutions passes, the Board approved the continued consultancy of Campus Works, approved another annual contract with Blackboard (through NJEDge.net) for technology help desk services, approved the purchase of 100 Dell Latitude 3410 laptops for student use, appointed Samantha Carhuaricra to the RVCC Foundation Board of Directors, and thank Thomas Boon for his exemplary service as Alumni Representative to the Board of Trustees.
  • Our childcare staff continues to prepare for the fall reopening. I note that both “Camp on Campus” sessions are fully enrolled. Rates for the fall will increase by 4%.
  • Allow me to applaud my colleague Dr. Anthony Munroe. Anthony, president of Essex County College, has been appointed the new president of the Borough of Manhattan Community College (CUNY’s largest college). Before his presidency at Essex, Anthony was the president of Malcolm X. College, City Colleges of Chicago. Anthony has been a great colleague, and I will miss his humor and his relentless challenge to all of us to make our institutions more inclusive, more responsive, and more successful.
  • Finally, and most importantly, we need to highlight and celebrate the following RVCC faculty members who were granted Legacy Sabbaticals by the Board of Trustees: Professors Patrice Case, Rosemarie Gorini, Stephen Kaufman, and Beryl Stetson. Thank you for your always exceptional teaching, for your many contributions to this College, and for your innovative, collaborative campus citizenship. You have each made RVCC a better college. We wish you great success and joy in your next adventures.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (June 30 )

Good morning. An early reminder that campus will be closed this Thursday and Friday for the holiday (but open the following Monday). If you’re looking for a novel with an old-fashioned, expansive, generational narrative, try Mary Beth Keane’s Ask Again, Yes.

Some updates:

  • New Jersey’s Secretary of Higher Education announced that colleges would be notified this week about their GEER allocation. RVCC’s application claimed over $700,000 in COVID-19 expenses (or losses). The Secretary did not say how the total fund would be allocated or how the split between four-year and two-year institutions had been determined. As soon as I have any details, I’ll provide an update.
  • We have begun to discuss our athletic program and potential plans for the fall. While no decisions have been reached, there was strong agreement that we would consider allowing outdoor sports in the fall but that it was unlikely that we would approve moving forward with indoor sports like basketball or volleyball. We reached no decision regarding the use of our pool (although there was a great deal of concern about such an opening).
  • Somerset County has made a significant change to the policy regrading RVCC’s COVID-19 Testing Site. Now, you no longer need a prescription to use the site. If you wish to receive a test, you will still need to make an appointment online ( https://somerset-hunterdon.adlabscovidtest.com ) and have valid ID. The site will be operational on July 2.
  • Yesterday, I received a letter from the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders informing me that Dr. James A. Von Schilling of Somerville has been appointed as a member of Raritan Valley Community College’s Board of Trustees. Dr. Von Schilling’s term will expire November 1, 2024. Currently, Dr. Von Schilling is a Professor of English at Northampton Community College in Bethlehem, PA.
  • RVCC’s waiver requests for a number of academic programs have been approved students may return to campus in order to finish courses in Medical Assisting, Nursing, OTA, Ophthalmic Science, and Cosmetology. In addition, we may host students on campus for First Aid, Microbiology, and Organic Chemistry.
  • We have begun to meet weekly to review our fall enrollment. While it is very difficult to compare this year’s performance against last, data shows that we are behind in both headcount (-23.7%) and in credits (-25%). We will begin to identify and track some trend lines that may reveal some emerging patterns for the fall. For example, between June 22 and June 29 the credits improved by 2.6%. We will not continue to review that trend to see if we are continuing to close the gap at the same rate. In addition, we have a significant gap in the number of continuing students registered for the fall (down 24%). We will explore ways of addressing this gap and measuring our performance.
  • Because of our teaching plans for the fall and because of the continuation of remote work, RVCC is in the process of purchasing a Zoom site license.

I hope everyone continues to stay safe. If you are a student and you have not yet registered for the fall, please do so – and encourage a friend to join you at RVCC.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (June 29)

Good morning and welcome to the last Monday of June. I am led to believe that there is some kind of holiday celebration this weekend, so I trust you’re making plans for that extravaganza.

Just a couple of updates for the beginning of the week:

  • RVCC’s Virtual Commencement was wonderful. I want to thank all the RVCC staff who made that event possible. I want to thank and celebrate the students – I know it wasn’t the kind of commencement you had imagined a few months ago, but it was a great event. I want to thank all the speakers, from the Governor to the faculty speakers, to the student speaker, to the trustees and others who toasted the Class of 2020.
  • Last Thursday (the 25th), RVCC COVID-19 testing Site served seventy-two residents. The site will be open on July 2; it is unclear if the site will remain in operation after July 2nd. I will update the campus community as soon as I learn any new information.
  • I’ve attached a new edition of RVCC Heroes. As always, thanks to the RVCC staff who assemble this inspiring publication.
  • Late last week, TCNY announced that it was cancelling all “high-contact sports,” varsity sports that include football, soccer, and basketball. RVCC athletics staff are trying to best understand the Governor’s guidelines and balancing their desire to offer a full season with concerns about the safety of all students and team members. As these plans progress, I will provide updates to the campus community.
  • Some good news emerging from Trenton. On Friday, The Supplemental Appropriations Bill for the “5th “ quarter of FY 2020  (July 1, 2020 through September 30, 2020) was released. This bill (A3/S20) has been agreed to by the Senate, Assembly, and the Governor’s Office.  It was released by the Assembly Budget Committee; next, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee will likely consider and release it.  It will likely be added to both the Senate and Assembly Voting Sessions today or tomorrow.  The bill will then head to the Governor’s desk where he is expected to sign it.  Of critical importance to RVCC and to the community college sector, is that the bill includes $13.79 million in operating aid to community colleges - 40% of the current fiscal year’s normal quarterly amount. Initially, all community colleges had been told that they would receive “zero” funding during this period. If the bill is signed into law, RVCC will now receive an allocation of approximately $600,000 (other than a full allocation of about $1,525,000).

I hope that you all continue to stay safe.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (June 25)

Good morning. A pleasure that I’m not guilty about: Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, one of my favorite double albums of all time.

Some updates for this rapidly moving week:

  • This Saturday at 10:00 am we’ll be able to view RVCC’s Virtual Commencement. I want to thank all the RVCC staff that helped to make this event possible. While not the celebration we had intended, it is an important moment for us to applaud the accomplishments of so many inspiring and determined students. For more details, go to https://www.raritanval.edu/commencement-2020
  • For those students worried about technology for the fall, especially if you are going to take online or remote synchronous classes, the College is purchasing 100 laptops that will be made available to students. We will continue to explore financing options for additional purchases so that all students can succeed in a digital environment. A recent report found that about one third of all students were accessing their online classes through a smart phone – perhaps not the most ideal tool.
  • A quick note about athletics. Our governing body (both national and regional) has approved the resumption of athletic activities for the fall semester. RVCC’s athletic staff are now in the process of trying to plan for the fall season, plans that will allow for the resumption of competitive sports and that protect all athletes. As these plans become more complete, I will provide updates to the campus community.
  • And finally, the attached file contains the Honorary Degree that RVCC is awarding Governor Murphy. Governor Murphy has filmed a segment for our Virtual Commencement and we will make every effort to bring him on campus so that he can meet our staff and students.

Be safe everyone and if you haven’t yet registered for the fall semester, check out our offerings on the RVCC website.

Governor Murphy's Honorary Degree

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (June 24)

Good morning. A somewhat rushed – and brief – campus update this morning. I’m beginning to sense a new level of activity in the state, a building momentum about reopening. On a very local and personal level, there seems to be much more traffic on 78 than in the past few months.

Some updates:

  • The latest news from the state about RVCC’s EOF funding appears to be good news. A few weeks ago, the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education announced an almost 50% cut in our summer funding. On Monday, the EOF Committee restored those funds. The only concern is that it seems as if the restoration of funds was made from funds originally allocated to FY21, creating some doubt about FY21 funding. As I learn more, I will update the campus community.
  • On Tuesday, RVCC’s COVID-19 Testing Site served sixty-two residents – a day reserved for essential County workers and first responders.
  • The Governor’s guidelines for the fall allow for athletics. RVCC’s athletic leaders are now planning for a fall semester of athletics, exploring how we might best prepare for that season. As those plans develop, I will keep the campus community updated. (These conversations will include a decision about RVCC’s pool and about whether or not we allow various groups and organizations to rent that facility in the fall,)
  • We are revising our Student Leave of Absence Policy to provide students more flexibility when confronting extraordinary circumstances – like a global pandemic. As soon as the policy is approved, I’ll provide a link to the revised document.
  • RVCC will submit its reopening plan to the state on August 1st. As I noted in an earlier update, I’ll highlight an aspect of the Governor’s guidelines in each daily update: an important requirement is that all students, staff, faculty, and campus visitors must wear face coverings. The only exemption is “when doing so would inhibit the individual’s health.” We will have face masks available for those people without coverings and we will ask campus security to enforce this requirement. People not following this guideline will be asked to leave campus.

I hope that you all continue to be safe and that, even as we begin to see some light, you continue to follow the CDC guidelines. Enjoy the summer warmth – especially now as the days begin to shrink.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (June 23)

Good morning. Fifty years ago – June 1970 – Deep Purple released the album In Rock, one of the iconic British Heavy Metal albums. A David Coverdale-led Deep Purple played Preston’s Guild Hall in 1974 (Burn Tour) and I couldn’t hear for at least a week.

Some updates:

  • The first of many updates about the upcoming fall semester. Here’s a very general summary about our fall schedule:
    • 370 traditional online courses;
    • 526 remote synchronous courses (instructor and student online together at the same time);
    • 18 remote synchronous with limited on campus labs;
    • 209 face-to-face courses on campus.

The schedule is “live” on our website and you may now begin to plan your fall schedule.

  • I’m glad to see some congressional interest in doubling the Pell Grant award. In 1980, a Pell Grant covered about 80% (on average) of US tuition and fees); today, a Pell Grant covers 28% of tuition and fees.
  • The U.S. Department of education has released the application for the Education Stabilization Fund Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grants. The program is designed to help develop new workforce programs, to strengthen partnerships with business and industry, and to aid regions in economic recovery. RVCC’s workforce staff are reading the material and we will make every effort to apply for a grant.
  • All of the counties in New Jersey have been declared “major disaster areas” (Presidential Declaration #4488). As a result, RVCC may be able to apply for public assistance with FEMA. Later this week, RVCC staff will attend an OSHE-sponsored webinar to learn how to apply for FEMA reimbursement.
  • Rutgers has announced a fall reopening at 35% capacity. (Our fall schedule has about 209 courses to be offered on campus, about 19% of all our offerings.)
  • I want to make sure that we acknowledge and applaud the relentless efforts of our RISE staff. Facing the almost impossible task of educating incarcerated students in the midst of an unchecked pandemic, they have managed to keep students on track and to offer a comprehensive summer semester. Consider this comparison:

 

 

Summer 2020

Summer 2019

Headcount (unduplicated)

258

450

Total credits

1415

1550

Average Student Load (credits)

5.5

3.5

Average Class Size

25

16

 

I hope you all continue to be safe. I know that we continue to struggle with uncertainties and that the pandemic continues to shape our lives. I also know that many of you are concerned about the fall semester and about returning to campus. We are trying to make the campus as safe as possible and are following every guideline issued by both state and federal. Our goals are to support student learning, to protect staff and students, and to sustain RVCC’s role in this community. As always, I welcome your questions, concerns, and advice.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (June 22)

Good morning. I hope you all had a restful weekend and that the Dads enjoyed their moment in the sun.

Very few campus updates to begin the week:

  • As perhaps many of you know, Governor Murphy released guidelines for the reopening of New Jersey’s colleges and universities. For the complete document, go to https://nj.gov/highereducation/documents/pdf/index/OSHErestart.pdf  RVCC had already formed a Reopen Task Force and were working on many of the issues highlighted in the report. RVCC will continue to prepare for a limited fall opening.
  • Last Thursday, the RVCC COVID-19 Testing Site served twenty-nine residents.
  • The fall schedule is now available and accessible to students. This schedule reflects efforts to accommodate as many students as possible, and courses are offered in online, in synchronous, and in face-to-face formats. You will be able to remain off campus for the fall or, if you prefer, return to campus for certain classes. I’ll provide additional updates about the fall throughout the next few weeks. If you plan to continue your education in the fall, please consider registering as soon as possible as we may see additional demand for fall classes.
  • The next RVCC Board of Trustees Meeting will take place virtually on June 30, 2020 at 5:15 pm. I will provide call in details later this week.
  • I’ve attached the latest edition of RVCC Heroes – my thanks, as always, to the RVCC staff that publishes this inspiring document.

I hope that you all continue to be well. I’m excited about the prospect of the slow reopening of the campus and I can’t wait to see students and staff return. I know that there are a few workforce students back on campus this week – welcome back.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (June 17)

Good morning. I wanted to let you know about an important event taking place on Thursday, June 18, at 1:00 pm. Organized by a group of RVCC leaders - Russell Bearfoot, Donyea Collins, Nicolette Colon, Jason Fredericks, Maribi Henriquez, Karen Gaffney, Gina Kuijlaars, Ronald Tyson, Shay Wadher, Alaysha Walker, Cheryl Wallace, and Jache Williams - the zoom webinar is titles “Ending Racism in Our Community: Where Do We Begin?”

To join the webinar, go to https://us02web.zoom/j/83563239694

I hope you’ll participate in this first roundtable and help RVCC take action in addressing systematic racism.

My thanks to these colleagues for taking us to action.

I hope you are all well and staying safe.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (June 16)

Clearly, I might have some separation anxiety. Some brief updates before I hit the two-lane blacktop (Two-Lane Blacktop is also a 1971 Monte Hellman movie starring James Taylor):

  • Earlier this year, RVCC was chosen as the first ever winner of the Eduardo J. Padron Award for Institutional Transformation. We were going to receive the award at a national conference in Seattle, but the pandemic forced the cancellation of the conference. I thought you might be interested in seeing the film that would have been shown during the conference. You can view and download the RVCC video here https://drive.google.com/a/ranxmedia.com/file/d/13pR817EL0tFpD45lQDHLUVNhUIVGDdbu/view?usp=sharing.
  • Yesterday, I provided some data regarding the number of COVID-19 cases in Somerset County. In Hunterdon County, as of May 24th, there were 962 reported cases and 57 deaths.
  • I’ve attached the latest edition of RVCC Heroes (although I may have already sent you this version). If you wish to nominate someone for RVCC Heroes, send your suggestion to Donna Stolzer at donna.stolzer@raritanval.edu
  • RVCC did submit its application for GEER funds, but no details yet on how the state plans to allocate those funds or the relationship between those funds and the funds also available in the CARES Act monies distributed directly to the state. There is also no vision yet regarding the supplemental funding for our “fifth quarter” (Governor has proposed no allocations to any college or university) and no decision regarding our funding for FY21 (many community colleges are budgeting for a 50% reduction in operating aid).

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Continue to follow CDC guidelines.

 

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (June 15)

Good morning. I hope you’re well and refreshed by the pause offered by the weekend.

 A quiet campus prompts a brief update:
▪The Somerset County Department of Health reports a total of 4,164 COVID-19 cases in the county and 436 deaths.
▪RVCC’s COVID-19 Testing Site will be open on Thursday, June 18th from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. You need a prescription from your health care provider and an appointment. Go to https://somerset-hunterdon.adlabscovidtest.com to schedule your appointment.
▪RVCC will submit its GEER application today. The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund will provide allocations to New Jersey’s colleges and universities for costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Institutions are allowed to submit claims for expenses incurred between March 13th and May 30th. RVCC will request at least $650,000 in funds. At present, the state has not announced how it will allocate the $68 million. It is certain that the requests will be far in excess of $68 million.
▪RVCC plans to purchase 100 Dell Latitude 3410 laptops. The College will make these laptops available to students so that everyone can maintain academic progress in the event that we return to online or remote modalities. We will continue to explore additional purchases and other technologies that students and staff may require in these changed circumstances.
▪RVCC did ask for a waiver from the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education to permit some on-campus instruction in various healthcare programs. The Secretary has asked for some additional information, so we are in the processing of updating that application.
▪Over the years, a number of RVCC students have been named as Newman Civic Fellows. The 2019 and the 2020 Newman Civic Fellows wrote an eloquent statement about the events surrounding the death of Mr. George Floyd. This link will take you to that statement: https://compact.org/newman-solidarity-statement/

I plan to give you a much needed escape from my voice for the rest of this week. Tomorrow, I am driving down to Pinehurst, North Carolina. Along with eight friends, I’ll indulge in four days of golf at one of America’s great golfing destinations. I think that I’ve been writing these notes since March 16th – so I will miss the familiar rhythm of my morning and the sense of community you’ve allowed me to experience. If I find that I can’t begin my day without a note, I’ll provide an update from the veranda of the Carolina Hotel.

Please stay safe.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (June 12)

Good morning. As we approach the weekend eve, a glorious morning that reminds us all about the need for more poetry in our lives:
            Full many a glorious morning have I seen2
            Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye,
            Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
            Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;

Almost no updates today:

  • Yesterday, the RVCC COIVD-19 Testing Site served twenty-six residents. The site will only be in operation for one day next week – Thursday, June 18th.
  • Many higher education leaders believe that both the House and the Senate will pass another relief bill and that it will provide additional funds for colleges and universities. However, initial statements from several congressional leaders suggest that the amount of funding will fall far short of the actual losses that institutions have sustained. For example, while Rutgers received over $54 million in CARES Act funding, the flagship institution estimates its current losses at over $200 million.
  • Higher education leaders are also concerned about international student enrollment. The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have a devastating impact on international enrollment. The dramatic decline in students visiting the US will impact both four-year and two-year colleges. The four-year institutions that have relied on a very large enrolment of international students are NYU, USC, Northeastern, Columbia, Boston University, and Florida Institute of Technology. The community colleges that enroll the most international students are Foothill College (California), Green River College (Washington), Miami Dade College (Florida), Northern Virginia Community College (Virginia), and Montgomery College (Maryland).

Have a spectacular weekend and continue to be safe. And consider this perceptive moment from Calvin and Hobbes: 

“I’ve been thinking Hobbes.“
“On a weekend?”
“Well, it wasn’t on purpose.”

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (June 11)

Good morning everyone. Very few updates this morning:

  • Governor Murphy has taped his remarks to the RVCC graduating class of 2020 and I can’t thank him enough for taking the time to deliver this message. After the event, I will share his speech with the entire campus community.
  • The COVID-19 Testing Site is on operation today from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm.
  • We continue to refine RVCC’s application for the GEER funding. However, New Jersey’s Office of the Secretary of Higher Education has yet to release the funding formula so we are still uncertain about how the funds ($68.9 million) will be allocated. I’ll provide an update as soon as we have some detail.

I hope you all continue to stay safe. I sense a slow re-opening but I hope we will let science and data inform our decisions.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (June 10)

Good morning. Last night, I received an email from an old friend that had a photograph attached of a concert we had attended in 1973. The Preston Guild Hall was a great venue, seating about 2,000 and with a great view of the stage no matter where you sat. The headliner that evening was Mott The Hoople, still enjoying enormous success on the strength of their ’72 single “All the Young Dudes.” But it was the opening act that stole the evening – Queen. Time does indeed fly – one minute you’re in awe of Freddie singing “Stone Cold Crazy,” the next you’re wondering who the hell Juice Wrld is.

