June 18, 2020

To William Paterson Faculty and Staff:

Happy Pride Month! While this year, we celebrate Pride without the usual parades and gatherings, we should remember, as I told our LGBTQIA+ graduates, that pride should not be something we celebrate just once a year, but instead it should define how we live our lives everyday -- with PRIDE.  Of course, the Supreme Court decision on Monday affirming that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers LGBTQIA+ people is a great way to celebrate Pride month and honor those early pioneers at the Stonewall Inn who started the gay rights movement. Many in my community worried that we could get married one day and fired the next, and both quite legal. This decision is as important as the Marriage Equality Act -- perhaps more so. Love is Love, and who you love should not determine your employment status!  
Even with this victory, we still have so much important work to do to address systemic racial injustice and police brutality in our cities and across the country. The recent killing of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta is yet another tragic reminder of the work we all have to  do .  And I chose the word  do  intentionally as a verb to prompt action. We must move from just talking toward actively doing. We must move from being worriers to being warriors, albeit peaceful ones. We must share the responsibility for change by taking action. We must all call out injustice when we see it, and we must all own up to our role in supporting structures and systems that have perpetuated inequalities in economic, education, social services, and healthcare policy.
I was pleased to see so many faculty, staff, and students at the Black Lives Matter March in Wayne. I will be intentional about being more active in my advocacy efforts in support of this movement, and I hope many of you will join me. I also hope you can join me in the virtual Community Space for all faculty and staff on Monday, June 22 at 1 p.m. (Zoom Meeting ID: 6379905275
Password: 362551), when our Chief Diversity Officer David E. Jones will facilitate a discussion on racial injustice and how we can support communities of color.
The great State of New Jersey continues to show progress in the fight against the pandemic, reducing both new cases and the tragic loss of life.  The Governor has lifted the stay-at-home order, and outdoor dining, religious services, and organized sports have resumed or will in the coming days. Critical employees can return to work if needed, and we are on the path to bringing some of our community back to campus on a limited basis. The Governor has stated that those who can work from home should continue to do so. Given that, there is no change in our current remote work schedule.  
The Cabinet and I are discussing work schedules for the coming Fall semester in the context of COVID-19 with the intention of reducing the number of employees we have on campus at any one time, while keeping the University operating. Additionally, Provost Powers, the Deans, and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee are working on a course-delivery plan that seeks to reduce risk and provide flexibility, while maintaining our mission to deliver a quality, affordable education to students who will change the social fabric of our region. Vice President for Student Development Cammarata and her team are working through a residence life plan that will reduce our occupancy in the Fall semester and are developing social distancing protocols for our resident students. We will be inviting you all to virtual town halls in the coming weeks as we gain more clarity and finalize plans. Since we were just provided re-opening guidance from the State late last night, we are now making sure our plans align with any such guidance before discussing them with a larger audience.  
Please know that I am aware of the varying levels of concern and fear that many of you may have about returning to campus. They are real, and I embrace those concerns and feelings.  Also, know that I have complete confidence that Dr. Jill Guzman and Director Charles Lowe are providing guidance that will make us as safe as we can possibly be based on the science and guidance provided by the federal and State governments, along with public health agencies.
The virus will be with us for some time, and it will many months at least until an effective vaccine is developed and widely distributed. Our only choice is to manage the virus as best we can through public health measures such as facial coverings, social distancing, hand washing, and contact tracing. We have to balance many considerations in deciding how best to proceed, but our community’s health and safety will always be paramount. I am mindful of the fact that economic suffering can produce ripples of negative consequences for individuals’ physical and mental well-being. A completely online semester would produce disastrous enrollment challenges. Coupled with reduced funding from the State, it would make job loss a certainty. We must count on each other to keep all of us healthy and employed. It will take all of us doing our part to keep everyone of us as healthy as possible.  
Since reopening events are changing so rapidly in New Jersey, my operational update communications will now be sent every Thursday.  Please know that we will work to give proper notice about any work schedule changes to allow you as much time as possible to plan accordingly. 
Stay safe and healthy, enjoy the Jersey sunshine, and I look forward to seeing you back on campus soon.  
Richard J. Helldobler, PhD