By Austin Ferguson
After the rapid spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), Rider University announced on March 17 that it is moving to remote instruction for the remainder of the spring semester, starting on March 30.
The university’s update through a campus-wide email supersedes the previous decision to continue remote instruction through April 10 in light of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s executive order to close all New Jersey schools.
Rider’s campus-wide email also stated that both Lawrenceville and Princeton’s campuses would be closed with “limited exceptions,” allowing for students whose primary residence is on campus and students who are unable to return home to remain on campus.
Students that were able to return home were asked to do so by noon on March 20, while students returning to campus to gather belongings were asked to do so between March 19 and March 29.
Students were assigned move-out time slots between 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. on each day of the move-out period in order to stagger the number of students moving out in accordance with social distancing advisories.
The university added in its update that final exams will be administered remotely. Final exams were originally scheduled to take place on both campuses between May 4 and May 12.
Murphy announced at a press conference on March 16 that he was putting a stop to in-person instruction at all New Jersey schools, including colleges and universities, until further notice.
“[Schools] will remain closed until such time as it is deemed by health officials to be safe for them to reopen to students and staff and for classes to resume,” Murphy said during his press conference. “And we don’t know when that will be.”
Both Westminster Choir College (WCC) and Rider University’s commencement ceremonies, which were originally scheduled for May 15 and 16 respectively, were also postponed, per the university’s message sent on March 17.
Senior sociology major Brianne Remy was disappointed about not being able to experience senior week but understood what needed to be done.
“It’s really unfortunate,” Remy said. “I was looking forward to senior week and being able to end college with people at school…I think at this point it is about being able to understand what’s going on and how to move forward respectfully.”
Senior sports media major Jake Ross was not too concerned with a change in date for his commencement ceremony.
“I haven’t thought too much about it. I’m hoping [COVID-19] can be under control within the next few months. Once that happens, I’m sure a future date for commencement will be figured out,” Ross stated.
University President Gregory Dell’Omo delivered a message through a campus-wide email on March 19 that, as many other officials have with their dealings with COVID-19, outlined safety as the chief concern as to how to proceed.
“These decisions have been guided by two main priorities,” Dell’Omo said in the message. “Protecting the health and safety of our campus community and ensuring continuity of instruction so that students can complete their academic requirements for the spring semester.”
Dell’Omo also expressed gratitude toward the response of the Rider community during the pandemic.
“How we respond to this unprecedented situation matters, and I’ve been inspired by the response of our students, faculty, staff and alumni. I want to thank each of you who has responded to the demands of this moment not just by meeting them but exceeding them,” Dell’Omo said.
On March 16, the university announced that a Westminster Conservatory student, who is not enrolled at WCC or Rider University, along with their parents, had tested positive for COVID-19. It was announced that the family had visited the Princeton campus on March 7 and 8.
On March 21, the university announced that a Westminster Conservatory instructor, who was in contact with a limited number of individuals, tested positive for COVID-19. The university’s notification stated that the student and instructor’s cases were not related.
As of March 27, there were 11 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Lawrence, New Jersey, none of which were present on Rider’s Lawrenceville campus.
An updated list of confirmed cases in and affecting the Rider’s campuses can be found on its webpage dedicated to COVID-19.
Dell’Omo concluded his March 19 message by acknowledging the difficulty of the situation the university faces ahead.
“We have more work to do, and the challenges are likely to grow in the coming weeks before they begin to subside,” Dell’Omo said. “As they do, not all of us will bear the burdens and misfortunes of this outbreak equally. As always, we are committed to supporting all members of our community. We will get through this together.”