Very few Wednesday updates:

  • My thanks to Amie Gallagher, Janet Thompson, Nicholas Sosa, Alisa Shapiro, Joanie Roop, and Kevin Schindler for helping to select this year’s Student Commencement Speaker. Anabela Cerqueira is from Portugal and graduating with a degree in Occupational Therapy Assistant. Congratulations, Anabela.
  • Several RVCC Heroes are now featured on the NJCCC webpage and press releases.
  • An update about the RVCC Foundation’s new campaign RV Lives. The Foundation would like to feature as many student voices in the campaign as possible. We’d like to hear from our students about how the pandemic has impacted their lives, about how they keep learning and focused on their education goals, and about the RVCC staff and other community members that have supported them and inspired them. Every single dollar raised in this campaign will go directly to students, supporting their efforts to realize their dreams. The attached file provides some background information about the campaign and how to participate. Direct any questions to foundations@raritanval.edu or Michael.marion@raritanval.edu
  • Tomorrow, the RVCC COIV-19 Testing Site will be open. The site will be operational between the hours of 10:00 am and 2:00 pm.
  • We are working as quickly as possible to re-introduce our fall schedule, a comprehensive collection of courses and programs that will exploit every possible learning modality. As soon as that schedule is available, I’ll provide an immediate update to the campus community.

Please continue to be safe, especially now as New Jersey begins to reopen. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (June 9)

Good morning. Over the weekend, I watched LA 92, a documentary about the events that unfolded after four police officers were acquitted in the Rodney King assault trial. Difficult to watch but an important (and timely) reminder.

Some updates:

  • Greg DeSanctis, Director of Advising and Counseling Services, Special Programs, reminds us about the opportunity to use our Early Alerts system during the summer sessions (located on the Faculty tab in Lion’s Den):

Early Alert Warning Periods                                                         Begin                           End                             

Summer I:                                                                                        June 8th                      June 14th      
Summer II:                                                                                       July 13th                     July 27th   
Summer III:                                                                                      June 18th                   July 12th
Summer IV:                                                                                      June 23rd                    July 5th        

  •  We continue to draft RVCC’s application for the GEER funds, noting that the state has extended the period of eligible COVID-19 expenses from March 13th to May 30th.
  • Thanks to Professor Nikitovic for letting me know about the success of a joint venture between RVCC’s Advanced Manufacturing Team and Rutgers University Environmental Health and Safety Team in producing 3,000 face shields. The shields were donated to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospitals, New Brunswick and Somerset, Middlesex Emergency Medical Services Center, and the Colombian Surgical Society (to support outreach efforts in South America). Special recognition for RVCC students Roas Priego, Ronald Ariza Chavez, Maria Arevalo Mojica, Lauren Wougk, Nareena Iman, Jeremy Muniz, and Jack Hemphill.
  • The RVCC Board of Trustees will hold their June 30th Board Meeting online. At that meeting, Alumni Representative Thomas Boon will attend his final meeting as a Trustee. Thomas was an effective, engaged, and persuasive trustee. He attended every meeting and always spoke with purpose and passion about issues that impacted students. Thank you, Thomas, for your contributions and for your exemplary service.

Continue to stay safe, especially as we seem to be entering a new phase in the pandemic – the gradual re-opening of our businesses and lives.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (June 8)

Good morning. I hope you enjoyed the weekend and that you begin the week refreshed and relaxed. A very quiet beginning to campus life today, and very few updates to report:

  • First, congratulations to Ronald Gazaway, the recipient of the 2020 RVCC Service Learning Leadership Award. Ronald volunteered at the RVCC Campus Resource Center and Food Pantry, helping organize events, prepare food, and pick up donations. Ronald is also a certified volunteer at the NJ Sharing Network, an organ and tissue donation service.
  • Thank you to Dean Fredericks for the letter he sent to RVCC students last Friday. In the letter, Dean Fredericks expresses his vision for a more inclusive RVCC and he identifies the ways in which this institution can support students in the fight for racial equality. It’s an important letter and I’m so fortunate to count Dean Fredericks as a “colleague.” I’ve attached a pdf file of his letter to this update.
  • I’ve also attached the latest edition of RVCC Heroes, an always important reminder of the service that our students and staff perform in our communities.
  • We are working on submitting our institutional application for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER). This $68.8 million fund will cover some of the costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The deadline is June 15, 2020, and RVCC will submit a complete, and hopefully persuasive, application.
  • Several RVCC leaders continue to address RVCC’s MSCHE accreditation, responding to comments concerning our draft design for the self-study. My thanks to Dean Patrice Marks and Professor Ellen Lindemann who are most responsible for this exhaustive two-year process.

The PGA Tour returns this Thursday at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth (I course I have actually played). The first round of The Charles Schwab Challenge will begin on Thursday, 11, 2020 and there will be no spectators in attendance. I will cement myself in front of the telly and watch the final round on Sunday.

I hope you continue to be well.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (June 5)

Happy Friday – Happy National Donut Day. A very quiet campus this morning, but I continue to note the gradual takeover of campus by our Canadian feathered friends. It’s an Orwellian fable.

Very few updates as we head into our weekend:

  • On Thursday, the RVCC COVID-19 Testing Site served twenty-two residents. Next week, the site will only be operational on Thursday.
  • The Governor has released the application form for New Jersey’s colleges and universities to apply for funds from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER). The fund will cover institutional expenses from March 13, 2020 to May 15, 2020. Colleges must submit their application by June 15, 2020. RVCC is working on its application and on the two-page narrative that accompanies the financial data. The Governor will also release the $300 million available as part of the CARES Act monies sent to states.
  • I’ve attached a letter signed by a number of presidents from New Jersey’s public colleges that was recently sent to the Governor. The letter makes an appeal that the CARES Act funds be used to support New Jersey’s public colleges and universities and their many thousands of students.
  • RVCC has submitted a request to the Secretary of Higher Education asking that we be granted a waiver to offer on-campus instruction for our cosmetology and esthetics programs. We are also submitting a waiver for a range of healthcare-related courses, too.
  • Congratulations to our outstanding Nursing Department. The ACEN Evaluation Review Panel has announced that RVCC’s program is in compliance for re-accreditation. Thanks to all the faculty and staff who made that recognition possible.

Please enjoy the weekend and please remain safe.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (June 4)

Good morning. I began Sally Rooney’s 2018 Irish novel Normal People earlier this week and I’m almost at the conclusion. A very engaging glimpse into youthful romance and that awkward transition into something called “adulthood.” Recommended.

Some updates:

  • I want to thank the members of the Re-Open RVCC Task Force. After an initial meeting, they have already identified essential areas or challenges that confront any effort at re-opening and have organized themselves into smaller, more focused subgroups. Some of these topics include classroom and instructional spaces, technology, cleaning protocols, communication, and administrative areas.
  • Our childcare staff are trying to better understand and to meet the requirements that the state has put in place for the reopening of childcare centers. As you know, RVCC has made a commitment to maintain the childcare center, but to explore a more cost-effective operation and, of course, to meet the more stringent expectations of a post-pandemic environment. The staff has focused on
    • registering fewer families in the fall and trying to find alternative placements for those unable to register;
    • adopting a new schedule that uses fewer assistant teachers and uses the full-time head teachers as much as possible;
    • preparing health screenings for each child and staff member upon arrival and sending daily reports to the designated state agency;
    • scheduling hand washing and cleaning protocols throughout the entire school for the entire school day;
    • communicating to parents that no one may enter the building other than children and staff.
  • On Tuesday, the RVCC COVID-19 Testing Site served twenty-eight residents. The site will be open on Thursday, beginning at 10:00 am.
  • I would like to highlight the work of Professors Alison Campoli and Carol Patterson. They were invited by the National University of Science and Technology in the Sultanate of Oman to provide a presentation that focused on providing nursing students with virtual clinical experiences during the COVID-19 crisis. They addressed the faculty in Oman on June 2. Titled “Online Clinical Simulation During COVID-19 Pandemic: Faculty Perspectives and Lessons Learned,” their presentation was attended by over forty medical faculty at the University and was very well received. RVCC faculty continue to find ways to be innovative and dynamic – even in a global. So proud.
  • Another reminder to send Donna Stolzer your recommendations for the Virtual Success Wall, a place to recognize those students who have excelled academically at RVCC. Send the name of the student and a brief summary of their achievements or reason for inclusion to donna.stolzer@raritanval.edu
  • Megan Dempsey reminds me that the OER (Open Educational Resources) initiative at RVCC – begun in spring 2020 – has saved students $780,085 in textbook costs. Megan believes the savings will approach $1 million by the end of 2020. Congratulations to all the faculty and staff involved in this important project.

This week seems to have passed by in a flash, or else my old age is now manifesting its presence in new and annoying ways. When I reach the end of an update, I’m always sure that I’ve forgotten something, that I’ve not been clear about what’s going on at the College, or that I’ve not acknowledged how proud I am of our RVCC community. I hope you know that I am so proud of you all.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (June 3)

Good morning. A sunny start to our day on campus. If you have Amazon Prime, consider Unforgotten, a 2015 English crime show. Worth a look. Not too many updates for a Wednesday:

  • The COVID-19 Testing Center was in operation yesterday and will be open on Thursday, too. I don’t have any details about the number of residents served yesterday.
  • The RVCC Board of Trustees held a virtual Board Meeting last night, approving an amended operating budget for RVCC for FY21 of $51,347,000. For comparison, in FY19 RVCC’s operating budget was $53,926,000. The reduction of $2,579,000 reflects the loss of operating aid from the state, the freezing of sixteen “open positions,” and dramatic cuts in individual department operating budgets. Despite these actions, we still confront a budget deficit of $1,525,000.
  • Yesterday, the Re-Open RVCC Task Force held its first meeting. Led by Brian O’Rourke the group quickly identified a series of individual topics to address and organized themselves into smaller working groups. The table below reflects the membership of this group and the stakeholder groups that each member represents. As the work of this important task force progresses, I will provide updates to the campus community:

 

Title or Function or Stakeholder Group

Potential Member

Facilities

Brian O’Rourke, Chair

Council of Faculty – full-time representative

Ed Carr

Council of Faculty – adjunct representative

Tom Moomjy

Council of Administrators

Lonny Buinis

Council of Staff

Martha Salas

Forum

Alexa Offenhauer

Workforce

Joanie Coffaro

Workforce

Conrad Mercurius

HR

Cheryl Wallace

Faculty Union

Barbara Luby

Administrators Union and Library

Chad Peters

Classified Staff Union

Donna Gero

Interior Design

Virginia Smith

Public Safety

Robert Szkodny

Faculty (At large member)

Maria DeFilippis

Student Affairs

Jason Fredericks

Budget Resource Committee

Roberta Harmon

Enrollment Services

Carolyn White

Nursing

Heather Heithoff

SGA (two rotating representatives)

Krys Locker

Jadyn Funkhouser

Administration

John Trojan (ex-officio)

  •  Governor Murphy has announced that childcare facilities may reopen on June 15th. The Governor suggested that there will be restrictions governing the reopening, but his office has not yet released those guidelines. RVCC’s childcare staff will begin to plan for the eventually re-opening of our facility and I’ll provide details as soon as they emerge from the childcare staff.
  • I want to thank our EOF staff for responding so quickly to the proposed state cuts to this vital program. We will do all we can to advocate for the restoration of these funds. These funds support some of our most deserving students – and some of our most vulnerable – if we are to remain the college of opportunity, these funds must be restored.

I hope everyone continues to follow CDC guidelines. Please take care and stay well.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (June 2)

Good morning from a somewhat gray, overcast campus. I hope you are all well; just a few updates for our community today:

  • At 2:00 pm today, the Reopening RVCC Task Force will hold its first meeting. Under the leadership of Brian O’Rourke, this large group of very talented RVCC faculty, staff, and students will help us prepare for a re-opening of our College in the fall. It is likely that after this initial meeting, the group will divide into smaller subcommittees and explore specific challenges associated with such a reopening (technology, classroom spaces, signage, safety protocols, cleaning). I want to thank each of the members of this important task force and to stress, once more, the importance of this work. We have to reopen in the safest way possible.
  • Today, the RVCC Board of Trustees will hold a virtual public Board meeting at 5:15 pm. If you wish to participate int his meeting, the dial in number is 1-917-942-7142 and at the prompt enter this participant PIN: 104-217-941-89.
  • I’ve attached the latest edition of RVCC Heroes. Thanks again to our marketing and PR staffs for this inspiring publication.
  • As many of you know, RVCC is a member of the New Jersey Council of Community Colleges. This eighteen-member organization represents the “voice” and the “vision” of New Jersey’s vibrant community colleges. Over the past day or so, this Council has been drafting a statement about the events that have unfolded since the murder of Mr. George Floyd in the Powderhorn community of Minneapolis on May 25th. Throughout those efforts to compose a collective statement, I kept thinking about a sermon Martin Luther King, Jr.’s delivered in Selma, Alabama in 1965. Speaking one day after the horrific events of “Bloody Sunday” on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Reverend King, Jr. so eloquently reminded us that “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Today, the events unfolding in the United States of America matter. What we say matters.  Here is the statement from the eighteen colleges that represent the NJCCC:

The New Jersey Council of County Colleges and its 18 member schools stand together to denounce the death of Mr. George Floyd and the ongoing injustice in our nation. We stand together in denouncing this historic and continued problem. 

For more than 250 years, our country has failed to embrace and value all people equally. This has resulted in countless and needless deaths, a lack of progress and real prosperity for all, and ultimately, it allows true democracy and freedom for all to elude us.

Our colleges are rooted in the core values of equality, equity, and opportunity. New Jersey’s community colleges seek to be a greater part of the solution. For more than fifty years, we have served students and community members with enthusiasm and passion. We value all people and embrace the opportunity to stop hatred and promote peace through education, continued discourse, and by doing all we can to ensure that every member of our community knows they are welcome on our campuses.”

Like many of you, I am overwhelmed by the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. Let us be clear: RVCC will renew its commitment to create an inclusive and safe environment, a community that fosters respect for all people. While we grieve and while we mourn, we will continue to fight against racism and injustice as one united College.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (June 1)

Welcome to another Monday, another week in the midst of this pandemic. Summer I is underway and we are developing our plans for the fall semester. Some updates for this new work week.

  • Filming has already begun for our 2020 Virtual Commencement. One feature that I want to highlight is the Virtual Success Wall. This element will feature RVCC graduates who have excelled academically, contributed to campus life, transferred to selective institutions, or launched successful careers. Their profiles are designed to inspire and encourage all students to succeed. If you would like to nominate a graduate for the Virtual Success Wall, please submit that recommendation to Donna Stolzer by Thursday, June 4. Include a brief description of why you think the graduate is worthy of this honor. Donna’s email is donna.stolzer@raritanval.edu
  • RVCC’s Board of Trustees will hold their Board meeting tomorrow at 5:15 pm. The meeting will be a virtual one and I’ll provide call in details in tomorrow’s daily update.

I have a five-hour conference call with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education today, a marathon session during which we’ll vote on the accreditation status of eight or nine colleges. (I may not immediately reply to your email, text, or phone call today.) And so it goes……

Be well and enjoy this first day of the new month.

Update From RVCC President Michael McDonough (May 29)

Good morning. We’ve arrived at another Friday and it is fitting that we pause to remember and to mourn those lives lost to this pandemic. Behind each number is a life, a promise to have been realized, a purpose to have been fulfilled. The cost is staggering, but the individual lives torn apart is almost too much to bear. Please remain as safe as you can.

Some updates:

  • Yesterday, RVCC’s COVID-19 Testing Site tested fifty-two people. I will provide updates to our community about future testing days and times.
  • Professor Reilly has informed me that former RVCC president Joseph R. Fink has passed away in California at the age of eighty-three. Dr. Fink was RVCC’s president from 1974 – 1978. A historian, Dr. Fink earned his Ph.D in American History from Rutgers and an A.B. in History from Rider University. From 1988 until his retirement in 2011, Dr. Fink served as the president of Dominican University in California.
  • I want to thank three more RVCC staff members for providing crucial support for our efforts to distribute CARES Act funds to students. Thank you, then, to Lonny Buinis, Qianqian Wang, and Kelly Oliver.
  • Thanks to Vice President Belin I can provide an update regarding the student portion of the CARES Act:
    • The number of applications submitted were 1,055
    • The total amount requested (from both eligible and ineligible students) was $2,957,953
    • 876 students were awarded CARES Act Funding
    • The number of ineligible students were 179
    • The total amount dispersed was $1,366,680
    • Minimum distribution was $700
    • Maximum distribution was $2,075
    • The range for the majority of the awards was between $1,050 and $1,725
    • Most importantly, 90% of the checks have been mailed.

Apologies for such a brief (and poorly written) update. The past few days have proved a challenge and I need to attend a meeting with state officials, but wanted to send this message out as soon as possible.

Please enjoy the weekend, the warmth, and the comfort of family and friends.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (May 28)

Good morning. I hope everyone continues to be safe and well. A somewhat brief update this morning (hopefully, not a lull before the storm):

  • I want to acknowledge the following RVCC staff members for all their work on the CARES Act funds for students. These staff members, with almost no guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, designed a comprehensive framework to distribute over $1 million in a little less than three weeks. I want to thank Lenny Mesonas, Erin Kislan, Theresa McAllister, Karen Lattin, Carolyn White, Janet Thompson, Eric Sherman, Michael Machnik, and Cristina Lankay. They determined how students would apply, how funds would be allocated, and produced all the messaging around the CARES Act funds. As you read this update, the funds are being allocated to 946 RVCC students.
  • A second CARES Act update. Initially, a number of applicants were determined not to be eligible for these federal monies, but we are going to reopen those cases and see if there is a way to qualify those applicants. The U.S Department of Education keeps amending their guidelines and we believe that there is some latitude in certain eligibility requirements. If we can, we will fund additional students.
  • After talking to one or two colleagues, let me try to make clearer the budget crisis facing the College. Last week, the state announced that it would eliminate all operating aid to New Jersey’s public colleges (two-year and four-year) for the months of July, August, and September. The result is that RVCC lost $1.4 million - $1.4 million we had included in our FY21 budget. It made our FY21 budget – approved by the Board of Trustees – inaccurate. We will provide a revised FY21 budget to the Board of Trustees at the June 2 meeting. That budget will show a $1.4 million gap. A gap that we now have to close. This gap is solely the result of the state’s decision to withhold all operating funds for the “fifth quarter” of FY20. The College has cut its operating expenses, has frozen all hiring, and has made other cost-saving decisions. Now, we will have to make extremely difficult decisions, decisions that we will make in consultation with each of the unions representing the College’s three major bargaining units. We will make every effort to move forward collaboratively and with as much transparency as possible. While we explore options, we have made no decisions whatsoever. If you have any questions or concerns, you may always contact me directly.
  • The state has $300 million in CARES Act funds for higher education. However, it is a very restrictive fund. RVCC can only apply for funding for expenses directly related to COVID-19. Today, RVCC has about $230,000 of eligible expenses.

Please continue to be safe. I wish our students success in their summer courses and don’t forget to register for the fall semester.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (May 27)

I hope you are all well and finding some time to enjoy this early summer heat. Campus continues to remain eerily silent and the geese have taken over, boldly claiming ownership of the walkways, the roads, the grass areas, and any other campus spot that takes their fancy. Animal Farm anyone? (And they’re not even citizen Geese.)

