July 2, 2020

To William Paterson Faculty and Staff:

I write to inform you that the Fall semester will begin on Monday, August 24, one week earlier than originally scheduled. This will allow us to end the semester at Thanksgiving. To ensure that we provide sufficient classroom learning hours, we will need to add three Saturdays of instructional time. We are currently working through the details of weekend instruction, and the Provost will communicate those soon. As I wrote earlier this month, federal, State, and our own health experts are anticipating a resurgence of the coronavirus in late November, when we historically see a spike in flu cases. By ending classes early and not returning to campus until January, we can reduce the risk to the health of our University community. With nearly two months until the new semester, it is my hope that everyone will have ample time to make the appropriate personal and family arrangements for both August and November, including child care and any time off you may be planning. And while classes will conclude before Thanksgiving, the University will remain operational as usual through the end of the year. 
A Statewide agreement has been reached with the CWA, and one is currently under consideration by the AFT membership. While these agreements help ease our financial situation, we are far from having a balanced budget. More budget cuts will be needed to bring the budget to an acceptable place that will allow the Board of Trustees to approve it in August. Appropriate Vice Presidents will be communicating these cuts in the coming weeks. Also, I have made the difficult decision to cancel faculty sabbaticals for the coming year.  We are working through details of this impact for next year and will be in touch with affected faculty members within 30 days regarding next steps for next year.
I am pleased to report that the first group of critical employees returned to campus this week to help prepare for the Fall semester and the very important work of enrolling and registering students and further readying the University for their August return. The rest of us will continue to work remotely through at least Thursday, July 9, when I will communicate with you again.
All work places have been evaluated to ensure that everyone will return to safe and secure spaces. Some of the newly-returned employees are working from rearranged, specially equipped spaces and on adjusted schedules to comply with strict social distancing and sanitization guidelines from the State and our own Re-Opening Preparedness Committee. This important work continues in order to accommodate the phased return of additional employee groups over the summer, as well as the eventual return of our students. I want to thank these Pioneers, as well as the essential staff who have been working from campus all along and all of the employees who continue to get their jobs done remotely for your good work. 
As we head into the holiday weekend, I want to take a moment to reflect on the other very important work before us – our ongoing efforts at William Paterson to combat bias and advance the causes of social justice, equity, and inclusion. The Fourth of July, of course, celebrates our nation’s independence and the foundational declaration of liberty and equality for all. A majority of the nation’s citizens, however, were excluded from these grand but essential ideals. It falls to us to continue the work of earlier generations, who fought to extend those “unalienable Rights” to everyone in order to form a more perfect union. Recent events demonstrate, and the 4th of July should remind us all, that we have much work ahead. 
Happy Fourth of July, and I hope you are all having a safe and happy summer.
Richard J. Helldobler, PhD