Message to the Campus Community
May 18, 2020 BK LI
I would like to take this opportunity to provide the SJC Community with an update on the state of the College and our plans for the fall. By now, you are all aware of Governor Cuomo’s orders for continued distance learning through the remainder of this academic year. This did not surprise us, given the continued threat of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York and beyond. For this reason, I decided early on that we would continue using the remote learning model through our summer sessions, knowing the virus might not fully be behind us by then.
Recently, the governor announced he was creating the New York Forward Re-Opening Advisory Board to help develop a re-opening plan for the state and economy that would provide guidance to businesses on restarting operations while preserving public health. This is a good sign for us, and we look forward to receiving specific guidance on the higher education aspects of his plans very soon.
In the meantime, I want to assure the College community that St. Joseph’s is dealing considerably well with this crisis, and that we will remain open this fall. That said, I know many of you would like to return to campus as soon as possible, and believe me, so do I. But the reality is that we are dealing with the unknown. And, for that reason, I created a special Fall Task Force some weeks ago — comprised of faculty, staff and administrators — to assist me in contingency planning for the fall semester.
Task Force for Fall Planning
Keeping the health and safety of SJC’s students, faculty and staff at the forefront, members of the SJC Fall Task Force have been charged with presenting me with a set of options for moving the College forward with instruction and operations for the 2020-2021 academic year. The Task Force is examining possibilities that may include on-ground education, remote education, a hybrid option and other possible contingency plans. I have made it clear to the Task Force that St. Joseph’s must provide students with a high-quality experience, incorporating the best we have to offer in terms of academics and opportunities for a vibrant student life experience, no matter the modality employed.
SJC has learned a great deal through the rapid transition during the spring 2020 semester. This, coupled with the time available to plan for the possibility of remote learning in the fall, has positioned us well to offer an enhanced remote experience for future courses should it become necessary to do so. I am confident we can do this should we need to, knowing how our current programs shifted so quickly to remote modalities only a few months ago, while still retaining their quality and effectiveness. Indeed, our approach has been recognized by outside experts, including the Chronicle of Higher Education, as worthy of emulation.
The Task Force will also send out a special survey to gain further input from current students, faculty and staff to gather even more information about possible future steps. Once we make a final decision on which approach or approaches we plan to take, I will share the details with the greater SJC community.
Despite the uncertainty of current and future times, the College, in consultation and with full support of the Board of Trustees, has already made some important decisions about the coming year. Acknowledging the stress and financial burden on our students and their families, it has been decided that tuition for the coming year will be frozen at the current year’s rates. We recognize that this step is a serious one, as costs incurred by the institution to prepare and support these various modes of learning — including the purchase of new technologies, expenditures for staff and faculty training, and additional labor by all — will be quite high. Even so, I felt strongly, and the Board agreed, that we must consider the gravity of the crisis for our entire region when making decisions about the future.
We plan to do everything in our power to make the coming year as successful as possible for all SJC students, and that includes offering additional sources of funding to those in need. Along with the tuition freeze, SJC will continue to support its current students with a full range of financial aid options. Some of these options include funds available through our newly created COVID-19 Student Emergency Assistance Fund at SJC, as well as the general SJC Student Emergency Fund and numerous other generous scholarship programs at the College. Moreover, no current student will lose their SJC scholarship due to grades earned this semester. St. Joseph’s, always known for its care for the individual student, will continue and intensify the efforts of our academic support services, career services and student wellness staff. We will, no matter the modality of learning chosen for the fall, continue to educate and empower students through student involvement and leadership opportunities.
We understand that the pandemic has made choosing a college particularly challenging for prospective students. In an effort to better assist them, we have created comprehensive and personalized virtual experiences at both our Brooklyn and Long Island campuses. Representatives from our admissions and financial aid offices remain available to answer questions and support prospective students as they transition to the College, and they continue to work with new students whose lives or college plans may have been impacted by the disruption of COVID-19. Additionally, we will continue to honor extensions on deposits, and are accepting new applications for the fall 2020 semester. These steps will ensure that prospective students have the information they need regarding our mission, academic programs and our commitment to the education of the whole person.
Finally, I would like to thank the entire SJC community for its continued support and dedication to the College during this unprecedented time in our history. Our College is resilient and strong. Our faculty and staff have worked incredibly hard to provide our students with a quality education in a challenging environment. Based on their commitment and overall performance, I am confident we will emerge from this crisis even more focused on our mission, bringing deep knowledge and joy to our students, while transforming the world around us for the better.