Some updates:

  • While Governor Murphy has announced that some graduations may take place beginning in July (with significant restrictions), we will continue to plan for our virtual commencement.
  • And on a similar note: congratulations to Beryl and Elliot Stetson, elected by their colleagues as the faculty speakers for our 2020 Commencement.
  • The Office of the Secretary of Higher Education has approved RVCC’s request for a waiver from the order to cease in-person instruction in Executive Order 107 to allow certain students to participate in studio or lab instruction for the following programs: Advanced Manufacturing Technology (Certificate program), Automotive Technology (AAS degree program; certificate program), Commercial Energy Management (AAS degree program; certificate program),  and Environmental Control Technology (AAS degree program; certificate program).
  • An update regarding the CARES Act funding for students: 822 students were deemed eligible and will receive a total of $1,290,130 in funding. The average award is $1,539 and the majority of awards fall between $1,188 to $1,890. Unfortunately, because of the volume, the remote circumstances, and the shortage of staff, we are unable to respond to specific requests for information.
  • The next RVCC Board of Trustees Meeting will take place virtually on June 2nd at 5:15 pm. I will provide call in details in a later daily update.
  • Congratulations to Julia DeTommaso. Julia has been elected as the Alumni Representative to RVCC’s Board of Trustees. Julia will be sworn in as a new trustee at the June 2nd Board of Trustee Meeting.
  • The Board of School Estimate will take place virtually on June 3rd at 9:00. This meeting provides an opportunity for Somerset and Hunterdon Counties to approve RVCC’s operating budget, to establish the County contribution to operating aid, and to approve minor and major capital funding.
  • RVCC has two opportunities to apply for funding to support operating aid. The first is the GEER monies: the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund totals $69 million and will support higher education institutions in New Jersey. The second source of potential funding is the $300 million provided to New Jersey as a part of the CARES Act. This fund is very restrictive and institutions may only apply to recover those monies spent as a direct result or response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both of these funding sources provide some relief for the College in light of the state cuts in our operating aid. To be clear: over the past month or two, RVCC has lost a total of over $2.4 million in state operating aid.

While we’ve had to endure some harsh fiscal cuts over the past day or two, we remain committed to student learning and, more importantly, to student success. I encourage all our students to remain focused on completion and to hold firm to those transformative plans for the future. We will respond to these challenges and we will strive to be the one of the best community colleges in the nation.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (May 26)

Good morning. I did watch The Match II yesterday, and I have to admit that I was delighted to see Tom Brady perform so poorly – what a bad golfer. As a long-time Buffalo Bills season ticket holder, it was so rewording to see Brady stumble – because he rarely did against the Bills.

Just one or two updates today:

  • An article by Sara Goldbrick-Rab in The Atlantic is generating a great deal of discussion. Titled “Community Colleges Aren’t Prepared for This Crisis,” she calls on the federal government to support the nation’s community colleges as they struggle to serve those citizens facing the most serious challenges of this pandemic.
  • Late last week, we received some sobering news from the state: RVCC will not receive any state funds for its operating aid for the months of July, August, and September. This sudden announcement presents a serious challenge to the College; it impacts our proposed FY21 budget and prompts significant recalculations. The state did note that the $69 million they received in GEER funding would go to higher education (but no indication on how they will allocate those funds, the total amount RVCC would receive, or when those funds would be available). The state also received $300 million in State Recovery Assistance funds and these monies are available to higher education, too. However, these are very restrictive funds (COVID-19 eligible expenses only) and are likely to distributed on a rolling and limited basis. We will continue to amend our budget forecast, to advocate on behalf of our students, and to think about the ways RVCC will have to change in order to survive these profound challenges.
  • A reminder that registration is open for Summer II. Classes begin on July 6 and run until August 14.

 Apologies for such a brief update. I hope you are all well. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (May 25)

The two-day absence has proved too much for me and I’m compelled to write a daily update – even on this Memorial Day (and an early apology for the awkward sentimentality of today’s note). I hope you are all well and beginning to embrace this much needed seasonal change. 

Some updates:

  • Somerset County has announced that its transit Shuttle will begin limited service on June 1st. It will operate on a modified schedule and will waive fares until July 1st. You will have to wear a facial covering to use the service and vehicles will be limited to 50% capacity. Any resident wishing to use the transit shuttle will have to make a reservation no more than two weeks in advance for a medical appointment or no more than one week in advance for shopping. While the service will not stop at Raritan Valley Community College, it will provide service to ShopRite on Route 28 in Branchburg. If you need more information, call 908.231.7115. To view the schedule, go to bit.ly/ShuttleSchedule2020.
  • The RVCC Foundation is launching a new campaign: RV Lives Campaign is an effort to support RVCC students, to provide funds that help them address the financial devastation caused by the pandemic, to help them stay on focused on learning, to help them transform their lives. From now until November, the Foundation will try to raise $100,000 for RVCC students. This campaign will be a virtual, digital effort, using a web-based platform to receive and process donations. As the campaign progresses, I’ll provide updates on our progress.
  • I’m also attaching the latest edition of RVCC Heroes. Thank you to our marketing and PR staff for this latest highlight and I want to encourage everyone to keep nominating those RVCC community members that we can highlight.
  • I want to congratulate Julia DeTommaso, the new Alumni representative to the RVCC Board of Trustees. Julia will be sworn in for her one-year term at the June 30th Board meeting.
  • I want to congratulate the RVCC staff members involved in our OER (Open Educational Resources) efforts. Recently, a donor provided another $18,000 in funding, bringing the total donations to $51,000. These efforts, especially now, are so important in improving teaching and learning and in lowering the educational costs for students.
  • RVCC continues to be impacted by the state’s fiscal crisis, and I’ll provide a more detailed update in a later update.

If you’re able, please enjoy some time away from our changed reality. And, if possible, pause to remember those who did heed a call to service. In England, Remembrance Sunday is celebrated at 11:00 am on the second Sunday in November. My grandfather, Michael McDonough, fought in World War I in the Irish Guards, my Dad served in the Lancashire Loyals Regiment, from 1931 until 1966, fighting throughout WWII, and my Mum served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service from 1939 until 1946.  I wish I had taken the time to recognize their service, to acknowledge their role in the “greatest generation.” Today, perhaps we can all find a moment to thank someone for her service, for her kindness, for her support and belief in our ambitions. Whatever we achieve today rests on a foundation built by others. I owe everything to my Mum and Dad.

 

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (May 20)

Good morning. Like Saint Augustine – but certainly much lesser in scope and importance – another confession: I’m departing early today for another 18 holes of self-inflicted doubt and agony. Very few updates today:

  • On the national scene, it is becoming clear that there are stark differences in how some community colleges are planning for the fall semester. The Dallas County Community College System, serving about 162,000 students, has announced that it will remain closed for the fall and offer only online courses. On the other hand, Ivy Tech Community College, with an enrollment of about 75,000, is planning to open all campus in the fall. Currently, we are planning for a “multiple opening” – a mix of online, remote, and limited on-campus.
  • We continue to distribute the CARES Act funds to those students who were registered for the spring semester or the summer semester.
  • And just a reminder: registration is open for Summer II and courses are beginning to fill up.
  • We are asking the state to clarify the announcement about the suspension of Chapter 12 funds. If this action becomes a reality, it will have a significant impact on our campus and will halt progress on the comprehensive renovation of the Arts Building and on the ambitious plans for a fully integrated student enrollment (and services) center.
  • The membership of the “Reopen RVCC” Task Force is almost complete and I will announce all members next week.

We have a holiday weekend soon upon us so this may be my last daily update until next Tuesday. If I can, I will continue.

Please find the time to rest, to enjoy the promise of a new summer. And, most importantly, stay safe.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (May 19)

Good morning everyone. I hope you’re finding a new rhythm after the dizzying ups and downs of the spring semester. To misquote Rick Blaine, “We’ll always have the spring semester.”

Just one or two updates for this rain-free Tuesday:

  • Yesterday, Governor Murphy provided some broad ideas about his vision for the gradual reopening of the state. He imagines a three-part process and asserted that we are firmly in the middle of phase one. He identified five key metrics that would be monitored before moving into phase two (a phase that would see many more businesses and activities reopening): a decline in new hospitalizations, a decline in new COVID-19 cases, an increase in testing, increased contact tracing capacity, and appropriate workplace safeguards. As far as workplace safeguards, Governor Murphy noted physical distancing, face mask use, and prohibiting any large gatherings.
  • RVCC has scheduled its Board of School Estimate Meeting for June 3rd at 9:00 am. This meeting will take place virtually and provides an opportunity for the two counties to approve RVCC’s budget (and related county allocations to operating aid) and capital requests.
  • Some additional information regarding our childcare center. As a reminder, the center is closed because of Governor Murphy’s executive order. Currently, the only operating childcare centers are those providing service to “essential workers” (defined in Executive Order #110), those located on federal property or military bases, or those providing home-based services to less than five children. As soon as Governor Murphy lifts his order, we will ask our experts to plan a fall reopening, prompting likely changes in our operation and structure.
  • Yesterday, I participated in a virtual meeting with our health sciences faculty and administrators to plan for the fall semester. Two things are so clear about the RVCC faculty and staff: the obvious passion for teaching and for their students and their focused desire to provide not only the best but the safest educational experience for all our students. They were creative and thoughtful and I know that whatever challenges await us in the fall our faculty and staff will tackle each one.
  • While much of the press is reporting that the California State System will not open in the fall, their detailed planning documents reveal a much more complicated reality. The campuses will be open to limited cohorts of students so that certain disciplines and programs can be served. For example, the system has announced that all nursing students will be allowed on campus and that those programs will continue with in-person instruction. Lab sciences will continue as will a host of other programs characterized by a significant hands-on learning component.
  • Yesterday, New Jersey’s Office of Public Finance said that it would “suspend” Chapter 12 funding. RVCC uses Chapter 12 funding to carry out all the campus building and renovation projects. If these funds are not available, it will have a significant impact on current projects and on our future plans. We are trying to better understand the announcement and as soon as we have more clarity, I’ll provide an update.
  • Membership on our “Reopening RVCC” Task Force is almost complete and I will provide that full membership to the campus community tomorrow. I can think of no more important group at this time and their work will prove vital to RVCC’s future success and ability to continue to serv the thousands of students who call RVCC “home.”

I’ll end with a link to a video message from Senator Booker. Senator Booker wanted to send a message to our 2020 graduates, but his comments apply to all the members of the RVCC family. To see the video, go to https://youtu.be/ZoCQGo8lbu4

I hope you continue to be well (and safe). Please let me know of any questions or concerns.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (May 18)

I hope everyone enjoyed that glorious weekend, including the return of “live” sports (NASCAR and golf). Summer I classes begin today and we continue to try and plan for the fall semester. A week or two ago, I received my new “green card,” making me a legal resident for another ten years. Next year, I will have lived in the US for forty years. Time to become a citizen, I think.

Just a few updates to begin our week:

  • We are putting a new procedure in place for password resets. In the past, you’d be given an “Rv” number as a temporary login and then you’d have the ability to change your password. Unfortunately, that “Rv” number was being compromised and so we are offering a slightly different process. Now, you’ll be given a random 8-character password as a temporary login.
  • As Brian O’Rourke notes, hand washing is preferred over using hand sanitizers. Brian, as the executive director of facilities, has been researching portable hand washing stations and we will likely purchase a number of these free-standing devices for the fall semester.
  • We will try to begin distributing the CARES Act funds to students this week. For those students not eligible for the CARES Act, the RVCC Foundation is keeping their application process “Open.” The Foundation has funded about 22 applications so far, allocating a little over 60% of the program funds. For the original CARES Act funds, we plan to distribute about 70% of the funds now (or about $1.3 million) and reserve the remaining monies for the fall semester.
  • RVCC’s COVID-19 Testing Center will be open tomorrow and on Thursday, beginning at 10:00 am. Whether it remains open past this week, will depend on the availability to testing supplies and resources.
  • There’s a new addition of RVCC Heroes and I’ve attached a copy to his message. Thanks again to our marketing and PR staffs for these inspiring publications.
  • We have decided to keep the RVCC Childcare Center open for the next academic year. While the Governor’s current executive order keep the Center closed during the summer months, we are hopeful that once lifted, we can begin to re-imagine the Center. We will make some changes to how we operate the Center, but recognize the vital role the facility plays in the lives of some faculty and staff, students, and residents.

And finally, we have a holiday fast approaching. The College will be closed this Friday and Monday to celebrate Memorial Day. In the early ‘80s, I was at Penn State and nearby Boalsburg always proclaimed itself “the birthplace of Memorial Day.” Of course, the historical record is a little more complicated than that. So, in the words of Walter Peck,” shut off these machines.” (Can anyone name the movie?)

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (May 15)

We’ve reached another Friday, sadly noting that tomorrow would have been RVCC’s 2020 Commencement. I think I’ve been writing these updates for about two months now and I’m certain you’re tired of hearing from me (and yet I continue to write them). These updates have become such an essential part of my day now, an anchor for me; I’m sitting in my office blasting Luther Allison’s “It’s Been a Long Time” – Luther Allison was a brilliant American blues guitarist and if you haven’t listened to him, you must – trying to figure out what lies ahead for RVCC, for our students and for our staff. And I’ll close my rambling introduction with a very meandering pop culture memory. Growing up in Lancashire, my local TV station was Grenada Television and in 1976, at the height of the punk movement, they aired a show called So It Goes, hosted by Tony Wilson and showcased all the new punk acts. I then realized, at the ripe age of 17, that he’d stolen the title from Slaughterhouse Five and so began my love of American literature. And so it goes….

Some updates:

  • We have received our allocation of funds from the CARES Act that will support direct aid to students. We have received 1,015 applications requesting $2,810,234.48. We received $1.9 million in funds and will allocate 70% of that total during this immediate period. Our intent is to move as quickly as possible and to fund as many students as possible. It is clear, however, that in order to fund as many applicants as possible we will reduce the maximum awards; in other words, you may not receive the total amount you requested. As we begin to distribute these funds, I will provide more updates for the campus community.
  • Yesterday, the RVCC CoVID-19 Testing Site served 84 residents. The site will be in operation week (Tuesday and Thursday) and will likely continue in the coming weeks, too. As soon as we have more information, I will provide an update to the campus community.
  • We continue to move forward with planning our “virtual commencement” (June 27th, 10:00 am). As you know, Governor Murphy will record a message and we will identify a faculty speaker and a student speaker, too. As I noted earlier, we will invite all 2020 graduates to the 2021 Commencement and will find a way to celebrate their accomplishments during that event.
  • The latest state data regarding new unemployment claims continues to reveal the devastation of this pandemic: since March 21 until May 9, 931,025 New Jerseyans have filed for unemployment. In Somerset and Hunterdon Counties, that number totals 37,391. As we begin to think about how to “reopen” RVCC, we must think about how to restore our neighbors.
  • Next week, I will let everyone know the membership of RVCC’s “Reopening Task Force.” My challenge for this group is Herculean: identify the ways in which we can begin to reopen this College in the fall semester. I will ask that the group embrace some foundational principles: that we must never waver from science to dictate our strategies, that we must protect our students and staff, that we must sustain excellence in teaching and learning, that we must not abandon our role in the community, and that we must guarantee the long-term strength of the institution.

I know that there is a great deal of anxiety and confusion about the fall. And I wish I could provide an all-encompassing answer that would soothe our worry. I can’t. I can, however, note that RVCC has a determined and talented group of people tackling every single aspect of this reopening, that we will continue to be a place for students to transform their lives, that we will continue to support New Jersey’s economic recovery, and that we will always say “yes” to the community needs of our two counties. I will be at our front door and I will welcome everyone every single colleague and every single student.  

As always, I wish you good health. After my round of golf on Wednesday, I’m thinking of taking up bowling.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (May 14)

Good morning. I hope everyone is well and able to enjoy some f this glorious late spring weather. Not very many updates today:

  • Summer I and III enrollment continues to increase and I am delighted to see so many continuing students take advantage of our summer offerings. Many of our courses are near capacity so if you were interested in taking a course so register as soon as you can. Summer I starts on Monday, May 18th.
  • I’m delighted to let you know that Governor Murphy has agreed to record a message for our 2020 Virtual Commencement. Governor Murphy has made higher education one of his key priorities and his bold initiative – the Community College Opportunity Grant Program – reveals his desire to remove economic barriers to postsecondary education and to promote access and affordability for all New Jerseyans.
  • A reminder that RVCC’s COVID-19 Testing Site is operational today, and will be in operation next week on Tuesday, May 19th and Thursday, May 21st. Testing is restricted to parking lots 4 and 5.
  • If you click on “Publications” at the bottom of the RVCC home page, you can check out the latest edition of RVCC Moments, a monthly electronic newsletter that provides information and updates about the campus.

I fear that campus is becoming my Overlook Hotel and that I’m in danger of becoming Jack Torrance. I miss my colleagues and I miss the students. But we are making plans for fall 2020 and in whatever way we can, RVCC will continue to support your dreams and will continue to celebrate your success.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (May 13)

I have to begin with a confession (I blame my years as a pupil at St. Ignatius Catholic Primary School): this is a very rushed daily message because I’m about to sneak off campus and play 18 holes at Copper Hill Country Club. As someone most cinematically said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Some updates:

  • Just a quick reminder to students: the RealCollege During COVID-19 Survey is still live until Friday, May 15th. The survey is conducted by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University, a group that identifies and tries to remove economic barriers to student success. Click on the link in the email from Survey, RVCC to participate.
  • We have received the $1.9 million portion of the CARES Act funds that support campus operations; we are still waiting for the $1.9 million for direct to student aid. As soon as that allocation is in our account, we will begin to distribute the funds to our students. We have received well over 900 applications and I want to thank the very dedicated group of RVCC staff members who have designed and managed this brand-new process. Thank you.
  • By the end of this week, I will appoint about 20 RVCC staff and faculty members to a “Reopen RVCC” Task Force. This group will identify the challenges that confront us as we “reopen” the RVCC campus and they will begin to explore potential solutions, actions that will protect the health and safety of students and staff, that will promote engaged and innovative learning, and that will sustain the ever-expansive future of the College. At this time, science must and will shape our thinking and our actions. Some of the areas of focus for this group may include technology, learning spaces, student support services, security and safety, student life activities, and auxiliary operations. I will provide more detailed updates as their work unfolds over the course of the next few months.
  • We’re beginning to settle on some of the details about our “virtual commencement.” We are asking the Governor to record a message and we will include a faculty speaker, a student speaker, and a message from the Chair of the RVCC Board of Trustees. In addition, we will ask the Freeholder Chairs from each county to provide a message.
  • Yesterday, the House democrats released the HEROES Act, an addition to the CARES Act legislation. The draft bill is over 1,800 pages long and I admit (another confession) that I only looked at the part that may involve college funding. The Act provides substantial aid to the states and a part of that money – perhaps as much as $47 billion – is for higher education. The House will now engage in a vigorous debate and I don’t expect there to be a quick or easy resolution.
  • The New Jersey Council of County Colleges continues to play an important role during this crisis. On behalf of all 18 New Jersey community colleges, the Council is developing innovative pathways in healthcare training, is proposing partnerships with other institutions to train contact tracers, is advocating for fairness and equity in state operating aid allocations, is leading a state-wide marketing campaign promoting our sector, and is facilitating forums about the future of higher education in the Garden State.
  • Congratulations and applause to Professor Beau Younker and Kimberly Meany. Yesterday, they received the official certificate of accreditation for the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program. They join a select group of ACOTE-accredited programs and the RVCC program is now accredited all the way until 2027.

I hope you’re all well and staying safe. RVCC continues to move forward, continues to think about the ways that we might best serve students, and continues to plan for the fall. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to me. I’m here – well, maybe not today.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (May 12)

Good morning everyone. Certainly, a crisp and bright morning that I hope finds you all well. Xfinity is hosting a “Watchathon week” (guilt about the outrageous sum of money that make me pay every month) and I’m binging on Richard Gere’s MotherFatherSon drama that first aired on BBC2. Can’t tell if I like it yet.

