June 8, 2020

To William Paterson Faculty and Staff:

I have determined, based on the science and some of our own data from the Counseling, Health and Wellness Center, that we will begin Fall semester classes early and end at the Thanksgiving break. Most of the science points to an anticipated resurgence of the coronavirus in late November, when families and friends who are not typically together gather for the holidays, creating greater risk for spread of COVID-19. Flu cases also spike nationwide and on our campus around this same time. For these reasons, it makes ending the semester at Thanksgiving and returning in January to begin the Spring semester a reduced-risk option for our community.   
We have reached out to the AFT to discuss this plan, given that anything beyond a one-week early start must be negotiated. Contractually, the Administration can start the semester a week early without negotiation.
Option 1: (Does not require AFT agreement)
For the first day of classes on Monday August 24 and last day of semester on Wednesday November, 25 , would require make-up classes on at least 4 weekend days  that meet the minimum instructional time standard.
Option 2: (Requires agreement with the AFT) 
For the first day of classes on Tuesday August 18 and the last day of semester on Wednesday, November 25 , would require  no weekends  to meet the minimum instructional time standard. This is the Administration’s preferred option.  
We have surveyed our students about their Spring semester experience and options for the Fall semester and, while the data is preliminary, many have expressed a preference for Option 2, given job schedules and other constraints.  Looking at the demographics of the responses, students of color and those receiving financial aid, in particular, have expressed concern about a schedule that would include weekends. As we finalize the feedback from our students, I will certainly share the data with the AFT and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.  
Should we be unable to reach an agreement with the AFT, we will implement Option 1. I wanted to let you know this now, as Option 1 could impact vacation time and weekend getaways that often take place early in the semester, while Option 2 might impact end-of-summer vacation plans.
Thank you, and please stay healthy and safe.
Richard J. Helldobler, PhD