September 8, 2020

Dear William Paterson Faculty and Staff:

Welcome back! I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend. As I mentioned in my Friday email, we should all be especially diligent in adhering to all our social distancing and mask-wearing protocols now that we are coming back together after the long weekend.
I am pleased to report that the William Paterson community has been better about wearing our masks and is doing a good job complying with the daily health screen requirement via WP Connect. Our challenge is to ensure that we all get in the habit of completing this brief but important task every day we plan to be on campus. This tool and the other guidelines continue to be important, especially as we prepare to welcome more students and faculty back to campus next week with the shift of most 2000+-level classes from fully online to hybrid and HyFlex.
Also, there have been inquiries regarding the instructional plans. Specifically, if a class is scheduled to have a face-to-face component and the group wants to stay online, is this permissible? Unless you hear otherwise from your dean, changes should not be made to the academic plan with which you started the semester. The University’s  instructional plan was submitted to the State, and we will honor it. Courses should be taught in the mode approved, unless public health concerns require a pivot to fully-remote instruction. Should that occur, I will let you know.
New Jersey continues to further open its economy, with limited indoor dining and gyms opening recently. While these openings may lead us to believe that all is well and we can drop our guard against COVID-19, I encourage us all to remain vigilant – for ourselves, our families, and for one another. Like the State, we will continue to follow the science and the data in determining the extent of on-campus classes and activities.  
Along with good news on the prevention front, I want to share a positive development on the detection front. We have been fortunate so far to not have any reports of positive COVID-19 tests in our University community since the start of classes. Should that occur, however, William Paterson will have the benefit of a dedicated contact tracer working with the Passaic County Department of Health, who would investigate and identify potentially exposed members of our community. The County Department of Health also has a new epidemiologist on staff, who can serve as a resource for the University.
Anyone who has not yet done so, please review and acknowledge the Code of Conduct before returning to campus. This document details the guidelines and expectations of all community members that will allow us to continue keeping ourselves and each other safe and remain on campus through the Fall semester. 
Thank you to everyone who was able to join me online for last week’s State of the University Address, and especially those who asked such thoughtful and engaging questions. Those of you who were unable to participate in the live event can view a full recording by clicking here.
As I said in my address, the events of the past six months have challenged us all as individuals and as an institution. It is a tribute to our collective Pioneer spirit that we have been able to return to campus this semester. I know that same spirit, together with the major 2020-21 initiatives I discussed, will help us thrive in the months and years ahead as we continue to serve and support our students on their educational journeys.
In the address and elsewhere, I have been sharing lots of enrollment and retention data with you over the past few months, always with the caveat that nothing is final until census. With Census having occurred on Friday, Sept. 4, I can now report that total enrollment for the semester stands at 9,635, a decline of 4.7% from last year. First-time, full-time enrollment is 1,262, a 17.1% decline from last year. On the positive side, graduate enrollment stands at 1,665, an 11.1% increase, and first-year, freshmen retention is 73%, a 3.7% increase. These increases are obviously good news, and given the tremendous challenges presented by the pandemic, we can take some comfort in the fact that the declines and their resulting impacts on our budget were not more severe. I’m personally gratified that so many students continue to put their faith in us as they persevere in their efforts to attain a college degree. Thanks to all of you for your good work in these efforts.
Please remember that Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Josh Powers, Vice President for Human Resources Allison Boucher-Jarvis, and Counseling Health and Wellness Center Director Jill Guzman will host an online Town Hall meeting for faculty and staff this evening, from 5:00-5:40 p.m., where they will share updates and take questions related to instruction, classroom, and campus health and safety issues. Please check your email for this morning’s event reminder with a link to participate.
Finally, I will be hosting my first virtual Office Hours of the semester on Friday, Sept. 11, from 1:00-2:00 p.m., so also keep an eye out for that email invitation and link.
Thank you, stay healthy, wear your mask, and have a great week.
Richard J. Helldobler, PhD