Some campus updates:

  • Let me correct a spelling error: Renz Baluyot was one of the winners of the THRIVERS2020 Personal Statement Video Competition. Congratulations, Renz.
  • A quick reminder: if you ordered textbooks for summer courses on the bookstore website, they will be delivered to the address you provided with your order. There is no need to come to campus to pick up any textbooks or other course material.
  • Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education announced that $127.5 million would be available as part of the Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grant Program. These funds can be used to support short-term workforce programs that lead to immediate employment for displaced and long-term unemployed workers. While individual colleges cannot apply for these grants, state agencies can and it is likely that New Jersey will apply and will likely seek collaboration with the community college sector. RVCC is prepared to offer this kind of short-term programming to meet critical labor market need.
  • And a word about the failure of the CARES Act to support community college students. The allocations were made using a “full-time equivalency” ratio and not on the basis of a total headcount. In other words, part-time students were counted as only a fraction of a full-time student. As a result, community colleges received 27% of the total allocation. However, if we had used a headcount model, community colleges would have received 39% of the funds. In addition, the for-profit sector received $1.1 billion in funds.
  • I received an email directing me to The Sapling Project. For many years, a majestic Chestnut tree stood behind the Anne Frank home. When it was discovered that the tree had become diseased, saplings were taken from the tree. Institutions, museums, organizations, and other entities may not apply to receive a sapling and to create a space that honors the legacy and memory of Anne Frank. It seems fitting that RVCC might apply to The Sapling Project, in recognition of our Institute of Holocaust and Genocide Studies and to those community members who helped us “never to forget.”
  • Today, RVCC filed an appeal with the Office of the New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education. We are asking that we be granted an exemption so that students in Advanced Manufacturing, Automotive Technology, and Environmental Control Technology may return to campus and complete their lab or “hands on” learning component of their course. We intend to file additional appeals for additional courses.
  • New Jersey’s Secretary of Higher Education has also created a Restart Advisory Group, a group of New Jersey college presidents who will plan for the reopening of the state’s colleges and universities in the fall. The community college sector is represented by the presidents of Camden, Sussex, Atlantic-Cape, Union, Passaic, and Brookdale Community Colleges.

I hope that you will continue to be safe and well. If you’re going to begin a Summer I class soon, I wish you success. One of my Dad’s favorite singers was Vera Lynn and her signature WWII song was “We’ll Meet Again.” So, until we meet again, stay safe.

PS Dame Vera Lynn is still alive and turned 103 in March.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (May 11)

As The Boomtown Rats once sang, “I Don’t Like Mondays.” I really don’t mind Mondays, but thought I’d start with a pop culture reference.

Some updates to begin our week:

  • The New Jersey Chapter of Campus Compact selected three students to receive awards in the THRIVERS 2020 Personal Statement Video Competition. Two of the students were from Raritan Valley Community College; so, congratulations to Renz Bayulot and Ronald Gazaway. I’m so proud of you and your success. A huge round of applause.
  • I received a letter from Colonel Patrick Callahan, State Director of Emergency Management. In the letter, Colonel Callahan explains that under Executive Order No. 107 all gatherings of more than ten people are prohibited and that this order includes “wave parades.” As a result, we cannot approve any parades of cars on campus to celebrate graduation or other student achievement.
  • Because of this policy, we will offer a “virtual commencement” on June 27th at 10:00 am. Currently, we are working out the specific details of the event and I’ll update the campus as soon as we have a clear idea of the ceremony and the components. The 2020 graduates will also be invited to the 2021 commencement and will participate in that ceremony.
  • We have received over 850 applications for the CARES Act funds. We have been informed by the federal government that we should receive those funds tomorrow and we will begin to distribute those monies as soon as possible. We are reserving 30% of the total allocation for the fall semester ($570,000).
  • This week, I will send out an invitation to various members of our community to join a task force that will focus on reopening campus. I will make sure that all key groups are represented and that the work of the task force will be as transparent as possible. I imagine that this large convening group will identify key areas to explore and transition into smaller working groups. I’ll provide regular updates about the composition and the progress of this most important campus initiative.

As always, please continue to practice those behaviors that will keep you (and others) safe. I’m hooked on Penny Dreadful: City of Angels and can’t wait till episode four is released.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (May 8)

Another week has folded into another week and we are almost at the end of our spring labors. I want to congratulate everyone for reaching this milestone and for sustaining student learning and the essential mission of the College. Very few updates today:

  • Another thank you to RVCC’s media staff for the new edition of RVCC Heroes.
  • Congratulations to RVCC students Gillian Rock and Christopher Clark. A recent news report on NJ.com highlighted their efforts to make face masks for hospital workers at Lehigh Valley Hospital. Applause for these two members of our campus community.
  • Yesterday, the RVCC COVID-19 Testing Site served 125 residents. The site managers continue to explore details about the future of the site and I will provide updates as those details become available.
  • The RVCC team tasked with managing the “virtual commencement” was able to secure June 27 as the date for the vent. We will now plan the details of this event and as soon as those are established I’ll let everyone know the details.
  • Summer registration is still open and Summer I classes will begin in ten days – on May 18th. Remember: all summer classes are now online classes – there will be no instruction on campus.

I hope that you’re all preparing for this weekend’s polar vortex (no seriously). Please stay warm and stay safe. I know that many of you will be focusing on new topics after completing your classes, but I’ll keep writing a daily update and I hope that you’ll continue to stay in touch. Please let me know what you’re doing, how you’re doing, and when I’ll see you back on campus.

As Phil Esterhaus used to say, “Let’s Be Careful Out There.” (Can you name the TV show?)

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (May 7)

Good morning. Today, May 7th, is the last of the supermoons this year, so I hope you took a peek at around 6:45 am when it reached its peak illumination (I did not because I’m still recovering from the marathon viewing of No Direction Home, which failed to change my opinion about Bob Dylan). Fewer updates today:

  • I begin with the delightful task of letting you know about one of RVCC’s many remarkable students. Valeria Izeppi has just been selected by New Jersey Campus Compact as a Changebuilder Scholar. In New Jersey, only seven students received this award and Valeria is the only community student among the recipients. Please help me recognize Valeria’s achievements and wish her continued success.
  • And in a similar mood, I’m so happy to provide you the link to RVCC’s Lean on Me video. The “RVCCSTRONG campaign encouraged students and staff members to document their support for our College during these most challenging times. I want to thank the Student Life Activities and Planning Board, the always support Student Life staff members, and all the RVCC community members who participated. Please go to https://youtu.be/bfApOcOKspQ to screen the film.
  • A reminder to students: you have one more week to file an application for funds from the CARES Act. We have received about 780 applications so far and as soon as the application ends, we will begin to determine which students will receive funding and, as importantly, the amount of each award. For those students not eligible to apply for the CARES Act funds, please go to the RVCC Foundation homepage and consider an application for their funds.
  • I received a great email from Michelle Edgar, Program Specialist for the Institute of Holocaust and Genocide Studies letting me know that people around the world are watching the lecture series Resilience During Challenging Times: Testimonies That Provide Hope.

It is essential that we all understand that if and when we re-open RVCC, campus life will not in any way resemble the experience we enjoyed pre-pandemic. It will, for some time, be a very different campus. As we continue to develop our plans (in close cooperation with the Secretary of Higher Education, the NJCCCC, and other state and federal agencies), we will provide clear and timely updates. Our plans are guided by three steadfast concerns: to protect our students and staff, to sustain learning, and to sustain the role of RVCC in the vibrant life of our community.

I hope you can find some time to enjoy this hint of spring sun – although my former colleagues in Rochester, NY are bracing for some lake effect snow. Serves them right for living so near a Great Lake. Continue to be safe and please contact me with questions, concerns, advice, or ideas.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (May 6)

Yes, I’m still watching the Bob Dylan documentary – this is time that I will never get back (like attending my son’s 5th grade band concerts – not only lost time but a torture to my sense of rhythm and melody). Some updates:

  • As you may know, all Summer II classes will now be moved to an online format. As soon as we finish transitioning currently enrolled students into these new online sections, we will open up registration to the newly rescheduled (and online) Summer II courses. Enrollment for Summer I and Summer III continues to grow, so if you want to take a summer course please don’t wait too much longer to register.
  • And just to reinforce my thinking about the fall semester. My best guess is that fall will be something of a hybrid semester: I think there will be some face-to-face instruction on campus, some exclusively online learning, and a dynamic mix of the two. I believe we will “re-open” the campus, but we will do so with purpose, with care, and with as much knowledge and data as we can find. We will make decisions based on keeping everyone as safe as possible, on sustaining student learning, and on preserving RVCC’s future.
  • Yesterday, the RVCC COVID-19 Testing Site tested 95 residents. The site will operate on Thursday, beginning at 10:00 am, but the future plans are to reduce service to a once-a-week schedule beginning on May 12th.
  • New Jersey’s ten four-year public colleges and universities have launched the NJ Scholars Corps program to convince New Jersey residents who are attending college out of state to come back to New Jersey and enroll at a four-year public college or university. Rutgers, however, is not included in this effort. These ten-college group have launched a website with more information: http://njcomehome.org/ The ten colleges insist that the messaging is not targeted to students currently enrolled at a community college.
  • The RVCC group exploring the idea of a “virtual commencement” is close to completing a deal with a company to provide such an event. We are looking at Saturday, June 27th as a potential date for the ceremony, and we will continue to plan the details of the event. 2020 spring and summer graduates will be invited to the 2021 Commencement and will be recognized and participate int hat event. I’ll provide more detail as we develop our relationship with the company providing this service.
  • We have received close to seven hundred applications for the CARES Act funds available to students. We have not received any of these funds into our account; as soon as we have these federal monies available, we will begin to distribute the funds, saving 30% of the total money available (about $570,000) for the fall semester.
  • We are analyzing proposals from at least two national companies to provide distance education consulting services to RVCC. As soon as we select a partner, I’ll provide the campus with an update, providing some detail about the kind of support we are seeking.

As always, I thank you for reading these sometimes garbled notes, for writing me, and for being a member of this academic community. I am so honored that you allow me to represent the spirit and the work of this college. It is not something I take lightly.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (May 5)

I’ve started to watch Martin Scorsese’s 2005 documentary No Direction Home, his 3 hour 28 minute epic treatment of Bob Dylan. It’s a commitment. I have a deep suspicion about Dylan – not unlike my suspicions about Andy Kaufman or Matthew McConaughey – I can’t quite tell if their sometimes genius overcomes their sometimes pedestrian or questionable work.

Some updates:

  • I’d like to clarify our policy regarding “Incompletes.” Any incomplete given this semester will extend for one year. In other words, students will have one year to complete whatever assignments are needed in order to receive a letter grade for the class. In an earlier discussion, I may have discussed the idea that an incomplete could remain for two years; that is not accurate – just one year.
  • One of my colleagues in the sciences forwarded me this opportunity for students:

As part of an initiative to bolster New Jersey’s STEM education and career pipeline, the Governor’s STEM Scholars was created as a public-private partnership among the Research & Development Council, Governor’s Office, Department of Education, Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, higher education institutions, and private industries that identifies and develops New Jersey’s next STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) thought leaders. We invite your students to apply to be Governor’s STEM Scholars for the 2020-2021 academic year on the program’s websitehttp://www.govstemscholars.com/apply/ from now through June 20, 2020.

To qualify, students must:

1) Attend school in New Jersey
2) Be in any grades from 10th through the doctoral level
3) Be enrolled in a program in the fields of STEM or show a demonstrated interest in STEM
4) Have a 3.5 G.P.A. or higher
5) Demonstrate leadership qualities either through participation in school programs or community activities (Leadership does not have to pertain to STEM, although this type of leadership would be helpful to a candidate.)

If selected, each scholar will complete a research project under the mentorship of an undergraduate or graduate scholar over the course of the 2020-2021 academic year. Scholars will also be required to attend four annual Governor’s STEM Scholars symposiums that introduce them to STEM opportunities in industryacademia, and government to help connect them to professionals in their fields of interest. Highlights of the program also include field trips, such as to Celgene’s facilities in Summit, NJ.

Please share this link  https://www.govstemscholars.com/apply/ with your students, school counselors, fellow faculty, and any other relevant departments, in order for every student to have the opportunity to apply for this career-jumpstarting opportunity!

  • Important information from the Math Department: because the testing center is closed, the Math Department has adopted Guided Self Placement for most of its courses. Students should go to this link to determine the correct course to take: https://www.raritanval.edu/2020-placement-testing.  If students have any questions after looking at these guidelines, they should contact an advisor for assistance.
  • Still no definitive information from the state regarding our budget allocation or about the Governor’s likely decision about whether we can “open” for face-to-face instruction in the fall. While I think it likely that the Governor will lift his executive orders that prohibit on-campus teaching, I don’t think that he will make that announcement in the next month or so.
  • A group of RVCC folks are reviewing the kinds of virtual commencements offered by a number of companies. While we had hoped to offer a commencement ceremony at the beginning of the fall semester, that is now almost certain not to occur. Therefore, we are exploring and probably will offer a virtual commencement. We will also invite any 2020 graduates to participate in the 2021 commencement ceremony. As soon as we have identified a company that we’d like to partner with, I’ll provide an update for everyone.
  • I want to applaud the efforts of our Rotaract students who filled three trailers full of food for our local food banks. The current crisis has put an enormous strain on area food banks and I’m delighted to see RVCC try to help.
  • The May RVCC Board of Trustee meeting has been moved to June 2. Once again\, the meeting will be conducted remotely and I will provide the campus with details about the meeting and about how to join the meeting nearer the actual time of the meeting.
  • The CDC has just updated their guidelines concerning new cleaning protocols for school and college facilities. They recommend using a backpack spray cleaner; RVCC has ordered one of these units and will test the equipment in the next week or so. If it proves effective, we will purchase enough cleaners to provide a deep cleaning of the entire campus facility.

 I think that’s all for today. I’m also deeply suspicious about Coldplay, Oasis, and, yes, even U2. Overrated or not? You decide.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (May 4)

I hope you all enjoyed our glorious spring weekend. I cannot believe it’s May and that we are hurtling toward the end of the spring semester. Very few updates for this Star Wars day:

  • After a great deal of thought and after long discussions with various campus leaders, I have decided to make Summer II exclusively online. I just don’t anticipate being ready to open the campus for face-to-face teaching. I will provide more detail about the online Summer II schedule in later updates.
  • A reminder to students not eligible for the CARES Act funds: the RVCC Foundation has reserved some very limited funds to support those students not eligible to apply for CARES Act funding. Complete the RVCC Foundation at Foundation Application. In addition, the RVCC Foundation is pleased to be offering a limited number of scholarships for this year’s summer session.  To apply for these important scholarships, please visit raritanval.awardspring.com.
  • I want to thank everyone who nominated an adjunct for the Adjunct Excellence in Teaching Award. The RVCC foundation will announce those adjuncts selected to receive this award later in the week.
  • I want to thank Dr. Patrice Marks and all the RVCC faculty and staff who are working on our Self-Study for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. I read a draft of RVCC’s self-study design document over the weekend, a pressing reminder that despite the current circumstances (and challenges) the “regular” business of the College continues. There’s something very comforting about that.
  • At some point this week, I will invite a wide range of campus members to be a part of a task force to explore how we might “re-open” the campus in the fall. Of course, it will be a fall opening unlike any past fall; we will have to re-imagine the entire teaching and learning environment. And to approach this daunting challenge, we will need a truly representative cross section of our entire community to be fully engaged in every aspect of the planning and execution. I’ll provide updates about this important process throughout the summer.
  • The College is exploring the idea of hiring an experienced consultant to help develop our online footprint. This consultant would help us provide more effective training in synchronous and other remote modalities, would plot a strategy for the development of more fully online programs, would implement quality standards and robust training schedules, and would offer a strategic vision for the future of distance learning at RVCC.
  • I’ve attached the latest edition of RVCC Heroes. Thanks as always to our creative media relations and marketing staff.
  • We are now fully engaged in exploring options for a “virtual commencement.” As soon as I have more information to share, I’ll provide those details in a future daily update. It is so important to celebrate student achievement, especially now.

We are all so close to the conclusion of what has to be the most surreal, unexpected, and challenging of semesters ever – but you are all almost there. Let’s focus and find that final burst of energy to complete the semester. Let me know how I can help.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (May 1)

Good morning everyone. This morning most vividly reminds me of that great line from the American poet e.e. cummings “when the world is puddle-wonderful.”

Some updates:

  • Professor Nikitovic rightly asked me to make the entire community aware of an event that will take place on Sunday, May 3rd in the front of the Branchburg Shoprite from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. As you all know, the strain on area food banks has been almost impossible to sustain. Food banks are running out of supplies. This food collection on Sunday, then, needs our support. If you’re willing to donate food, please drop by the event (where social distancing will be strictly enforced). If you prefer, you may also donate money and those donations will be spent in the Restaurant Depot to maximize the amount of food purchased. I’ve attached the flyer from Rotaract. I hope you’ll consider supporting this event.
  • A quick reminder: the application for student aid from the CARES Act is live and on the RVCC website. Also, if you are not eligible for these funds, please apply to the RVCC Foundation efforts to support you. While these funds are very limited, they might help you maintain your academic journey and resolve some financial challenges.
  • I want to thank all of our wonderful HR staff who continue to do all the work to take care of so many members of the RVCC community. I’m reminded that there’s a virtual Zumba class for RVCC employees. Beginning on Monday, May 4 at 5:30 pm, Amy Dixon will host a one-hour virtual Zumba class. She will also offer a class on each Wednesday in May at 12:00 pm. So if you wish to participate - beginning on the 4th on each Monday at 5:30 pm and Wednesday at 12:00 pm – email Caroline Seibert at caroline.seibert@raritanval.edu
  • Many years ago, I spent a summer in Massachusetts with about thirty or forty other academic administrators. One of those colleagues – Lane Glenn – is now the president of Northern Essex Community College and he’s written a powerful essay in which he points out how poorly funded community colleges are and yet how many of the nation’s first responders are graduates of the community college. It’s sobering to recognize that 85% of this nation’s first responders went to a community college. I’m no longer surprised by the snobbish, petty, and shrill prejudice that’s heaped upon our community colleges, but I continue to be stunned and bitterly disappointed by the ways in which our students are underfunded. Most of the people in the country who take care of us and protect us are community college graduates – surely, they deserve at least as much support as any other student?

I think that’s enough from me today. I wish you a wonderful weekend, a two-day stretch that promises some warm weather. Please stay well and safe. As always, I welcome your email.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (April 30)

Good morning. This week seems to be so fast-paced and I’m certain that I am forgetting to let you know about events impacting our College. I hope you can find that last spurt of energy and finish the semester on a successful note. You have all accomplished so much and I hope you know what a privilege it is to count you all as members of this community.

Some updates:

  • I know that the class of 2020 has been denied a graduation ceremony, and as the state tries to plot a reopening, it seems unlikely that we will be able to hold any large gatherings in the fall. Commencement is my favorite academic ritual because it celebrates the achievement of so many students, of learners overcoming so many obstacles to transform their lives. And I’m sorry we’ve had to cancel the 2020 commencement. We do, however, need to plan some kind of ceremony, some community event to recognize and to celebrate our graduates. I’m looking at some “virtual commencements,” and I’ll reach out to students to ask their opinion, too. If you have some thoughts about such an event, please let me know your opinion. I’ll provide an update in a later daily message.
  • I want to thank all the students who took our survey about how the COVID-19 crisis has impacted your lives and your learning. Last night, I read some executive summaries about the results from the first 1,000 responses and I wanted to highlight some of the conclusions: a number of students do not have access to laptops or computers and a slightly higher number of students do not have access to reliable high-speed internet connections; over 40% of students have experienced financial difficulties as a result of the crisis; a majority of students feel comfortable about returning to campus for the fall semester; and an overwhelming majority of students (70%) are determined to fulfill their educational goals. These responses will help us plan strategies to better support students, allowing us to provide students with technology to sustain learning, to find new ways to support our students through financial difficulties, and to schedule courses that support student completion.
  • By 4:00 pm yesterday, over 400 students had completed an application for the CARES Act monies for student aid. Initially, I had decided to reserve 50% of our allocation of $1.9 million for the fall semester. Today, I am going to release an additional 20% of the funds for students in need. The fall allocation, then, will only be 30% of the $1.9 million. We will try to process these applications as quickly as possible and we will try to help as many students as we can.
  • And following on from this note about the CARES Act: not all students are eligible for the CARES Act (see our webpage for details). However, RVCC wants to help those students who are not eligible, so If you’ve been affected by the COVID-19 crisis but do not qualify for the CARES Act, please complete an application with the RVCC Foundation for possible support:  Click on this link for the application Foundation Application. In addition, the RVCC Foundation is pleased to be offering a limited number of scholarships for this year’s summer session.  To apply for these important scholarships, please visit raritanval.awardspring.com.
  • There’s another Student Life Virtual Open House on Saturday, May 2nd, from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm. The session will help you prepare for finals and to finish the semester in as strong a manner as possible. Using the following Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/324447545
  • Yesterday, the RVCC COVID-19 Testing Site served 50 residents. The scheduled test for Friday has been cancelled in anticipation of bad weather. Next week, the site will only operate on Tuesday and Thursday.
  • RVCC is applying for the $4,000,000 available from the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act. This state initiative will support plans to expand existing workforce training programs. If we are successful in our application, we will use the funds to expand our current workforce building, an almost 20,000 square feet addition that would allow us to offer new workforce programs (Dental Assisting, Dental Hygiene) and to expand existing programs.

