Office of the President

March 20, 2020

To the William Paterson Community:

As we continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic, it is with a heavy heart, but a clear and resolute mind that I have decided that the best action to take for the health and safety of the William Paterson community is to extend our move to online classes through the end of the semester. As previously announced, that move begins Wednesday, March 25, after our extended spring break.

It is difficult to imagine that, after we said goodbye to our students and Faculty just this past weekend, we won’t be seeing most of them again for several months. These are unprecedented circumstances on campus, in our communities, and around the world, and an unprecedented response is necessary to meet the challenge that COVID-19 poses.

I know students will have lots of questions about the specific details regarding moving out of residence halls, closing out meal plans, potential credits or refunds, and many other important matters. Our Office of Student Development has been working tirelessly to sort out all of these complex issues. Resident students will hear from the Office of Residence Life later today with detailed move-out procedures as well as their assigned move-out date and time. Please be patient, as staff are working through a lot of details while also caring for classmates still in our residence halls. Further information regarding financial implications will be provided on April 10.
Deans will be consulting with Faculty on the implications of this extension in collaboration with the Provost’s Office, as it may impact specific courses.

This is certainly not the way that any of us imagined the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester would go. There are sure to be bumps along the way, but I know everyone is committed to doing everything we can to support our students and allow them to continue working toward their degrees with as little disruption as possible.

We are fortunate that there is a lot of expertise in the field of online instruction among our dedicated faculty and staff. They have been gearing up for the previously announced move of classes online with the support of the Office of the Provost, Instructional & Research Technology, and the Center for Teaching Excellence. I know our students will bring to the online environment the same intellectual curiosity and commitment that they demonstrate in the classroom. 

For now, non-essential staff will continue on the previously announced timeline to work remotely until at least April 3, at which time I will communicate with them again as to whether we will remain remote or move to the Orange week/Black week model, in which only approximately half of our staff would be on campus at any given time. Like all our decisions, this will be made based on the best interests of health and safety. I have heard many stories from the Provost and Vice Presidents about how staff are stepping up to ensure that the fundamental business of our University continues to get done, and I thank them for their good work.

Essential Staff: 
We are working through plans for essential staff to reduce the numbers needed daily where possible. Those employees will get a message from Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance Steve Bolyai and Vice President for Human Resources Allison Boucher-Jarvis by Wednesday, March 25 as to our plans moving forward. The essential staff workers who have been returning to campus daily to ensure the health and safety of our community have our ongoing gratitude, as do our dedicated University Police, who remain all-hands-on-deck during these turbulent times.

Cheng Library: 
We are working with the Librarians, professional staff, and the Faculty on plans to reduce the traffic in Cheng Library.  We ask Faculty to do what they can to reduce assignments that require students to physically be in the library.  We are working to provide alternate computing space for students who are without internet access.  We will be communicating on April 3 with the professional Librarians and staff as we finalize these plans. I am mindful that the Librarians remain steadfast in their professional capacities. Communications have been sent to Faculty and staff – and will be sent to students by Monday, March 23 – detailing steps everyone can take to minimize traffic and maximize social distancing in the Library.

Graduating Seniors: 
I realize that our graduating seniors must be especially disappointed that, without the ability to partake in senior traditions, the spring semester will not be the capstone to their William Paterson journey that they expected, and which they have rightly earned. Please know that as we think about how best to proceed with regard to Commencement, we are working to come up with creative ways to help them properly celebrate this great life achievement.


To the entire William Paterson community, we have all been experiencing a lot of powerful emotions over the past few weeks. I’m sure the realization that many of us won’t see our friends, colleagues, students, teachers and mentors for some time prompts many, sometimes conflicting, feelings. Right now for me, however, the one that’s most pronounced is pride – Pioneer Pride. It is a pride in the students, Faculty, and staff, who make the William Paterson community so strong. As I have watched all of you deal with the daily, and often hourly, changes that have turned our lives upside down, seemingly overnight, I have been amazed and inspired by your collective resiliency, adaptability, and dedication to the mission of the University.

As we adapt to our new normal of remote learning and work, these lyrics from the Alma Mater perhaps capture it best: “We’re pioneers courageous, We face a wider world, Aiding the spread of knowledge, Truth’s banner bright unfurled.”  In the near term, it is a remote world for us now, but we will forever be Pioneers. Although it will take longer than I had hoped, I look forward to welcoming you all back to campus again in the near future. Until then, stay safe, and take care of yourselves. 

Richard J. Helldobler, PhD
Office of the President | 973.720.2222 |