Office of the President

March 17, 2020

Dear Pioneers: 

I use this salutation intentionally because just as the Pioneers went into the unknown to forge a path for our great State, we too are now in uncharted territory. It will take all of our pioneer spirit to face the unknown and work toward solutions going forward. I have every confidence we have the intellect and the Will.Power. to rise to the challenge.  

Yesterday, many of you may have seen the Governor’s press conference where he laid out New Jersey’s plan on how to control the spread of COVID-19 by reducing operating hours or closing businesses, schools (private, public, K-12 and universities), and other institutions that present risks due to large gatherings. The Governor did not specifically define what he meant by ‘closing.’  However, at 5:00 p.m. yesterday, some members of the Cabinet and I took part in a conference call with the Secretary of Higher Education seeking clarification on the Governor’s Executive Order (EO). The EO provides no guidance for a complete closure of the universities, but directs us to move instruction into remote formats and requires us to request permission to hold classes face to face that cannot be moved online.  We are working on a list of those already identified classes that we will forward to the Secretary requesting permission to hold them in person. 

However, being mindful that the public health and public policy aim regarding COVID-19 has been to reduce large gatherings and increase social distancing at institutions such as ours, I am taking further precautionary steps.  While we are not mandated to move to alternate work schedules for staff, we will implement a remote work schedule beginning Wednesday, March 18 th  through Friday, April 3 rd .  Employees must be able to perform all critical job duties remotely (have access to the internet and a desktop or laptop) or otherwise report for a normal schedule. The Provost and Vice Presidents, working with supervisors, will make those determinations.  All essential personnel whose jobs are critical to maintaining the health, safety, and welfare of our campus community will maintain a normal work schedule.  

Beginning Wednesday, March 18 th , the Library will remain open with a reduced schedule and a reduced staff using a staggered work schedule outlined below.  This will allow students without internet capabilities access to complete online courses and research for assignments.  To reduce the traffic and promote social distancing, faculty should encourage the use of digital online resources whenever possible, while maintaining academic quality.

Assuming conditions warrant, beginning Monday, April 6 th , we will move to a staggered schedule that combines both onsite and remote work, until further notice.  

I am asking the Provost and Vice Presidents to work with the Deans and supervisors to divide all units into two groups, being mindful that crossed-trained individuals not be in the same group.  Our schedules will consist of a two-week module, an  Orange  week and a  Black  week:

  • In an Orange week, Group #1 will work on-site Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and work remotely Tuesday and Thursday. Group #2 will work remotely Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and work onsite Tuesday and Thursday.  

  • In a Black week, Group #1 will work remotely Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and work onsite Tuesday and Thursday. Group #2 will work onsite Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and work remotely Tuesday and Thursday. 

Again, essential personnel, whose jobs are critical to maintaining the health, safety, and welfare of our campus community, will maintain a normal work schedule. If you fall into one of the previously identified groups requiring accommodations (underlying health issues, etc.) please check our  FAQ page  or contact Human Resources for guidance.

I believe this plan will further reduce the population on campus at any one time, which will add another layer of care to the list of changes already put into place as we face this challenge.  As the Governor stated, his latest changes could be in place indefinitely, until health officials determine we can return to normal business and instruction schedules.  Staff should make necessary plans to keep up this schedule and faculty should plan to deliver remote instruction well past our original April 15 th  timeline.  

Should any of this change, I will communicate with you through normal channels and promise an update either way by noon on Friday, April 3 rd .

I hope that as we navigate this challenge, it provides some learning opportunities for the future. I am confident we will all expand our ability to use and master technology such as distance learning and remote-meeting platforms to perform our business functions at the highest levels. Let us learn from the inevitable moments of frustration when technology does not meet our needs and consider how we might improve that going forward.  

Just as institutions of public higher education in New Jersey have unique cultures, so too are institutions addressing this challenge in ways they determine best meet the needs of their students and critical business operations.  So yes, you will find variations from complete remote work to staggered work schedules.  Please know that I have weighed the options carefully, balancing our primary considerations of the health and well-being of all of you with the need to serve our students and keep William Paterson University operational.   

I know this is a scary time for many of us. I also know that during uncertain times, trust becomes the thing that can bind us into a stronger community – trust that we as professionals earn through good work and good practices to keep us all safe.  Please observe the guidance provided by the CDC, New Jersey Department of Health, and on our regularly updated  COVID-19 information page  when you are at home or working remotely. I know we all care for each other, especially in times of duress, and this is certainly one of those times.  Our entire community is counting on you to do your part.  

Thank you, stay safe, and continue to follow all prevention protocols.

Go Pioneers!

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