Yesterday, the Governor announced the reopening of the state’s golf courses on Saturday. I’m beyond thrilled and likely to be absent from campus for the next month or so. I watched the first episode of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels on Showtime, remembering how much I enjoyed the original 2014 joint US-UK production Penny Dreadful. If you like your gothic sensibility infused with the surreal, with more than a hint of the lurid, and with a nod to contemporary political issues, give it a look.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (April 29)

I want to thank all the JCP&L staff and the RVCC Facilities staff for restoring power. Around midnight last night, they made the last repairs and I’m back in my office, able to better hide and spend too much time on YouTube. But before I’m distracted, some updates:

  • First, the application form for the CARES Act funds to students is now online. Just go to Raritan valley’s home page and click on the link on the top banner. If you have been affected in any by this pandemic and are eligible, please complete the application. It is not a lengthy form and we will not ask you to provide evidence of your hardship. The application will be live for about two weeks and then we will determine the maximum fund amount and begin to disperse the funds as a direct payment (a check) or as a voucher to cover educational materials. I know that so many of you have been harmed financially during the COVID-19 crisis and we’re delighted to allocate these modest funds in order to help.
  • I continue to receive a number of emails about returning rental textbooks. Here is the process to follow – you will not need to return to campus to return these textbooks. Simply, follow these directions:
    1. Wait until you have completed your final exam or your professor has confirmed that you have finished your course work and no longer need the book. 
    2. You will need the email address you provided when you signed up to rent the textbook with the bookstore. 
    3. Go to raritanvalshop.com and click "Sign in”.
    4. Once signed into your account, click on "Rentals" to view all of your rented-out titles.
    5. Click "Return All Rentals by Mail", then select the books you wish to check-in.
    6. Print your free return label and ship your books back to the bookstore.

Be sure to print and include the packing slip along with your textbooks.

Contact the Golden Lion Bookstore with any questions: 1206mgr@follett.com or raritanval@bkstr.com

  • Last night, the RVCC Board of Trustees held a virtual board meeting and passed some important resolutions. The board approved our FY21 budget, an annual plan that will see the College spend $52,418, 000. To arrive at this figure, we have had to make some significant cuts to our operating expenses ($1,300,000), by establishing a “hiring freeze” ($1,000,000), and by reducing the size of our part-time labor force ($500,000). Of course, there is still much work to be done to achieve this balanced budget, but we will try to do without sacrificing teaching and learning, by sustaining the level of support our students need, and by maintaining, as much as possible, the level of staff we currently enjoy. It will be a difficult year, and a year with so many unknowns. But we continue to make progress and I would like to thank everyone for their patience and for their support.
  • Yesterday, I mentioned Governor Murphy’s “The Road Back,” his comprehensive plan for reopening the state. It offers a six-point plan, and in many ways, it will shape the kind of opening that RVCC will have to manage if we are to return to campus as safely as possible. The plan demands a 14-day trend line decline in infections, a doubling of state-wide diagnostic testing (for all residents), rigorous contact tracing, well designed and secure quarantine areas, continued social distancing measures “Where feasible and appropriate,” and well-defined plans to respond to a resurgence of the virus.
  • Summer I and Summer III enrollment continues to build and I’m delighted to so many RVCC students focus on their progress. Summer classes are a great way to maintain momentum.
  • And as a reminder, fall registration is open.

Continue to be well. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me with questions or concerns. I’ll meet with the executive team and the Forum leadership team tomorrow and I’ll provide more updates tomorrow. For the readers among us, I’m finishing Tom Barbash’s The Dakota Winters, a fiction set in NYC in 1980 that imagines John Lennon as a neighbor and friend. Worth a read.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (April 28)

There has been a major disruption to the power on campus. One of our high voltage lines has failed, cutting power to almost the entire campus, and tripping switches at the JCP&L poles. It will likely take all day to fix and to restore power. I’m on campus and have relocated to a conference room in Somerset Hall with my laptop. We did conduct our 8:30 am leadership meeting and so there are a few updates. I will try to provide better detail in tomorrow’s message.

  • Yesterday, Governor Murphy released his 6-point plan for reopening New Jersey. He has titled the plan “The Road Back: Restoring Economic Health Through Public Health,” and it includes a range of metrics that we must meet in order to reopen. It identifies significant increases in diagnostic testing and significant decrease int the number of new infections. It is a sobering and rigorous plan, one that suggests we may not return to campus within the next few weeks or months.
  • Thank you to all the students who responded to our survey about your plans for the summer and fall semester. Over 1,000 students responded and the information will prove crucial to the College as we try to plan for the coming months. It was clear, too, that a great many students have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. At this point, I can only offer my expression of support and my admiration for your courage and for your determination to succeed in your academic journey.
  • And while we’re talking about surveys: today, students will see a new series of emails asking you to participate in a second survey. The survey is titled Real College During COVID-19 and it’s a national survey conducted ny a leading non-profit organization that seeks to remove economic barriers to student success. This survey will take about 10 minutes to complete and will help leaders plot a national strategy to advocate for those legislative agendas that will help students overcome these barriers and succeed in college. If you have the time, please try and respond to both surveys.
  • We are very close to putting the application for the CARES Act direct aid to students funds online. I will certainly provide the details in tomorrow’s message, but the online application is relatively easy to fill out and clearly identifies the criteria for eligibility. 

Again, apologies for such a garbled and terse message. Hopefully, I’ll be back in more familiar surroundings tomorrow and to write a more traditional message. Email with questions or concerns and please continue to practice those behaviors that will keep you healthy and safe.

 

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (April 27)

Welcome to another week of learning, teaching, and working remotely. I hope you all enjoyed that rainy weekend. I discovered Season Two of Ricky Gervais’s After Life on Netflix – brilliant show.

Some updates:

  • I’m delighted to let you know about an online event that our library is hosting on Thursday, April 30th from 12:00 pm to 2:00pm. Our library staff are hosting a “Research Party,” an opportunity for anyone with a research question for an assignment to ask a librarian. RSVP for the party at https://tinyurl.com/y9cs8zxz Of course, you can always get live research help from the library website by chatting with the staff or by sending an email.
  • New Jersey has received almost $69 million in direct aid for “education.” The Governor is able to allocate these funds across the primary, secondary, and postsecondary sectors. The state’s community college presidents, recognizing the need across all sectors, have asked the Governor to allocate 25% of the funds to the community colleges – about $17.25 million.
  • Summer I enrollment continues to grow steadily and fall registration began in a strong way, too. Make sure that you enroll earlier enough so that you secure that seat and that you maintain your momentum.
  • RVCC’s faculty and staff are fully engaged in three possible plans for the fall semester: a somewhat traditional “opening,” with students and faculty returning to campus for face-to-face classes (recognizing that such an opening requires new protocols and new procedures); a semester that is exclusively online; and a semester that is best characterized as a start-stop term, a semester that, may open on campus but relocate to an online modality if the virus returns.
  • The RVCC Foundation is planning to launch a campaign that will raise much needed funds for students and for the institution. As these plans develop, I will provide the campus with more details.
  • An important reminder for all campus visitors: please report to the security desk in the welcome center and identify those areas you will visit on campus This information is essential if we are to maintain a “clean campus.” After your visit, we will send a cleaning team to that location and execute a thorough cleaning.
  • Click here to see the latest edition of the RVCC Heroes publication. My thanks to our marketing staff for this inspiring project.
  • RVCC’s COVID-19 testing center tested 88 residents on Friday. And as a reminder, the testing center will be in operation on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. They have made a slight adjustment in location: residents will now report to lot 4 and testing will be conducted in lot 5. Residents are to remain inside their vehicles at all times.

I think that’s all for this morning. Thank you for all the emails and as one student reminded me, I forgot to wish everyone “Ramadan Mubarak” last week. As I age, and I’m aging very rapidly, I’m becoming more and more forgetful and I apologize for that omission. Please continue to remain safe and we can “meet” again tomorrow.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (April 24)

I’m not sure that I have very many updates this morning, but wanted to pass along my thanks and my applause for your inspiring accomplishments. In many ways, this transition has been challenging and we are all finishing the semester in less than ideal circumstances. And yet, students, faculty, and staff are not only sustaining learning but almost every day showing us why RVCC is one of the top-rated community colleges in the nation. Thank you all.

  • Three items that may interest students:
    1. First, the Student Life Activities and Panning Board (SLAP) and RVCC Marketing Department are supporting a Lean on Me Poster Campaign as part of the #RVCCSTRONG Campaign. Here’s how to participate:
    2. Second, RVCC’s Academic Support Center has a YouTube Channel. The channel has a series of “how to” videos and will be updated daily. Here is the link to the channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXoPv4ejjWWrIlHL03XNXEQ/
    3. Third, RVCC Professor Darren McManus created a website so that his students could exhibit their work. Titled “COVID-19 Introspective/Retrospective the “mini” gallery documents student experiences over the past six weeks. The site is responsive and the there are several silent animations and one short film. Go to https://rvccspringportfolio.wixsite.com/2020
  • Professor Lenahan (Biology) told me about a Zoom meeting her class had with Dr. Neil Shubin (University of Chicago). Dr. Shubin is most remembered for his co-discovery of the fossil Tiktaalik, providing evidence of the evolutionary transition between fish and four-legged vertebrates. What a wonderful opportunity for our students to interact with a leading authority in evolutionary biology.
  • Later today, Vice President Belin (Student Services) and I will participate in a conference call with Senator Menendez. He’s going to talk to a number of New Jersey college representatives to better understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our operations and to ask for ways that he may help. I’m sure that those of us in the community college sector will continue to advocate for our students and for our institutions. Among all sectors of higher education, we receive, by far, the lowest amount of public funding. Our students and our communities deserve better.
  • On Wednesday, I forget to acknowledge that it was Administrative Professionals Day. RVCC’s administrative professionals have no less a responsibility than to make sure that the institution functions. They are responsible for our entire campus operations. They accomplish this task every day without fanfare and without our applause. I cannot imagine a day without my administrative assistant and as everyone knows anyway, Sheri is really the one running the college. I know that – you know that – we should just acknowledge it. To our amazing admin professionals, thank you.

 Have a wonderful weekend everyone. Try to find a moment to rest, to binge watch, to read, to reconnect. I’ll talk to you all on Monday.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (April 23)

It is April 23rd so let me wish each of you who share my citizenship a very happy St. George’s Day. You’ll be happy to know that I am flying the cross of St. George in Hunterdon County today. As Shakespeare’s Henry V cries, “for Harry, England, and Saint George!"

Some updates:

  • Today, we submitted RVCC’s application for the second half of the CARES Act funds. This $1.9 million allocation is for the college and will help us cover operational losses and costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. We should receive those funds within the next two weeks.
  • RVCC staff continue to review the new guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Education regarding the direct aid to students. If you recall, the first half of the CARES Act - $1.9 million in funds – is to be provided as direct aid to students who have suffered financial hardships because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When first released, there were very few guidelines. However, in the intervening week or so, the U.S. Department of Education has issued a series of guidelines that limit student eligibility. We continue to try and interpret these guidelines. We are working as quickly as we can and will announce who is eligible and what the application process is as soon as possible. The application will be an online application and we will strive to make it as easy to complete as possible. In addition, we are exploring ways to help those students who may not be eligible and as soon as I have more detail, I will let the campus know.
  • Our student survey is now live and online. We really want to know what our students are thinking, especially abut the summer and fall semesters. Please try and complete the survey and help us better understand your concerns and your needs. The survey can be found here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RVCOVID19
  • Yesterday, the COVID-19 Testing Center at RVCC treated 111 residents. It will be open on Friday from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, but is moving to lot 5 because of the expected bad weather. Next week, it will return to lot 3 and 4 and be in operation on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. Again, in order to use the facility, you need a prescription and an appointment.
  • Important information from advising and counseling:

For currently enrolled students:

Advising and Counseling Services will host daily ACS Registration 2020 Help Sessions on Zoom.  Advisors and counselors will be available to help you understand your Degree Audit, determine which classes you need to achieve your learning goals and virtually guide you in registering for summer and fall classes. No appointment is needed. Drop in at specific hours noted here:

Monday: 3 - 5 p.m.       @ 3:00, 3:30, 4:00, 4:30
Tuesday: 11 - 1 p.m.     @11:00, 11:30, 12:00, 12:30
Wednesday: 1 - 3 p.m. @1:00, 1:30, 2:00, 2:30
Thursday: 10 - 12          @10:00, 10:30, 11:00, 11:30
Friday: 1 - 4 p.m.           @1:00, 1:30, 2:00, 2:30, 3:00, 3:30

Zoom Link:  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/4695520037 
Meeting ID: 469 552 0037

Please continue to stay safe. Let me know how things are going and don’t hesitate to let me know about problems or concerns. I brought a golf club and a bag of golf balls to my office today and later I’ll meander up to the soccer field and hit a few…just don’t tell anyone.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (April 22)

Happy Earth Day. I hope you’re all well and that you continue to sustain your learning and moving ever-forward toward achieving your goals. Please don’t give up now – if you need help or support, please reach out and let me know.

  • Our Center for Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship, RVCCArts – The Theatre at RVCC, and Human Resources is hosting a Zoom event today at 4:00 pm. “Celebrate the Magic of Community” features Kevin Spencer, an artist, educator, and magician, will entertain faculty and staff, celebrating their service to students and to the greater community. Kathy Suk reminds me that if you plan on joining, have a dollar bill and two paper clips ready for the “audience participation” segment. The event is planned to run from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Check your email from the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship message on Monday April 13th for the Zoom login information.
  • Our Career Services colleagues are offering a virtual “Career Café Break,” a Zoom meeting that lets you discover your strengths, explore careers, and develop those skills essential in securing a great career. The group meets every Friday at noon and here’s the Zoom link (remember that you must download Zoom first): https://zoom.us/j/822522101?pwd=QldqUTcyNkloWnhmNVVBRllFY3hZUT09
  • Student Life is hosting two virtual open houses: one today (Wednesday 22nd) at 7:00 pm and one on Saturday (April 25th) at 2:00 pm. The topics that are likely to be discussed by our campus experts are Pass/No Credit Policy, Transfer information, Career Services, Summer and Fall Registration, and RVCC Resources. Here is the Zoom link:  https://zoom.us/j/324447545
  • The RVCC Board of Trustees will hold their April board meeting on Tuesday, April 28th at 5:15 pm. I’ll provide call in details for the public to attend in a later daily update.
  • We continue to receive additional guidance from the federal government regarding the student portion of the CARES Act monies. We are close to finishing our online application and will invite all students to apply for these funds. The government requires that RVCC make sure that only eligible students receive these funds. If you are not eligible to receive these funds, we plan on accessing RVCC Foundation monies to provide support. For the most part, undocumented students are not eligible to receive these federal funds. However, RVCC is committed to supporting you is you are undocumented and we urge you to make an application for the Foundation monies. I’ll provide more details as they become available.
  • I also received an email from the federal government informing me that RVCC’s emergency operating aid allocation of $1.9 can be accessed toward the end of next week.
  • Senator Menendez is hosting a call later this week to talk about higher education in New Jersey and the kind of support that institutions will need in order to remain open and to support students. RVCC will participate in the conference call. 

Continue to be safe. I hope everyone is able to balance all their responsibilities and find some time for rest and for reflection. My grandson interviewed me today as part of a daily school project and he made me roar with laughter. He told me that he’s been interviewing “important people” about their roles during the crisis but had run out of such people, so that’s why he called me. He knows I’m not important but hopes his teacher will be ok with me. You have to chuckle. Perspective is important and I’m glad my grandson has some.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (April 21)

Good morning. My daughter, who lives in Kentucky, just texted me a picture of her return to work at an AT&T store. If you’re working, please be careful and try to protect yourself as much as you can. Some updates for the campus:

  • A reminder that registration for the summer is open. Currently, we’re seeing steady enrollments for Summer I. We’re running about 30% down from last year, but we see gradual movement each day and we think that we will meet our budget expectation (a decline of 25%).
  • The COVID-19 testing site plans to open this Wednesday and this Friday (10:00 am to 1:00 pm both days). They are serving about 100 residents each day. If they continue to have test kits, they plan to open next week as well, Monday (27th), Wednesday (29th), and Friday (May 1st). The testing site is located in lots 3 and 4 and you may only obtain a test with a prescription and an appointment.
  • We’re putting the finishing touches to a student survey that I hope you’ll find the answer. We are interested in four broad questions: the way in which the COVID-19 crisis has impacted you, your plans and preferences for summer enrollment, your intentions regarding the fall, especially if Governor Murphy lifts the stay-at-home order, and the number of credits you intend to register for in the fall.
  • We expect to receive the second half of our CARES Act allocation within the next two weeks. This second payment of $1.9 million is for RVCC’s operational costs.
  • I received a request from Follett (the campus bookstore) to access student emails. After a careful review of the request (and the appropriate legal restrictions), I believe that Follett has a legitimate need for these email addresses. Follett intends to use the addresses to better communicate with RVCC students and to better serve their needs in the summer and fall. We are granting this request on a one-time basis only and will monitor Follett’s use of the data. If you are a student and you have “opted out” of being in our directory, your address will not be sent to Follett.
  • New Jersey has received about $80 million in emergency aid for education. While this money is for all sectors – primary, secondary, and postsecondary – RVCC may receive some funds from this allocation. I’ll keep the campus updated.
  • Someone proposed that we find ways to celebrate our spring graduates, perhaps profiling their accomplishments in an online format or gallery. I think it’s a great idea and I’m going to ask our social media and marketing folks to work on this project.
  • We will begin our summer and fall marketing campaign in the next few days. The campaign will target various prospective student groups and I hope that whatever your relationship with RVCC that you’ll partner with us in letting people know what a wonderful institution RVCC is. Please help us recruit and enroll the next generation of RVCC students. Your voice, your passion matters more than a marketing message. I hope you’ll agree to help.

 I’m sure that I missed items of interest – if so, I’ll play catch up tomorrow. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns. I look forward to your emails – a great excuse to avoid work at any cost.

