An online panel of academic and town leaders gathered on Wednesday, Aug. 26 to give Glassboro community members updates and answer their questions and concerns regarding the Fall 2020 semester.
“Since the minute we left on March 20, we’ve been planning for this, and it hasn’t come easy,” Anthony M. Lowman, the provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said. “Flexibility has been great for us, you’ve seen other universities make decisions and be stuck with them as conditions change. We’ve put ourselves in a position where we can adapt; in the last two weeks, we’ve gotten changing guidance from the state which lets us have more in-person instruction.”
Rowan launches with a hybrid strategy, offering online courses while limiting class size to give room for social distancing. However, Lowman stated that this is subject to change depending on how Glassboro is affected by the population influx.
Rowan’s population of students living in dorms this year is at 4,400, which is 56% of standard capacity, according to Dean of Students Kevin Koett.
Compared to other, more severely impacted counties, Gloucester County has remained primarily unruffled by the virus with 3,719 confirmed cases and 213 deaths. However, Glassboro now faces a significant increase in student population coming from many different areas of varied COVID-19 severity.
“We have buildings identified if we do have students that need quarantine or special circumstances,” Koett said. “There’s a lot of factors that could contribute to someone being moved to our specialized housing. Know that we are taking care of those students and giving them multiple options.”
Rowan reached out to students coming from places where the state requires them to two-week quarantine. By working to track down these students, coupled with a shifting list of high-risk areas, Rowan feels they are taking the right steps to thoroughly vet returning students.
However, the school’s due diligence can only do so much. Effectiveness of limiting coronavirus cases relies on the student body and each individual’s adherence to social distancing and good hygiene.
“We believe that we got an excellent group of students, we know that there is going to be some challenges and they won’t behave perfectly. But we think we’ve put things in place to provide a meaningful education and opportunity for living in our community,” Lowman said.
As for students who refuse to adhere to government-mandated social distancing, Rowan will judge by individual case. They have made it clear that they are reprimanding students to protect the community’s safety. Koett refers to the school as “Agents of Accountability” in this regard.
“There are some scenarios where education is the best thing. There are some scenarios where I may have to say to a student it’s time to move to completely online classes and go home, or it’s time for you to no longer be part of this community,” Koett said.
College parties have been a recurring theme in the news cycle; footage of vast hordes of young students gathered in streets is a scary sight for members of those communities.
“Large parties are the biggest concern and I’ve had countless meetings with our prosecutor and attorney general’s office for what they feel is appropriate,” Glassboro Chief of Police John Polillo said. “We try to address things before they get out of control. We will utilize every resource we possibly have at our fingertips to try and make the town even safer. We will address the concerns of these large parties and large crowds that we are known for here, roaming the streets in the early morning hours.”
According to Rowan Police, there will be an increase of officers on duty from Thursdays through Fridays to prevent the community’s college social life from impacting public safety concerns.
The school has put necessary work in to handle their facilities, but the student body will determine the real effectiveness of their plans. Apathy would be the nail in the coffin for Glassboro.
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