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.