Be safe.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (April 20)

I hope you all had relaxing, restful weekends. Welcome back to another week of learning and working remotely. A few updates to start your week (best read to any James Brown track played at eleven):

  • A reminder that the COVID-19 testing site in lots 3 and 4 will be active today from 10:00 am until 1:00 pm. They have been serving about 100 residents each day and have decided to extend the site’s operating times: it will now be open this Wednesday and this Friday, both times beginning at 10:00 am and closing at 1:00 pm. You will still need a doctor’s written prescription and an appointment to use the facility.
  • There are a couple of attachments to this message that you might look at:
    • The RVCC Heroes pdf showcases those RVCC faculty, staff, students, and alumni who are fully engaged in the COVID-19 crisis. Please send us suggestions or nominations of other RVCC community members to highlight. Thanks to Donna Stolzer and Daniela Kubick for this great publication.
    • The second pdf illustrates how long coronaviruses live on a variety of surfaces. Worth taking a look.
  • One of the donors to the RVCC Foundation has created the Adjunct Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award. The deadline to nominate an adjunct instructor is Friday, April 24th. You just have to send a short rationale to accompany your nomination and send that as a word document to Cindy Haddad at cindy.haddad@raritanval.edu
  • We will soon let students know about the availability of CARES Act emergency funds. We’re almost ready to open an online application for those students registered for the spring and summer semesters. The relatively short application form will ask you to identify your area of need. In order to be eligible, you must have a G#, be a registered student, and have an email or phone number that you regularly use. (Funds are not available for dual enrollment students, visiting students, or students in the RISE program.) I’ll update as soon as that application goes “live.”
  • I hope this link works. It’s to a film made my RVCC students about the COVID-19 crisis in Professor Evan Walter’s Digital Media/Film class. I really enjoyed it and wanted to share it with you https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vttQewCOs9U
  • Still no word from the state regarding our budget allocation for FY21.
  • And be certain to register as early as you can for the fall semester. That link is now open for registration. (The link for summer registration also remains open.)

 The “new” Tiger King episode is disappointing (yet I watched it). Wishing you all well for the week - as learners, as teachers, or as vital supporters. Be safe and stay well. Reach out with questions, concerns, or observations.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (April 17)

The crisp and refreshing light on campus this early Friday morning hints at the changing of the seasons and the inevitable and reassuring cycle of our natural world. Despite our anxiety, some things endure and comfort us.

A few updates for you.

  • Yesterday, the Joint Somerset and Hunterdon Counties COVID-19 Testing Site served about 100 residents. This drive through facility will be in operation again today and on Monday between the hours of 10:00 am and 1:00 pm. It is best to avoid campus during these times, making sure that if you do have to visit campus you stay away from lots 3 and 4.
  • Sadly, I must inform our community of the death of Margit Feldman from the virus. Margit was born in Hungary in 1929 and at the age of 15 was sent to Auschwitz. She survived a succession of Nazi death camps and at the end of the war immigrated to America. She married and raised a family in Bound Brook, NJ. With A23029 tattooed on her left arm, Margit then devoted much of her time to telling the story of the Holocaust. She served on the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education, established a teaching award in her name, and visited hundreds of classrooms to offer her stunning and moving testimony. At RVCC, Margit helped found the Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and was a very active member of our campus community for so many years. Her life is captured in a memoir and in a documentary film. Her achievements remind us of the power of individuals, of the endurance of our humanity, and of our capacity to “never forget.” She has left a remarkable legacy on this campus.
  • I want to highlight one of the services that our Counselors are offering. If you go to the RVCC website, click on the COVID-19 banner at the top of the home page, and then click on Student Support Services, you’ll find a link to Social Circle Counseling. It’s a Zoom meeting offered every Tuesday and Friday and I encourage you to drop in and join a community designed to support you during this time of crisis. A big thank you to our counselors and other student support staff who are present online and helping us all navigate these challenges.
  • Yesterday, the state informed RVCC that the remaining FY20 operating aid payments will be cut by 50%, a loss to this College of about $769,000. We will adjust our FY20 operations budget to absorb this loss.
  • Visit https://www.raritanval.edu/careers to discover Guided Pathways. This resource will help you match your interests in a potential academic pathway or major. Many RVCC faculty and staff helped to develop this model and I think you’ll enjoy exploring the results.

 I think that’s enough of me this morning. As always, I wish you good health. Keep your momentum, keep your focus on attaining that credential or degree. Have a restful weekend and I’ll meet you in this same virtual space on Monday.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (April 16)

From my office window, I can see the cars heading up campus drive to the testing site located in lot 4. I want to say “thank you” to all the people who made this site possible and to send our support to those residents waiting for the results of their test.

Just a few updates today:

  • I want to thank three RVCC staff members from IT: Holly Smythe, Kelly Oliver, and Lonny Buinis have provided wonderful support during this sudden transition to online learning. They have helped to train and equip our faculty for these difficult changes and have created content for many courses. Thank you.
  • I want to share this link to a video that highlights and celebrates our healthcare community. The video (made by the granddaughter of RVCC’s own Professor Balut) features a number of RVCC faculty and nursing graduates: https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=share&v=WDNc8BTLJR4
  • Good news: RVCC’s FY21 allocation from the Perkins grant will remain stable. These monies support our programs in the career and technical areas.
  • Today, the RVCC Board of Trustees will met in executive session (remotely) to discuss the College’s FY21 budget and to better understand the immediate conditions shaping this budget. The April 28th meeting of the Board will also be held remotely, but will provide an opportunity for the public to participate and to ask questions. I’ll provide details closer to the date of the meeting.
  • A University of Notre Dame study strongly suggests that any emergency aid provided to student must include strong follow up support. Without this kind of focused “case management” compliment, emergency aid alone will not improve enrollment, persistence, or attainment. As RVCC begins to develop a plan and a process for the distribution of the CARES Act monies, we will also try to design a strong network of contact and support.
  • A more speculative and forward- thinking item for you all to ponder. If we return to campus in the fall, how do we imagine the changes that will take place: do we wear masks and gloves; do we continue to practice social distancing; are all events limited to no more than 10 people; are classes smaller? And second, what are students thinking? In order to get at some of these answers, we plan to send a short survey to current and prospective students, asking what students would be most comfortable with in the fall: a return to campus, online classes only, a mix of the two, or something else?  Please fill out the survey and let us best prepare a plan for the kind of RVCC you’d like to see in the semester or two ahead. And as always, please let me know in an email what your impressions and preferences are.

If you haven’t started to watch Punk - a four-par documentary on EPIX about that era of musical rebellion – please do so as it’s well worth the time. I saw The Sex Pistols in 1976 at The Electric Circus in Manchester (they were truly awful). Today, they are seen as iconic pioneers – back them, I was just trying to avoid the shower of spit – who knew.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (April 15)

Good morning. I hope you’re all well and that you’re continuing to move forward – in your studies, in your teaching, and in your support for campus operations. Only a few updates for this Wednesday: 

  • A clarification about the fall schedule and registration. The fall schedule will be available to view on Friday, April 17th and registration will be open on Monday, April 20th.
  • Tomorrow (Thursday) the Somerset County/Hunterdon County COVID-19 testing site will open at 10:00 am. The site will close at 1:00 pm. The site, located in parking lots 3 and 4, will be open on Thursday, Friday (17th), and Monday (20th). I’ve attached a file (see below) with more details about the site’s operation and eligibility. Please avoid campus on these dates. However, if you have to visit campus, you must enter at the front entrance (Highway 28) and park in lot 1, 8, or 9. Please stay away from lots 3 and 4.
  • Yesterday, Sara Goldrick-Rab provided a very insightful introduction to the CARES Act for New Jersey community colleges. As each college struggles to try and design a framework for distributing these funds, Goldrick-Rab emphasized the following concerns: that all students are to be considered eligible for these emergency funds; that to ease application process, colleges should move the process online; that some of the programs goals for these funds should be to help as many students as possible and to have the most impact as possible; that colleges should not treat the funds like financial aid awards and should not “police” the use of the funds; finally, she cautioned that we will likely receive more applications than we have funds. As RVCC moves closer to developing our own guidelines and process, I will update the campus community.
  • RVCC has been asked to participate in a Somerset County Task Force for Economic Recovery. RVCC is delighted to accept this offer of membership – the College will surely play a leading role in a post-pandemic economic recovery.
  • New Jersey’s Secretary of Higher Education will update the community college presidents on Friday at 2:30 pm about the impact of the crisis on our operating aid from the state. I’ll update the campus community next week about any new developments.

 Thanks for reading, thanks for your emails, but most of all thanks for being a part of the RVCC community. Please, as always, stay well.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (April 14)

Good morning. With the exception of Friday, my mornings begin at 8:30 am with a conference call with the College’s executive leadership and the leadership of the Forum, our vehicle for shared governance. These colleagues are a remarkable asset to the College and I can’t imagine facing this crisis without this dynamic group. To these wonderful colleagues, thank you.

And now, as the anarchic geniuses of Monty Python used to say, something completely different – not really just a few updates:

  • RVCC has completed its application for the first allocation of the CARES Act monies, and has already begun to determine how to identify students in need and how to distribute the funds. I will provide updates as we continue to refine these processes and guidelines.
  • And on a similar note, all 18 New Jersey community colleges will participate in a conference call this afternoon to share ideas about how best to allocate these emergency funds from the CARES Act legislation.
  • Out of a concern for their safety, I have asked our cleaning staff to not visit campus. There are very few people on campus and any additional cleaning needs will be handled by our managers and administrators.
  • In an effort to address significant budget declines in state funding, we are carefully reviewing all campus operations. No services that support student learning will be affected by our decision making.
  • A reminder that summer registration is open and that will open fall registration on Friday.

Again, please reach out to e with questions or concerns. I’m so delighted to see learning continue, to see students file for graduation or to plan their next semester of coursework. Keep going and if you need help, support of any kind, or encouragement, just ask.

Stay safe.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (April 13)

I hope you all had a wonderful and celebratory weekend. I hope you have new energy to continue your academic journey. Some updates for you:

  • The COVID-19 testing site on campus will be open for the first time on Thursday, April 16, 2020. In order to use the site, you must have a written doctor’s authorization and proof of residency. In addition, you must have an appointment. There are two ways to make an appointment: you can call 908-237-7150 or visit the online site at somerset-hunterdon.adlabscovidtest.com. Do not call the College as we have no authority for the site. The site will be open from 10:00 am until 1:00 pm. The site will be located in lot 4, so please avoid this part of campus. I will provide an update about where to park in a separate email.
  • We will offer some summer youth programs, but at this point we anticipate offering online courses and seminars only. RVCC will partner with Black Rocket to offer a range of online summer programs. Although most of the Black Rocket offerings are more “tech-oriented,” we are searching for other partner to offer more art-themed programs as well.
  • As I noted earlier, we will soon receive $1.9 million from the federal government as the first allocation from the CARES Act. This money is intended for “direct aid to students.” Before we can distribute any of this aid, however, we will have to establish a transparent and comprehensive set of guidelines that establish eligibility criteria, that fix amounts of aid, and that determine the method of disbursement. A small group of RVCC staff are now at work to design that framework. Please try and hold your questions for the moment, as we have no definitive answers or framework in place.
  • The NJCCC is trying to fashion a series of legislative proposals that would help New Jersey’s community colleges lead in the economic and social recovery of the state. While we are still in the midst of trying to survive this immediate crisis, our strategic focus should be on the future: how will serve the state in the months ahead. NJCCC wants to explore an integrated bundle of legislative proposals that would address the Community College Opportunity Grant Program, dual enrollment, allowing community colleges to offer applied bachelor’s degrees, funding workforce training programs, elevating workforce credentials, acknowledging a state-wide model for Prior Learning Assessment, and reforming remedial education.
  • New filings for unemployment continue to soar. For the week ending April 4, 4,456 Somerset County residents filed for unemployment (new clams) and 1,590 Hunterdon County residents filed new claims.
  • As far as RVCC’s FY21 budget progress, we anticipate a 50% reduction in state aid for our April allocation, we have no firm conclusions about the status of our County aid, and we continue to look at reducing operational costs (salary and operating expenses).
  • Summer registration is open and I urge you to register as soon as possible.

Again, welcome back to another week of remote learning and remote working. If you can avoid coming to campus, I really do urge you to do so, especially on the days that our testing site will be in operation. And as always, please don’t hesiatet to contact me with questions, concerns, or advice.

Please continue to practice the CDC guidelines for health and safety, especially washing your hands, maintaining social distancing, and isolating yourself if you feel ill.

Best wishes to all and I’ll send another update tomorrow.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (April 10)

A Friday message for a community of people that I am so honored to be a part of. I hope you have a chance to reconnect with family and friends (virtually or practicing social distancing) and a chance to reflect, to pause this weekend. Just a few updates:

  • Just a reminder that registration for all Summer session courses is open. Summer I starts on May 18th and is exclusively online. Summer II begins on July 6th and will offer traditional, face-to-face classes on campus. We continue to monitor the progress of the crisis and the Governor’s continuing or new executive orders. As soon as we believe that Summer II will have to be canceled and moved to an exclusively online format, we will let the campus know. Summer III begins on June 8th and will only offer online classes. To get started, go to https://www.raritanval.edu/academic-programs/course-schedule
  • The 2020-2021 RVCC Catalog is now available on the RVCC website, go to the bottom of the home page and click on “Online Catalog.”
  • I will provide an update regarding the Somerset County/Hunterdon County COVID-19 Testing Site to be located on RVCC’s campus early next week. This site will not interfere with current campus operations in any way.
  • I have received several emails from local law enforcement agencies reminding me that Governor Murphy’s Executive order #122 requires residents to wear masks in all retail establishments.
  • For the week ending April 4, 150,428 New Jersey residents filed new claims for unemployment. Somerset and Hunterdon Counties alone recorded 6,046 new filings. As soon as possible, RVCC will partner with governmental officers and industry partners to offer pathways to employment for these dislocated workers. We can act quickly to help residents re-enter the workforce in skilled professions and earning wages that will allow them to support their families.
  • As I was about to leave campus last night, I received a letter from Secretary Betsy DeVos of the U.S. Department of Education. Her letter informed me that Raritan Valley Community College would receive $3,819,720 from the CARES Act. $1,909,860 is for “direct emergency grant funds for students.” As soon as I complete the application, RVCC will receive these funds. There is little guidance from the Secretary on how to distribute the funds or on how to determine eligibility. I will complete the application today and we hope to receive these funds as early as next week. There was no information about the remaining funds (another $1,909,860) that can be used by RVCC to cover operational losses and costs during this crisis. In short, this is great news. I will immediately appoint a group to plan how we will begin to distribute this money to students. I’ll provide updates as we navigate our way forward.

Let me end by thanking some people: first, to our security and facilities personnel who come to campus every day and quietly go about their duties, keeping our campus safe and operational; second, to all our students and faculty who keep learning alive; third, to all the RVCC staff and administrators who keep RVCC moving forward by working at home; fourth, to our Board of Trustees who recognize the new challenges that confront the college and have lent their unqualified support to our community; and last, to RVCC’s executive leadership and to the Forum leadership who have, without hesitation, accepted the responsibility of leading the college through this crisis. Because of so many people, RVCC will not only endure but emerge as a stronger, more responsive, more inspiring college.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (April 9)

Another update for your inbox. I hope you are all staying safe and healthy, that your teaching and learning continues to move forward, and that you will have the opportunity to celebrate this holiday weekend. Not as many items today:

  • How wonderful for Governor Murphy to identify RVCC at his daily press briefing yesterday and to thank our faculty, staff, and students for the 3-D printed face shields. As the Governor offered his sincere thanks, he posted a picture of Conrad in his RVCC t-shirt at the printer. And Conrad, you’re a handsome man. Don’t think I didn’t notice. (And for the first person to identify where I stole that quote from, lunch on me when the restaurants are open again.)
  • The Governor also issued a new executive order that allowed for certain construction projects to continue. His announcement allows construction projects on college campuses to continue. That’s good news for RVCC. We have several construction projects – the Arts Building, the enrollment Center – and this order allows those much-needed renovations to continue.
  • New Jersey’s community colleges estimate that the cost of responding to the COVID-19 crisis is about $45 million. This total, which increases each day, reflects the loss of revenue and the increases in operational costs as direct result of the crisis.
  • RVCC continues to try and establish a budget for next year. This process has been made difficult by the crisis and by the uncertainties surrounding the state budget, potential enrollment, and the continuing operational costs. As RVCC completes a draft budget, I have had to make several assumptions about the coming year and I wanted you all to have some idea about these “best guesses;” I think that the state may cut our operating budget by as much as 50% (about $3 million); I think we’ll see an enrolment decline of 3%; I think RVCC may receive as much as $1.9 million in federal aid (from the CARES Act); I think that workforce revenues may decline by as much as 25%. As a result, we will have to look at our operating expenses and perhaps cut as much as $1.5 million or more from those expenses. I’ll try and keep you posted about this process.

As I noted, a very brief update today. I’m in my office, so reach out with questions or concerns. I’m listening to two albums today because as Wordsworth said, “the world is too much with us,” and music is one of my favorite refuges. Crank it to 11 (another stolen quote) and put on Ke$ha’s Animal and Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (April 8)

Happy Wednesday everyone. I hope you’re all well and that you’re able to find a few minutes to read this update. 

  • Yesterday, Governor Murphy extended his public health emergency order for another thirty days. Essentially, this extension means that RVCC is unable to offer any face-to-face teaching or services to students until May 6th. The Governor made it clear that it was likely he would extend the order at that time, too.
  • I want to applaud RVCC’s Advanced Manufacturing program, RVCC’s Engineering program, RVCC’s Art & Design Department, and the Somerset County Vocational & Technical High School. They are making 3-D printed face-shields, producing about 30 shields a day for RWJ University Hospital. They hope to increase production to 60 a day. Congratulations to Conrad Mercurius, Peter Stupak, John Juliano, Mara Arvelo, Nathan Moore, Mike Champagnino, Tyler Moore, Vandana Nadkarni, and John Reinking.
  • A reminder that our colleagues in Student Services are hosting weekly open houses. These virtual meetings feature special guests from Advising & Counseling, Career Services, and the RVCC Library. Topics have included adjusting to online learning, the Pass/No Credit option, Transfer, and how to handle stress and anxiety. There’s one on Wednesday, April 8th at 7:00 pm (today) and one on Saturday, April 11th at 11:00 am. Click on https://zoom.us/j/5221020794 (you have to download zoom in order to use the platform).
  • A very brief update about the work of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges: the 18 presidents have sent a letter to Governor Murphy offering the support of all community colleges in responding to and recovering from the current crisis; joining with AACC and ACCT to request more federal aid for higher education; drafting a request for maintaining state aid to community colleges; advocating for flexibility in state grant programs and state financial aid programs; supporting a Pass/Fail or Pass/No Credit option; and supporting April as Community College Month.
  • Yesterday, I met with the Budget Resource Committee. This is a new advisory committee, closely linked to the Forum (our shared governance vehicle), and has membership reflecting staff, faculty, and student groups. As this current crisis puts an enormous strain on our budget and long-term financial health, this group will prove essential as we move forward and address these challenges. From my perspective, the group allows for a more transparent budget process and acts as a vital layer in the allocation and assessment of institutional resources.
  • The U.S. Department of Education has announced that it intends to release initial guidelines for the monies to higher education provided for in the CARES Act. According to published sources, RVCC may (may) receive up to $3.8 million in direct aid – 50% of which would be allocated as “student aid.” As soon as we receive details about the amount of our allocation or the guidelines for use, I’ll update the campus community.
  • This afternoon at 1:00 pm, I’ll participate in an executive Committee meeting of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges. I’ll provide a very brief summary of any information that impacts RVCC or our community.
  • A first word about the fall semester. I believe that we will open in the fall. I believe that we will offer a complete schedule of classes. As soon as that schedule is complete and as soon as registration is open, I’ll inform the campus community. I invite everyone to start or to continue their educational journey. Please partner with RVCC and let this remarkable institution transform your life.

Please continue to practice those habits that will keep you and your fellow community members safe. Stayed connected to your learning and keeping make progress. I’ll end with a recommendation: John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky (Netflix) is a documentary about the recording of Lennon’s once-in-a-century album Imagine. It will restore your belief in the power of music to change people and to change culture and it will open a window into a time and a place of possibility, where, if just for a moment, we imagined a better world.

Let me know how things are going.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (April 7)

A rather tardy daily update and a brief one. I hope everyone is well and engaged.

