Time to roll: Focused on safety, Profs head into spring semester

Time to roll: Focused on safety, Profs head into spring semester

Freshman marketing major Eric Rubin prepares to move in to Holly Pointe Commons. Nearly 4,000 students will live on campus this spring.

It was 35 degrees outside, but Eric Rubin was wearing shorts.

Clearly, he was ready for the spring 2021 semester at Rowan University.

“I’m happy to be here,” Rubin, a freshman marketing major, said as he rolled a cart of his belongings through the halls of Holly Pointe Commons.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rubin delayed his freshman move-in until spring, staying home in Marlboro and attending classes virtually during the fall semester.

“I was waiting in the fall to see what would happen,” Rubin said.  “I have some classes this semester that require physical presence. I think living on campus will probably make it easier for me to stay motivated. A whole year away from campus is a lot to miss.”

Rubin was among nearly 4,000 students—about 60 percent of the residential population—who have moved in for the spring semester. As was true in the fall, the by-appointment move-in process was one of scores of safety measures taken at Rowan to address the coronavirus.

Four modes of class delivery

In the fall, when many colleges and universities nationwide essentially shut down their campuses for the semester, Rowan welcomed residential students at 60 percent of residential capacity. Students were able to live on campus—and enjoy the on-campus experience--even if all of their classes were delivered virtually.

As the coronavirus continues across the nation, the 15-week spring semester, which began on Monday, Jan. 25, a week later than usual, will be much like the fall semester. All classes are being held virtually during the first week, with the gradual addition of in-person attendance for many courses in weeks to come. In-person instruction will continue to be at reduced density and remote options will remain available for many courses, as labeled in course schedules.

Courses will be delivered through four modes of delivery: Physical Presence Required; Physical Presence Optional; Fully Virtual with Meeting Time and Fully Virtual with No Meeting Time.

There is no Spring Break this year and the University is prepared to transition to fully remote instruction temporarily or for the remainder of the semester if government directives and public health conditions warrant. The Return to Rowan website has additional information.

“Just like last semester, we will be ready for the hands we are dealt,” Rowan Provost Tony Lowman said. “But I think we’re going to see a semester that’s going to end in a much more positive fashion. I think we’re going to be back doing more things like we’re used to doing as we move through the semester. I’m excited to get started and get moving.”

Increased testing

One of the big changes this semester will be increased testing campus wide--and particularly in the residential population. All Rowan students who will be on campus in any capacity—whether they are living in residence halls, competing in athletics, working on campus, attending campus activities or going to class in person—have been required to take a COVID-19 test and provide documentation that they do not have the virus within 10 days before their return to campus.

Additionally, residential students will have mandatory bi-weekly nasal swab coronavirus tests and the University is instituting wastewater testing in residential facilities.

As in the fall, asymptomatic testing of students will continue. Altogether, Woodside said he expects COVID-19 testing on campus this spring to increase more than tenfold.

“Collectively in the fall, we conducted somewhere in the range of 4,000 tests,” Woodside said. “For this spring, I’m expecting somewhere in the range of 50,000 tests.

“We’ve gone to great lengths to access reliable testing on campus. We’ve done that to help keep us all safe.”

Students who test positive for the virus can either go home to recover or quarantine in Triad, the 200-bed residence hall set aside for symptomatic students. Students in Triad receive supports, such as food, student services and virtual instruction, from Rowan.

Rowan’s contact tracing program will continue and will be expanded this semester, according to Woodside.

The University is involved in two vaccine efforts that support the national vaccination effort. In December, Rowan opened the Rowan Medicine Vaccination Center on the Stratford campus of the School of Osteopathic Medicine. Additionally, the University is involved in the mega vaccination site at Rowan College of South Jersey. The distribution of vaccines is a multi-step process developed by the state that first provides shots to vulnerable populations and front-line workers.

“As soon as we can open up vaccines to students and other campus populations, we certainly will do that,” Woodside said.

Looking ahead with excitement

Just as in fall, student activities, such as Rowan After Hours, are continuing virtually with additional programming also offered in in-person formats. In-person formats adhere to all CDC rules regarding social distancing, reduced capacity and masking.

Other events, lectures and programs from various departments will continue virtually across the University.

Commencement Week is expected to be May 8-14. Additional information about Commencement will be updated in the coming weeks at www.rowan.edu/commencement.

As she moved some belongings into Holly Pointe, freshman Alexys Galette, an early childhood education major from Elmwood Park, beamed.

“I love Rowan. I chose the University for the community,” said Galette, who has two in-person, two hybrid and one online course this semester. “I know I wouldn’t be able to fully focus on my studies at home.”

Galette’s mom, Claudette, said her daughter made the right decision to live on campus last fall.

“I work in education and I know they’re following the safety rules at Rowan,” she said. “They’ve kept in touch with us and they put precautions in place. It was a hard decision to send her in the fall, but you have to raise your children and let them go.

“She loves Rowan. She’s made a good group of friends—a beautiful group of young ladies.”

Interim Vice President for Student Life/Dean of Students Kevin Koett never misses an opportunity to express pride that the Rowan community and Rowan students have shown heart, grit, and a commitment to keeping others safe during the pandemic. That must continue this spring, he noted. Rowan officials are hopeful for a genuine return to normalcy for the fall semester, Koett added.

“We know that COVID-19 fatigue was a part of our lives and still is a part of our lives,” Koett said. “But we just really have to find ways to push through that. We have to stay the course and work together.

“We know that social and physical distancing and masks are going to be a part of our lives this semester,” Koett added. “But there’s good news on the horizon. The future is bright. We just have to keep pushing through for another semester. Rowan students, faculty and staff have made me so proud—just incredibly proud.”