Office of the President

April 3, 2020

To the William Paterson Community:

As promised, I write today to update you on our operating plans for the weeks ahead, as well as other important issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Staff working arrangements
When I wrote to you on March 17, we were planning to have all employees return to campus on an alternating schedule next week, but clearly the status of the pandemic won’t allow for that. Instead,  we will continue with the current operating arrangements for all employees through at least Sunday, May 3 . I will write to you again with any updates on this subject on Friday, May 1. Anyone needing access to their offices in the meantime should refer back to the March 24 email from Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance Steve Bolyai.  

We will all return to campus, hopefully sooner than later. I am eager for that time when we all will be able to see each other again, but that day will not come until the science demonstrates it is in the best interests of the health and safety of our community. As always, these decisions will be made with guidance from state and federal authorities.

As previously announced, all classes will remain online through the end of the Spring 2020 semester. As we conclude the first full week of fully-online classes, I want to again thank everyone for their commitment and patience as we all adapt to this new arrangement. Students should know that, just as they are engaging online with faculty on their coursework, staff are also working remotely, and essential operations continue. If you contact a department on University business, you should expect to get a response as soon as possible, but within no more than 48 hours during the Monday-Friday work week.

I know that students are eager to hear about housing and meal plan refunds and credits related to our move to online classes. Senior Vice President Bolyai will be communicating with students by Friday, April 10 with the latest information. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we finalize plans for this complex arrangement. Please anticipate that it will be toward the end of April before we have all the details finalized.

Another subject that I know people, especially graduating seniors, are wondering about is commencement. While no final decisions have been made yet, we are investigating the possibility of having a virtual commencement exercise, similar to what many other colleges and universities have announced. However, it is my commitment to the William Paterson Class of 2020 that any virtual exercise would supplement, but not replace, an “in real life” ceremony. Commencement is just too important to our students and their families.  Please know we are working through a couple of options, and we will communicate plans just as soon as possible.  But I do promise all of you who wish to that you will walk across the stage to accept that hard-earned degree, be hooded, and have your degrees conferred in person, and we will all celebrate together.  

As many of you may be aware, Governor Murphy has frozen $900 million in New Jersey’s  budget to help aid in the fight against the pandemic that is ravaging our beloved state. This will have an impact on our own budget going forward. At the same time, the Federal Government passed an aid package that has relief funds for higher education. We do not yet know the full impact of that relief package for William Paterson or when it will arrive.  Please know that Senior Vice President Bolyai and I are working closely with the Board of Trustees to develop a financial plan in response to these developments.  It is in instances like these that the necessity of keeping cash reserves healthy is so apparent.  I want to assure you all that there will be no layoffs during this fiscal year.  However, we must all work diligently on retaining, advising, and registering our continuing students and new enrollment while we meet the challenge of remotely recruiting an incoming class.


I know these are stressful times for everyone as we try to focus on work and studies while worrying about our personal well-being and that of our families. Circumstances require us to be physically distant, but they also call for us to come together – albeit differently – as a community to support each other. Stay in touch with your classmates and colleagues, and stay safe.

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