  • New Jersey has informed the community college sector that in extending the current fiscal year to September, the colleges will see about a 7% cut in their state aid. For RVCC, this cut represents about $400,000. We anticipate additional cuts in our state aid for FY21.
  • We are waiting for the US Department of Education to announce the allocations from the CARES Act. As you may know, as part of the stimulus package, Congress awarded over $12 billion to higher education. The funds will be allocated by the Department of Education and will go directly to each college. Half of that allocation will be for “student aid.” No details have yet been announced, regarding either the amount of the allocation or how funds are to be distributed. As soon as we have those details, I will provide an update.
  • Questions regarding Summer registration will be addressed in tomorrow’s update, but we are very close to opening that registration to all students who had not previously registered. If you plan to continue your studies during the summer, we will try and accommodate your need. Please keep checking my updates or our web page for updates and details.
  • As part of Community College Month, the NJ Council of County Colleges is hoping to salute community college "heroes" throughout the month. We would especially love to salute our RVCC students, faculty, and alumni who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, whether they are healthcare professionals, members of law enforcement, people working in jobs on the front lines, or are coordinating wonderful acts of kindness. Please send ideas and nominations to Donna Stolzer at donna.stolzer@raritanval.edu
  • We hope to open up fall registration on April 22nd. I’ll provide updates as the date nears.

I think that’s all my items for today. Apologies for such a brief message – too much going on today. I’m in my office so if you have a question or a concern, please email me and I’ll try to find the RVCC staff member who can best help you. It is unsettling to see campus so empty and barren; without our faculty, our students, and our staff it really is just a collection of buildings. I look forward to welcoming you all back to campus. Please take care and practice those behaviors that will keep you and your family safe.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (April 6)

I hope you had a restful (Netflix binge worthy) weekend. I hope that you and your family continue to enjoy good health and that you’re adapting to this sudden transition to remote learning. Not too many updates for the new week:

  • Later today, I’ll participate in a conference call with the other New Jersey community college presidents and I’ll provide an update about that meeting in a later message. I think that the meeting will cover the cost for colleges responding to this crisis (increased operational costs and lost revenue), the flexibility that financial aid agencies will need to extend to students, and the planning for summer and fall schedules.
  • We continue to try and develop RVCC’s FY21 budget, made difficult by our lack of certainty about when the campus will be able to support face-to-face teaching.
  • As you may know, the CARES Act signed into law last week provides direct funds for students affected by the crisis. The state has just decided that any money received by students from the CARES Act will not count in the “last dollar” calculations for CCOG funds. In other words, if you are a CCO recipient and you receive money from the CARES Act it will have no impact on your CCOG award.
  • As I mentioned last week, we are postponing commencement and are now looking for an alternative date. Most community colleges in New Jersey are also postponing commencement activities.
  • An initial word about Summer I. If you enrolled for a Summer I course before this event – in other words, for a face-to-face class – you have been re-enrolled in an online class. As soon as you receive confirmation of your enrollment in the online course, you will have a week to either confirm that enrollment or decline the enrollment. At that point, we will then open up summer enrollment for everyone. We anticipate that you will be able to enroll in Summer I in about a week. I’ll provide updates as we near that date.
  • And if you are taking a summer class, you will be able to order your books online and they’ll be delivered to your home address.

 As always, please continue to reach out with questions and concerns. I’m sure that I don’t always talk about the topics that are important to you. Be safe and stay well.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (April 3)

Another week of strange times, but we’ve struggled through and we’re ready to embrace whatever next week holds. I don’t have too many updates today:

  • As much as this first announcement pains me, I am postponing our spring commencement. This ritual is, without doubt, my favorite academic ceremony. It is a wonderful celebration of teaching and learning, a much-deserved public acknowledgement of the inspiring stories of our students. And that is why we are only postponing and not canceling. Those students on track to graduate – will still graduate. You’ll receive your certificates and your degrees. You’ll begin your careers or continue your studies. We plan to find a date at the beginning of the fall semester and will work with the Governor’s office to try and find a date and a time that allows him to attend and speak. It would be a fitting moment to celebrate your achievement, to host the Governor, and to signal the start of a fall semester and a New Year full of promiser. i‘ll keep you posted.
  • The state has created a COVID-19 portal for healthcare volunteers. Go to https://covid19.nj.gov and click on the section titles “How can I volunteer as a healthcare professional?” The link will take you to an online form that you can complete.
  • I have no update regarding the use of RVCC as an outdoor testing site.
  • If you are enrolled in a course and you have not contacted your professor yet, please do so. Why not reach out today? Please don’t give up – don’t disappear. You’ve invested too much time and too much effort to abandon your progress. Let your faculty member, let your RVCC staff member help you. 

Again, I thank all of you for the role you’re playing in sustaining this College. Your contributions guarantee that learning continues, that our students continue to make progress, and that RVCC will keep its doors wide open.  

Please follow the guidelines for health and safety. If, like me, you’re searching for a Tiger King replacement, consider Sunderland ‘Til I Die, a Netflix series that offers a very intimate look at British football.

Don’t hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (April 2)

My Thursday update will be a brief one. I hope classes are going well and that you’re all safe and healthy.

  • Governor Murphy has extended the fiscal year to September 30th. This decision impacts RVCC in two ways: first, it means that FY20 is extended for three months and we anticipate a cut in our operating aid (the $9.7 million identified for our sector); second, it suggests that a brand new FY21 budget will be developed and that because of the decline in revenues the state may cut operating aid to the community college sector. I have no details at this point, but I’ll continue to report on the financial consequences of this unprecedented health crisis.
  • HESAA (New Jersey Higher Education Assistance Authority) has extended the deadline for current students to renew state financial aid. Current students now have until June 1st to complete and file FAFSA. New students – those students enrolling for the first time in the fall – have until September 15th to file.
  • Colleges and universities across the country are dropping the requirement of SAT or ACT for admissions. Many institutions are going “test optional,” and are paying more attention to a student’s high school record (GPA, course selections, and other experience) and material contained on the Common Application. It will be interesting to see if, after this event has receded into memory, if institutions will return to requiring a SAT or ACT score for admissions or if they will stay with these newer, more holistic approaches to admissions.
  • I’ve included two updated pdf files from the NJCCC containing updates to the resources that are available during this crisis. (See links below)
  • The outdoor Wi-Fi is complete. Lots 2, 8, and 9 have good coverage. Lot 3 will be improved when our delivery of additional access points arrives.  At that time, we will add an access point on the Workforce Building.
  • Our planning for Summer I is almost complete. As a reminder, Summer I will be entirely online. We will soon advise those students already registered for Summer courses and new students how registration and enrollment will unfold. Hopefully, I’ll provide that detail by Monday.

As always, please let me know about your concerns or your questions – or just send me an email letting me know how things are going. There will be no executive staff meeting tomorrow, but I’ll be on campus and I provide an update. Please take care.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (April 1)

One or two updates for Wednesday. I hope everyone is healthy and that your family and friends are, too.

  • Just a reminder: if you have any questions about the new pass/no credit policy, about the student support services (including financial aid, enrollment services, admissions, advising and counseling), about teaching and learning resources, or about the Resource Center, please visit the RVCC website and click on the COVID-19 banner on the top of our home page. (links above)
  • The next RVCC Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for April 28th and because of the Governor’s Executive Order will be conducted virtually. We will provide a telephone number for the public to call and they will have the opportunity to ask any questions or make any statements during the public comment section of the meeting. As soon as that conferencing opportunity is available, we will provide the numbers to call and the participant number to enter. The system will only allow 100 people to join the meeting.
  • At the April 28th meeting, the trustees will vote to approve and adopt the College’s FY2021 budget.
  • RVCC will be the site of a COVID-19 Testing Center. A joint venture between Hunterdon Healthcare and RWJ University Hospital Somerset, the site will be an outdoor facility (no use of any of RVCC’s internal spaces). As a drive through facility, it will only be open to those individuals with a Dr.’s prescription. The State Police, in consultation with local law enforcement and with our own security personnel, will manage the operation, selecting the most appropriate parking lot and managing the entrance and exit of traffic. As more details emerge, I’ll provide updates.
  • Because of the impact of this crisis on our current operating budget and on our ability to craft an accurate FY21 budget, I am “freezing” all current job searches. This decision does not mean that I am ending all hiring. Rather, each open position will be evaluated and assessed, prompting a recommendation about whether to continue with the search or to suspend. Some programs, for example, with external accreditation require certain staffing levels and those searches will move forward. Some programs are being funded with funds from other sources and those searches will continue. We continue to collect resumes and applications but will not allow any searches to move forward without a thorough evaluation and without an approval. We are communicating with all applicants and letting them know about the status of the search process.
  • Another important reminder: please try to limit your visits to campus as much as possible. And if you do visit campus, please check in with security in the Welcome Center so that we know how is on campus, know where you have visited and can then order a deep clean, and know when you have left campus. Thank you for understanding these much-needed protocols.
  • An important announcement regarding scholarship opportunities for next academic year: the scholarship portal for academic year 2020-21 is now open, so students should visit  https://raritanval.awardspring.com/  to apply for a range scholarship support available beginning this fall.
  • Our outdoor wireless hot spots will include two access points for extended coverage in lots 2 and 3 and for coverage in lots 8 and 9.

As well, I encourage you to send me your questions, concerns, or suggestions. Continue to be well -  to the students, keep staying on track; to the faculty, thank you for sustaining learning in these most trying times; and to the staff, thank you for helping so many of our students.

My favorite meme of the hour regarding Tiger King: “Watching people be shocked by Tiger King reminds me that not everyone grew up in Florida.” As Robert California said on The Office, Florida is “America’s basement.”

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (March 31)

Good morning everyone. Just a few updates today.

  • Student Services has posted the complete Pass/No Credit grade option for spring classes. Simply go RVCC’s website and click on the COVID-19 banner at the top of the landing page. I hope that the document will help you better understand this option and the choices that you will have for this semester.
  • We’re getting more details about the stimulus package that was passed into law last week, especially the portions of the package that affect higher education. About $13.953 billion is available for colleges across the nation. 90% of this total will be a direct payment from the federal government to individual colleges. The payment will be calculated in the following way: 75% of the allocation is determined by the FTE of Pell-eligible students who attend the college and 25% of the FTE equivalent on non-Pell eligible students. Initial calculations suggest that New Jersey’s 18 community colleges will receive about $85 million in total.

There’s also about $70 million in direct aid to Governors for education, but this amount will be divided among all sectors – primary, secondary, and postsecondary.

  •  We’re seeing a significant number of New Jerseyans file for unemployment. For the week ending March 21, 103,466 residents filed new unemployment claims – in Somerset County, 2,746 residents filed and in Hunterdon County that number was 1,104. Our workforce staff are beginning to think about the kinds of programs that will allow these dislocated and displaced workers to re-enter the labor market. The stimulus package does provide some funds – about $100 million – to help pay for workforce training.
  • The Academic Awards event scheduled for April has been canceled. We will still try to acknowledge academic achievement in some way. We will announce our decision about commencement in the coming days.
  • Please let your friends, family, and any prospective students that we will hold our Open House as a virtual event on April 25th, from 10:00 am until 1:00 pm. Help us spread the word about RVCC and about the remarkable community of teachers and learners we have. I’ll provide more details as we come closer to the event.

Please do all you can to stay healthy.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (March 30)

I hope you all had a restful weekend and that everyone is healthy (and in good spirits).  Some items for your Monday update:

  • On Friday, New Jersey’s Secretary of Higher Education spoke to all 18 community college presidents. She reported that the Governor believes we are still two weeks away from the anticipated surge of positive COVID-19 cases. She acknowledged that our FY21 community college operating funds will likely be cut. At the same time, she noted that her department is tracking the Congressional stimulus package and trying to better understand the money that might be available to each state for higher education. The Secretary also asked each college to track the cost of responding to this public health crisis and to try and calculate the loss of revenue, too. These amounts may determine how federal and state agencies allocate the stimulus funds.
  • We are almost ready to announce our plans for summer courses. As you know, Summer I will begin on May 18th and end on June 26th. It will be entirely online and we continue to build that schedule. Summer II begins on July 6th and ends on August 14th and will be a combination of face-to-face and online courses. There is a Summer III, running from June 8th to August 14th, offering a limited (perhaps 15 or so) online courses. As soon as the details are complete, we will issue a complete communication to students that details the offerings and registration process.
  • In a similar vein, we will soon release a communication to students regarding the adoption of a pass/no credit option for spring classes. That communication will likely be released at the end of this week. For information about the summer schedules and about the pass/no credit policy, please do not ask your professors as they do not have the details. We will provide details as soon as we can.
  • We are waiving the $35 graduation fee. If you intend to graduate and file the application, there is no need to submit the $35.
  • We will make a decision regarding the postponing of commencement in the next week or so. If we postpone, we will likely look for a make-up event sometime late summer.

The outdoor wifi hot spot by the West Building is live. You may drive into that parking lot and access the RVCC network. I have asked security to monitor the area to make sure that we do not violate any of the orders regarding social distancing and limiting group size. We should complete the other hotspot for the parking lots near the Planetarium be either midweek or by the end of the week. I’ll let you know as soon as that hot spot is live.

 Again, don’t hesitate to contact me for clarification, for questions, or for any concerns. I wish everyone success as they transition to remote learning – I know it’s not easy.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (March 27)

I’m on campus and I don’t believe there’s more than five staff members present. I want to thank our security team for being here every day and for keeping campus safe. A very brief update today. We did not hold our 8:30 am meeting this morning, but we’ll hold our call on Monday and I will update the campus at that time.

So just a few items today.

  • Our IT folks continue to work on providing better links to some of our material and here’s a new and improved link to RVCC’s resource for teaching and learning in an online environment: http://www.raritanval.edu/continuity
  • New Jersey’s Secretary of Higher Education will host a conference call today at 3:00 pm. I will be sure to update the campus if I learn any new information about the current situation.
  • I have still not made a decision about our graduation ceremony. As you know, Governor Murphy is our speaker and I would like to delay my decision as long as possible. Obviously, the longer we are in a “lockdown,” the more likely it is that I will have to postpone the ceremony.
  • An important reminder about our summer courses. Summer I will begin on May 18th and end on June 26th. All courses for Summer I will be online. I will provide more details about Summer I (and the other two summer terms) as they become available. Summer II will be on campus and will offer the traditional range of face-to-face courses. Summer II will begin on July 6th.
  • I offer my encouragement and my applause to everyone engaged in this unique effort to sustain student learning – to save the spring semester. I’m so proud of our students and of our faculty and staff.

Please try to stay as healthy as possible. If you need help, please reach out to me or anyone else at the College. Have as restful a weekend as possible and I’ll write again on Monday.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (March 26)

Good morning. I hope everyone is staying healthy and keeping family and friends safe. Not as many updates today, but a reminder to reach out with any questions or concerns. (And a note: I apologize in advance for any grammatical errors or errors of fact.)

  • The federal stimulus package contains approximately $14.25 billion in direct aid for higher education. The aid will be given to each state and New Jersey’s allocation will probably total about 3% of that amount. The aid is for three somewhat broad items: for technology costs related to the crisis, for direct grants to students, and for other costs associated with the COVID-19 crisis. There are few details at this point, but I will continue to update our community about this much needed aid.
  • The same stimulus package also includes about $100 million for dislocated workers. The money will cover the cost of workforce training programs that will allow those workers to re-enter the labor market. RVCC’s workforce division is already looking at this provision and thinking about the kind of programs we might be able to offer, programs that will meet critical need in our local and regional labor markets.
  • The RVCC network has experienced a few problems over the past few days – when in doubt, please contact the Help Desk and let them know about your issue. This process will prove to be the quickest way to resolve any tech problems.
  • All of the NJ community college presidents are asking HESAA (New Jersey Financial Aid for Students) to relax the rules and regulations regarding student aid and to be as flexible as possible in helping students navigate this very difficult semester.
  • In another letter, the same presidents asked all the state agencies that operate grant programs to try to be as flexible as possible with deadlines and with reporting requirements.
  • I want to thank the RVCC staff who so creatively worked to amend our Cashnet Payment Plan. In short, if you are experiencing financial difficulty and are enrolled in the Cashnet Plan, the following changes are in operation: we will extend the end date of your repayment by three months and late fees are suspended until July 1, 2020. If you are unable to complete your Cashnet Plan with the extended deadline, email the bursar at bursar@raritanval.edu and request to cancel the Plan. Then, we will try to design a repayment plan with the College. For any questions regarding your student account, email bursar@raritanval.edu. Remember that the staff is working remotely and may not be able to respond immediately to your email.
  • I’ve attached two pdf files from the New Jersey Council of County Colleges. They contain valuable information about resources for students and others that relate to health, employment, and other life needs. See below.
  • My thanks to the IT folks for all they’ve done in helping us transition to online instruction, in supporting all the remote work, and in assembling essential resources for teaching and learning. For a comprehensive guide, go to http://www.raritanval.edu/continuity
  • And thanks to a colleague who spotted an error in one of my earlier links. For the free hotspots from xfinity, go to https://wifi.xfinity.com/
  • And, as my sons like to point out, I am a boring old fart. And that’s why I like the poetry of Tennyson. I love “Ulysses,” a dramatic monologue of stunning power. And here is the last line, so right for today: “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

As always, I’ll provide any new and important updates as soon as I have new information.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (March 25)

I am inspired by the students and the faculty and staff of RVCC. Learning is being sustained, students are being supported, and the mission of the College remains a reality. I cannot thank you enough.

  • First, I want to say hello to all our workforce students. I know that you follow a somewhat different schedule, that many of your courses and programs do not follow a semester-to-semester sequence. I encourage all of you to contact your coordinators and to learn about the continuity plan for your courses and for your programs.
  • Governor Murphy has issued Executive Order #109 that requires colleges and universities to inventory all PPE and COVID-19-related equipment and supplies. RVCC has done that and this morning I drove all of our supplies over to RWJ University Hospital Somerset. We were able to collect about 17,000 pairs of gloves, about 250 masks, and a box of surgical gowns. We wish it were more.
  • I will participate in a conference call with the other community college presidents this afternoon and we’ll discuss three major topics: a pass/fail or pass/no credit option for the spring semester, our legislative strategy for short-term budgetary relief, and our request for FY21 allocations from the state.
  • On campus, we are trying our best to develop RVCC’s FY21 budget. It is proving difficult because we are not sure of so many factors that influence and help shape the budget: summer enrollment, fall enrollment, state and county funding levels, the cost of the current crisis, and our loss of other revenue sources.
  • RVCC’s Board of Trustees met last night – virtually. They continue to be impressed by the resiliency of students and of faculty and staff. They approved a small slate of resolutions and acknowledged that the April board meeting is likely to be held remotely as well.
  • After talking to various campus leaders, I have made the decision that only online courses will be offered in Summer I (beginning May 18th) and Summer III (beginning June 8th).  Deans will be working with chairs and faculty to rebuild these schedules.  Students do not need to take any action right now but will be contacted when the new course offerings are available.  We will make it as easy as possible for students already registered in face-to-face classes to transition their enrollment to online courses if they so desire. More detail will follow. (Please note that this decision may not impact our special programs. For example, we may adopt other strategies for our RISE program, a program that has a slightly different continuity plan.)
  • I am also approving a policy that allows students the option to select “pass” or “no credit” for all spring 2020 classes. In other words, the policy allows students the option to keep the letter grade assigned or select “pass” or “no credit” instead.  I will provide the details as soon as they are complete.

 Again, thank you for staying the course and for supporting all our efforts to sustain student learning.

