Interim President Thomas J. Schwarz announces pivot from hybrid reopen plan
August 2020 – In an announcement to the Drew community, Interim President Thomas J. Schwarz stated a change of course to Drew University’s intentions to reopen campus for the fall semester in a hybrid in-person format.
“The current reality requires that all fall 2020 semester courses will be offered online only, and most of our students will study from home,” said Schwarz, who began in his role earlier this month.
“Though certainly a disappointment, it is my hope that this decision has provided some clarity during an unsettled time,” he added.
Covid-19 has caused a wave of plan reversals at schools throughout the country, including The College of New Jersey, Dickinson College, Georgetown University and Pitzer College. Two other New Jersey schools, Princeton University and Rutgers University, have had virtual models planned for some time.
The full announcement can be read below.
Dear Members of the Drew Community,
Drew is known for its warm and vibrant campus life, the engaged faculty-student relationships, and the full residential experience, all designed to encourage and build a close collaborative community.
We had so hoped to preserve much of that this fall, but Covid-19 has made it impossible.
As you know, dozens of Drew faculty, staff, and students have been preparing for a fall return to campus. The Open Campus Task Force endeavored to provide an authentic campus experience while prioritizing health and safety standards. Although this is my first official week as interim president, I have spent the past two months getting to better know this fine institution, and I have been thoroughly briefed on all of these planning efforts—by the former president, Cabinet, staff leaders, and members of the Board.
We have known all along—and have repeatedly shared—that our plans were subject to the vagaries of this quickly evolving health crisis, federal and state mandates, and other external circumstances. Our reopening plan called for flexibility and nimbleness in light of that reality and it has become clear to me and to the other members of the administration and Board of Trustees that the most responsible and judicious action is to change course.
The current reality requires that all fall 2020 semester courses will be offered online only, and most of our students will study from home.
This difficult decision is a huge disappointment to us all—most especially our incoming students and those members of the Class of 2021, for whom this is meant to be a momentous year.
Our decision will not surprise most of you. Since we formulated our initial plan in late May, we have seen a rise in Covid-19 cases rather than the expected decline. Interstate and international travel restrictions imposed by state and federal officials create an untenable situation for families from states outside New Jersey and from countries around the world. And late last week, the Landmark Conference, our athletic conference, postponed all regular season contests and championships for the fall semester.
With new challenges being revealed each day, bringing the Drew community together on campus will likely intensify the threat to the health and safety of students, staff, and faculty, as well as our families, friends, and others with whom we interact.
Of course, Drew is not alone in making this difficult decision. Covid-19 has caused a wave of plan reversals from many of our peer institutions across the country, from The College of New Jersey to Dickinson College to Georgetown University to Pitzer College. In New Jersey, Princeton University and Rutgers University have planned virtual models for some time. Like them, we believe that this reality-driven all virtual model will allow us to provide a stable and engaged educational experience for all of our students this fall, while giving us the best chance to safely return to in-person living and learning in the spring.
The details are outlined below.
Academics and Engagement
Online classes will begin, as scheduled, August 24, and will continue online throughout the entire semester. We will revert to the original academic calendar, which allows a fall break for CLA and CSGS at the end of September, and has courses meeting on the Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week.
Your dedicated and engaged faculty members have been working diligently since May to prepare for any eventuality with regard to fall course delivery and mentoring activities. This has included professional development activities associated with online teaching and investment in technology and software that will enhance our ability to continue to offer the rigorous, personalized academic experience you expect from a Drew education. Faculty members will be available to you through virtual office hours, departmentally-sponsored speakers and events will continue, academic support services will be available, library materials and support will be accessible, and activities that would have been extremely difficult to manage with both in-person physical distancing and remote participants are being reimagined for maximum effectiveness in a virtual environment and to include expanded networking and connection opportunities for all student participants.
Because a significant portion of student life and educational growth happens outside the classroom, Campus Life and Student Affairs staff will continue to build online programming and engagement experiences so that much of the personal development that typically takes place in person will happen virtually. We have learned from our virtual experience this spring, unsurprisingly, that our community remains engaged. For many of you these community engagement experiences are among the reasons you chose Drew in the first place, and they will continue to be available to you this fall despite the modified formats.
Tuition and Finances
As the financial impact of this pandemic grows and the ways in which it is affecting the institution and all members of our community become more clear, we have also made the decision to decrease tuition in the College of Liberal Arts back to the academic year 2019–2020 level. This means that the announced CLA tuition increase will be reversed; there will be no tuition increase for the academic year 2020–2021. New statements with adjusted financial assistance and tuition modifications will be available to you by August 14; accordingly, we have extended the due date for tuition payments to August 21. We have made this decision for the benefit of our students and their families, even though the University is experiencing increased costs as we respond to the crisis and continue to provide a rigorous and engaged remote learning experience.
For those students who make up our vibrant residential community, we will continue to do all we can to hold your assigned room for the spring semester. This fall semester, we will open on-campus residency for only a small number of students:
- Students currently living on campus, and Graduate and Theological students already assigned to campus housing.
- International students.
- Students who have already planned to engage in independent academic research or creative work this fall that requires the use of physical facilities on campus. (Prior to requesting this exemption, please reach out to your faculty mentor. Approval from your mentor and the Provost’s Office will be required.)
- Students with accessibility issues, housing or food insecurities.
If you feel as if you meet the above requirements, please follow the instructions and complete the application by Sunday, August 9, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. Those who apply for housing will be notified on a rolling basis if they are approved, and all other housing assignments will be terminated on Monday, August 10.
Obviously, this is an evolving situation, and you can expect additional information and refinements to follow in an ongoing manner. Future decisions about a variety of issues and concerns will be posted among the FAQs. When possible, we will reach out to you directly to share emerging decisions and updates, but you should visit the FAQ site regularly to keep current.
I offer my thanks to the entire Drew community for your continued understanding, support, and flexibility throughout this difficult time, and I look forward to getting to know you—students, faculty, staff, alums, families, and friends—as I begin my tenure during this extraordinary period. Though certainly a disappointment, it is my hope that this decision has provided some clarity during an unsettled time.
With best wishes for your health and safety,
Thomas J. Schwarz