By: Arianna Adan, Writer / Follow South Jersey Higher Education Intern
SEWELL, N.J. — Rowan College of South Jersey President Frederick Keating feels very comfortable with his college’s plan for the fall semester.
RCSJ, like nearly every institution of higher education in the United States, has made several adjustments for its fall semester, which will look much different than the typical opening semester of an academic year. The vast majority of the school’s courses will be delivered remotely or in a hybrid model with the exception of a handful of labs.
These changes were made amid the coronavirus pandemic, which also wiped out the second half of the spring 2020 semester’s in-person instruction.
“We made our plan when the state put out its guidelines, right around the Fourth of July,” President Keating said. “Once we got the guidelines, we had a committee made of faculty, staff, students, administration, and some outside advice in medicine and health to make a determination as to what we’re going to do this September. Our plan was to stay online, with about 10% of our classes that are in clinics using a hybrid [model]. 90% of our classes are online, and 10% are in-person hybrid approach.”
Keating said that the college made sure to use a “constructive approach” throughout the decision-making process. He also made sure to communicate a decision on the fall semester’s status early as to help professors and students feel comfortable and have time to prepare for classes to restart. The college has also taken other measures to support its student body – including a tuition freeze that will run through the summer 2021 semester.
In addition to making his decision early, President Keating will communicate with the RCSJ community in a number of different ways as the fall semester progresses. RCSJ will continue to hold town halls with students, faculty, and staff after beginning to do so in the summer.
The college’s president knows just how important communication will be in helping everybody involved with RCSJ navigate these unprecedented times.
“I think it’s absolutely critical that college administration, faculty, and staff keep the student body engaged and knowledgeable,” President Keating said. “We have to continue and remind each other why we’re doing it this way.”
Faculty and staff members of the college have been trained in using the technology that’s become essential to delivering courses throughout the coronavirus pandemic. President Keating’s message was clear: Everybody involved with RCSJ has to be on the same page in order to make an unusual fall semester become a successful one.
The work RCSJ has done in preparing for a semester that will be carried out mostly through digital platforms is crucial for everybody in the RCSJ community. But from a personal perspective, this has been one of the most challenging tasks of President Keating’s career.
“I’ve been in this business for quite a while at both the K-12 and higher ed [levels],” he said. “I consider myself to be a very experienced administrator. I pretty much thought I saw it all, but I never saw this coming. One phrase I make mostly around our discussion is that we built our college for a hurricane, but didn’t build our college for a pandemic. No one has ever been in this territory. We’re making the most difficult decisions, so it is the most challenging time in our careers for all of us.”
And although this is the most challenging, critical period of President Keating’s career, he’s optimistic that RCSJ as a collective will get through the coronavirus pandemic.
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This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.