 Stay safe

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (March 24)

Good morning. My daily update (albeit somewhat brief) and, as always, my invitation to reach out to me with any concerns, questions, or advice:

  • The NJ Treasury has frozen about $1 billion in spending. About $9.7 million in community college operating aid has been frozen, impacting our budget for FY21. While it is still early in the process, it is clear that state revenues will be much lower than anticipated. As a result, we will be very cautious in our current spending we will re-examine our FY21 budget and adjust accordingly. We will try to make these decisions in as collaborative and as transparent a way possible. We will always strive to maintain all services that support student success.
  • The state has created a job and hiring hotline. If you are seeking employment, please go to jobs.covid19.nj.gov.
  • We are working on a plan to provide two Wi-Fi hot spots: one in the parking lot in front of the West Building and one in lots 8 and 9. They are not yet operational, but we will announce when they are functional.
  • If you are making tuition payments and are now finding it difficulty to make those payments, please let us know. We are willing to adapt your payment and your timeline to better meet your needs. We recognize the difficulty of the moment – please do not halt your progress because of finances. We are happy to partner with you and to find alternative solutions.
  • We continue to develop a pass/no credit option for the spring semester and will provide an update when it is complete.
  • I want to thank all the faculty and staff who alerted us to the location of PPE on campus. We have collected all those supplies and intend to donate them to the Somerset County Office of Emergency Management.
  • We are developing our summer course schedule and we will make those plans – including the all-important dates – available when complete. The summer youth program does not begin until mid-June and we will make a decision about this program at a later date. 

Please take care and stay safe. I’ll provide another update tomorrow.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (March 23)

Welcome to another week and to another update. I hope this information is useful and please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with questions, concerns, or suggestions.

  • As a result of Governor Murphy’s Executive Orders #104 and #107 and Administrative Order #2020-3, all campus facilities are closed. We have closed the three computer labs. If you visit campus – and I urge you not to do so – enter through the Welcome Center and log in with security. Inform security where you will visit and log out when you leave. We will perform a deep clean of the area(s) you visited. When you are on campus, please maintain social distancing and CDC-related hygiene practices.
  • Today (Monday, March 23rd), we are trying to provide a wifi hot spot in one of the campus parking lots. You could then access the internet from your car and maintain the social distancing protocols. As this effort progresses, I will provide an update and also provide details on how to access the network.
  • We are in the process of locating all PPE supplies on campus and will donate them all to the Somerset County Office of Emergency Management. Thanks to all those staff members who helped locate these valuable resources.
  • Just a reminder that if you are sick or have had contact with someone who has tested positive, please stay at home for the CDC-recommended quarantine period of fourteen days. If you inform us of this situation, we will then be able to better protect our staff members and to deep clean campus areas. We will, of course, maintain the strictest practices regarding privacy of identity.
  • I would like all staff and faculty to use a single and uniform out-of-office message:

In response to COVID-19, most College offices are serving students, staff, and faculty remotely.

You may then add specific information related to your area that will help students and others access essential services.

  • There are very few staff members on campus – perhaps fewer than 10. Security personnel continue to work.
  • I know that today marks the end of our extended spring break and the beginning of remote learning. I realize that it is not in any way the same learning or communal experience as a face-to-face class, but I hope that it sustains your academic momentum, that it provides a new and challenging opportunity to learn.
  • The RVCC Board of Trustees will hold their March board meeting online. The state statues outlining the College’s Board of Trustees provides significant flexibility in an emergency situation. The majority of the meeting will comprise of an executive session and a report of the votes for a very limited number of resolutions.
  • In order that students, staff, and faculty have enough time to prepare, I am canceling all face-to-face classes on campus for the remainder of the spring semester. The rest of the semester will be conducted remotely.
  • We will make a decision soon about postponing commencement.
  • We are fully engaged in the discussion about providing students with a pass/fail or pass/no credit option for spring courses. We are reviewing the implications for transfer and for financial aid. We will provide details about this option as soon as we can.
  • Again, let me know of any problems or concerns. I wish you success in this unexpected transition to a whole new learning environment. I know that we’ll all be as flexible, patient, and creative as we can be.

 Be safe everyone.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (March 21)

I apologize for interrupting your weekend rest, but I have an important update regarding our campus.

  • Last night at 8:00 pm, Governor Murphy ordered the closure of all college libraries and computer labs. We had already closed the library but had opened three computer labs in the West Building. Those labs are now closed.
  • We will explore other options for those students without internet access or technology. I’ll provide an update as soon as we have some other options in place. For now, please avoid coming to campus for any reason whatsoever.

 I hope you all continue to follow guidelines for your health and safety. Please reach out to me with questions or for help.

 Everyone, stay safe.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (March 20)

We did not hold our regular executive committee meeting this morning. A few members of our team are off campus and for others it was an opportunity to pause and to plan for the week ahead.

However, I did want to write you and pass along a few items and perhaps a thought or two.

  • First, I want to thank all the members of the RVCC community who are working so hard to sustain student learning and working so hard to support this wonderful effort. I know these challenges are not easy and I know that the current situation is disruptive and unprecedented. I also want to thank the many students who have written to me; I’m touched by your kind support and by your belief in the College. There’s an old saying that if you want to know the real values of an institution look at the budget. I’d like to offer an alternative: if you want to know or to see in action the core values of RVCC, look at the people who are teaching and supporting our inspiring students. Thank you – all of you.
  • Second, this public health crisis will impact our lives in a number of ways. You may be anxious about your employment status, about food insecurity, about mounting energy bills, about housing needs (including rent payments), and special services for other family members. If you are, please go to https://www.njccc.org/studentandcommunityresources - an excellent beginning place to learn about the resources in New Jersey that may help. Please don’t think you are alone in this moment.
  • While it is impossible to predict what may happen over the course of the next few weeks or months, we are planning to offer as complete a summer schedule as possible and a fall schedule that supports all students. We will announce our plans as soon as we can, so please be sure to check the College’s home page for the latest information.
  • As Somerset County explores the possibility of a “drive through test site,” I have made it clear to hospital leaders and to County leadership that the College would be happy to host such a site. I’ll keep the RVCC community posted on developments.
  • A reminder that if you do visit the campus, enter through the Welcome Center, log in with security, limit your visit to one space only, and log out when you leave campus.
  • We will resume our executive staff meeting at 8:30 am on Monday and I will provide an update soon after that meeting. I’m joined in that meeting by our Forum leadership, RVCC’s shared governance vehicle. I want to thank those leaders for their time, their insights, and their dedicated concern for our students and for our College.
  • I wish you all a restful weekend. Follow the by now familiar guidelines for your health and safety, and look out for each other. Again, for questions, concerns, help, suggestions, call or email me.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (March 19)

At the risk of repetition, my March 19th update.

  • Yesterday, New Jersey’s Secretary of Higher Education participated in a conference call with community college presidents. She made clear that campuses may remain “open” and provide students with support services. However, we must not offer any “instruction,” and there should be a cleaning protocol in place.
  • And some additional clarification abut language (after all, we are a teaching and learning institution and we should never lose an opportunity to learn). First, the virus is properly called SARS-CoV-2; the disease it causes is COVID-19. The World Health Organization published 2015 guidelines for naming diseases and prohibits against designations that refer to people, places, occupations, species, or food. The reasons seem obvious: they protect against stigma and irrational assumptions that aren’t scientifically accurate. If you’re interested in reading the full report from the WHO, go to https://www.who.int/topics/infectious_diseases/naming-new-diseases/en/
  • As a result of that clarification, then, we have opened three computer labs in the West Building. They are all located on the second floor – 205, 210, and 212. They will be open from 8:30 am until 5:00 pm. We will monitor usage very closely and practice social distancing. Cleaning materials will be available and we will ask users to clean the work area after use and then we will ask facilities to provide a deeper cleaning.
  • We continue to try and have as many people work remotely as possible. We also recognize that the transition to remote work can be difficult and disconcerting. We know that all RVCC staff members will find ways to support student learning and to maintain the essential college services.
  • There is an increase in the number of reported cyber incidents or attacks. Please be alert to phishing emails and to other potential security risks. If in doubt, contact the IT Help Desk.
  • IT will soon publish a Tech News Update, providing a range of resources for those of you working and learning remotely.
  • All visitors to campus should enter through the Welcome Center doors and sign in with the security personnel located there. We ask that you identify the location you intend to visit and that you inform the security personnel when you leave campus. This process will ensure that the appropriate cleaning can take place.
  • Continue to visit raritanval.edu for the latest updates regarding available services, for contact information, and for current campus operations.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to me via email or office phone. Everyone be safe.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (March 18)

  • Today, at 4:30 pm New Jersey’s Secretary of Higher Education will host a conference call with the eighteen community college presidents. She intends to clarify and to extend the information regarding higher education in Governor Murphy’s Executive Order #104. I do not know what she may say, but I believe she may offer additional definitions or protocols of what “closed” may mean for a campus. I will provide an update tomorrow.
  • I would like to remind everyone about language. Please refer to the current source of the public health emergency as COVID-19 Coronavirus. The virus has no nationality nor trait associated with a particular geography or ethnicity. It is best that we use language to unite in this global emergency rather than to separate.
  • Comcast is offering free wifi for the next two months. Go to www.xfinity.com/wifif, select “xfinitywifi,” network, and launch a browser.
  • Verizon Wireless is currently sold out of hot spots until at least April 1st.
  • Some important news from Student Services:
    • The course withdrawal deadline has been extended to May 4th.
    • We are extending the payment for summer courses by two weeks.
    • An “I” (incomplete) for any spring 2020 course will remain in place for two years, providing students ample opportunities to complete the required work. We are establishing a protocol if the original instructor is no longer at the college.
    • The Open House and information sessions about admissions have transitioned to an online environment.
    • We are exploring how to conduct placement testing in an online-only environment.
  • Our summer youth programs remain on the calendar, and we will make a decision regarding their status as we approach the start date (late June).
  • Facilities will continue to pick up and deliver mail to campus offices.
  • Facilities maintains a reduced cleaning staff and will respond to any request for cleaning.
  • HR reminds us that as we work remotely we might use some of the time to access additional online training and compliance modules. HR will provide details in a follow up email.
  • As a result of national guidelines and our own professional staff, the library is closed.
  • For any information and updates regarding the Resource Center (including the gift cards), please visit the Resource Center website. The staff is working hard to update all the information housed on that site.
  • If you experience any difficulties with RVCC technology or have a related request, please contact the help desk at 908.231.8811, x7887, or helpdesk@raritanval.edu. Ticketing is still in place and you will get a response. Please do not call or email individual Technology Services staff directly.
  • We are discouraging all visits and visitors to campus. But if you do need to visit campus, please email covid19@raritanval.edu and tell us when you will be on campus and where you visited. We will organize a cleaning of that space once you have left campus. At the same time, we are trying to reduce the staff presence on campus as much as we can.
  • If you have any question or concerns, please reach out to either your immediate supervisor or to me. I can be reached at Michael.mcdonough@raritanval.edu or at 908.526.1200 ext 8870.

 Please stay safe.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (March 17)

  • On Monday, Governor Murphy issued Executive Order 104. The order suspends all teaching on campus and asks that learning continue in an online modality. The order does not “close” campus and RVCC will remain open. We remain open – with a greatly reduced staff – for three essential reasons:
    • to support faculty as they transition their face-to-face classes to other modalities;
    • to provide the comprehensive student services that support student success, including access to computer technologies and the internet, advising, financial aid, and the resource center;
    • to continue campus operations so that we can sustain future semesters and services.
  • The Bookstore will close within the next day and transition to an online service only.
  • HR will make it possible to make changes to your information or services by telephone. They will ask for additional verification but there will be no reason to visit campus for HR processes or services.
  • We plan to open three computer labs for students in the West Building. We will limit the maximum number of people in a lab so that we can practice social distancing. In addition, we are looking to offer other student support services in the West Building, limiting the need to visit other campus buildings. IT will also move their Help Desk to the West Building.
  • IT is preparing additional documentation for Microsoft Teams. IN addition, we are trying to verify if Zoom will accept any user with an .edu address (free). We believe that have made this offer but will limit sessions to 40 minutes. Meanwhile, both Zoom and Big Blue Button experienced volume-related incidents yesterday.
  • Any faculty or staff member without internet access should contact their immediate supervisor. It is possible for us to purchase a two- or three-month Verizon hotspot that will allow you to use your laptop or smart device to connect to the Internet via a cell connection.
  • Almost all student services have transitioned to a virtual pace. Please visit the Student Services web page to find information on how to connect with these services.
  • Disability Services and Counseling will reach out to those students that have established a relationship with these offices and whose needs are well identified.
  • The Testing Center is closed.
  • Student Services has purchased DocuSign, allowing people to sign a wide variety of forms online instead of having to visit campus.
  • We have purchased $2000 worth of Shop Rite gift cards. These cards will be provided to students who have visited our food pantry. They do not need to visit campus in order to receive the card, we can provide them with the account number and Shop Rite will accept that as proof of the gift card.
  • We have suspended all face-to-face teaching in the RISE program, but a continuity of learning plan is in place.
  • All faculty training has transitioned to a virtual environment. Faculty should no longer visit campus if at all possible.
  • I have asked Forum leadership to attend our daily meetings. I am grateful for their support, their questions, and their guidance.

Update From RVCC President Michael McDonough (March 16)

In what has become our alarmingly “new normal,” I have another daily update regarding the COVID-19 Coronavirus and RVCC’s response.

▪First, I want to reassert that our essential goal during this difficult time: to sustain student learning. We all recognize that these conditions are far from ideal, that the challenges are significant – but we must try to continue our courses, to continue documenting student learning. I read Kathy Suk’s email, heard about Derek Weber’s innovations, and saw Holly Smythe’s resource-rich tool. We will try our best to teach and to learn through this crisis.

▪Second, we will close the RVCC childcare center at the end of day on Wednesday, March 18th.

▪Third, we will close all RVCC food services by the end of day on Wednesday, March 18th. Vending will be the only option available to the campus community.

▪Fourth, we are going to adopt an “essential only staff” on campus. Every employee not identified as “essential” is to work from a remote location. Divisional leaders are developing that list as quickly as they can, but we anticipate this staffing plan to be in place by Wednesday, March 18th. IN order to work from a remote location, we ask that you forward your office phone to a phone of your choice. Instructions on how to accomplish this task – and other vital remote working tips - are located at https://commons.raritanval.edu/about/emergency/Pages/Continuity%20of%20I...

▪Fifth, the College does have a limited number of Zoom licenses and we are exploring the cost of adding about 100 additional licenses. I will provide an update as soon as we obtain this information (we are experiencing delays in dealing with vendors because of the volume of inquiries they are receiving). Office 365 offers Microsoft Teams and we are exploring how to best train faculty and staff to use this tool.

▪Sixth, we are allowing a small construction team (no more than eight workers) to continue their work on the Arts Building. All work is exterior and workers will not enter the building.

▪Seventh, the Small Business Development group housed in Workforce is working remotely. The majority of workforce classes have been moved online and we are seeking ways to accommodate the “hands on” learning central to many of these programs.

▪Eighth, we are suspending all job searches until April 10th. The postings will remain “live” and we will continue to collect applications. By April 10th, we will better understand the demands (and challenges) of working online and we will be better informed about our budgets and potential impacts for the fall 2020 semester.

▪Ninth, while faculty are on campus this week and designing the ways to continue their teaching at a distance, faculty should try to avoid coming on campus as much as possible in the future weeks. If faculty do visit campus, please inform HR of when you will/have visited and where – so that we can thoroughly clean those areas.

▪Tenth, while not yet fully in place, we plan on maintaining open computer labs for students in the West Building. Our goal is to close as much of campus as possible, believing that a host of student support functions can be best handled remotely.

▪Eleventh, if you have spent any time in a CDC-designated Level 3 country, you must stay at home and practice social distancing for 14 days from the time you departed the Level 3 country.

▪Finally, we have canceled the March Board of Trustee Meeting. We are also in the process of looking at the likelihood of canceling additional Board meetings and commencement. We will provide updates as soon as we can. I also plan to ask Forum leadership to participate – probably remotely – in our daily executive staff meetings. Forum is our shared governance vehicle and, therefore, the most appropriate stakeholder group to invite into those deliberations.

From IT: please update your password.

And continue to follow the CDC protocols for social distancing and general hygiene.

Update from RVCC President Michael McDonough (March 13)

As you might imagine, we are responding to changes in our environment on an almost hour-by-hour basis. As a result, I need to update some of the information in yesterday’s message. I’m sure you’ll understand that as conditions change and as we receive new information from various state agencies, we will revise our policies and procedures to better protect our community. Our goal is to protect you and to try and support our students.

Here, then, are new and important updates:

  • Classes will resume as planned on March 23rd, but we will suspend all face-to-face instruction on campus until April 10th. Faculty will receive updates about training opportunities for both online and other modalities. We will make a decision about the week of April 13th by March 25th.
  • Any employee with CDC-identified risks for serious illness from COVID-19 factors should stay at home. Visit cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups-high-risk-complications.html for a complete description of the risk factors.
  • The College remains open. However, supervisors and divisional leaders may allow certain employees to work at home. The situation remains fluid and management will err on the side of caution in making these decisions.
  • If your children are now at home because of school closures, please do not bring them to campus. Our goal is to reduce the number of people on campus, so stay at home and work from that location.
  • We are delaying fall registration for at least two weeks.
  • And an important reminder. If you have visited a Level 3 country, stay at home and practice social distancing for 14 days from the time you departed the Level 3 country. The CDC has identified the following countries as Level 3: China. Iran, South Korea, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City.

Message from RVCC President Michael McDonough (March 12)

For several weeks now, we have been monitoring the progress of COVID-19 coronavirus. We have participated in numerous conference calls with state and federal leaders and with other New Jersey institutions of higher education. We have studied multiple pandemic and business continuity plans.

Today, I’m writing to inform you about our response to this ever-changing and rapidly moving situation. RVCC is committed to ensuring the safety of faculty, staff, and students and to sustaining student learning.

Therefore, I am extending spring break for students for one additional week.

The College will remain open. Faculty and staff will continue to report. During the next seven days, we will address our most immediate challenges. An essential and key ingredient of this response will be the creativity, the compassion, and the cooperation of the entire campus community.

Here, then, is our approach to this urgent challenge:

Classes
I ask faculty to use the week of March 15-20 to think about and to make plans for sustaining learning should we have to suspend classes beyond March 20. While moving to an online environment is one option, it is not the only option. There are other virtual options, including Zoom and Shindig. There are low tech options, too, including phone conferencing. We will provide training and assistance, helping design robust continuity plans.

Faculty who teach courses at high schools, prisons, and other off-site locations will work with the appropriate officials to craft continuity plans. Whether instruction continues at those sites is at the discretion of the appropriate site officials.

On March 20, we will make a decision about the status of face-to-face classes at the Branchburg campus.

Students
The College will remain open. We will provide students with whatever services they need, including access to computers, advising, counseling, and tutoring. The RVCC Resource Center and Food Pantry will also be available to students.

We may modify hours or procedures as the situation changes.

We will monitor facilities to ensure that spaces are occupied at no more than 50% of normal capacity.  For example, computer labs will require at least one work station between students, and testing and tutoring centers will admit a limited number of students.

Campus Events and Meetings
Beginning today, all events and gatherings on campus are postponed or cancelled. We are also prohibiting spectators from any scheduled sports events.

Travel
Any member of the College community who returns from a Level 3 country as designated by the CDC must stay at home and practice social distancing for 14 days from the time they departed the Level 3 country.

Student and Faculty Trips
All student trips are cancelled for the month of March.

Any faculty who experience financial hardship because of a cancelled conference or meeting, may be reimbursed up to the amount originally approved by the Faculty Travel Committee.

Employees
The College remains open. Faculty and staff should report to work as usual.

Please reach out to HR with employee or workplace-related questions.

If you do not feel well, please stay at home.
Continue to follow CDC recommendations related to prevention.

Workforce Operations
Our Director of Workforce Training will make decisions regarding the cancelation of workforce training and instruction on a case-by-case basis.

Communications
Our COVID-19 Task Force meets every day and we will provide daily updates to the coronavirus page on our website.

We are opening an email box – covid19@raritanval.edu. If you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions, please submit your email to this address.

We will continue to provide updates and continue to revise our response to this challenging situation. Our goal is to protect the health of our faculty, staff, and students and to support our students.