Students address concerns and make suggestions about 2020 fall semester plan

By Tatyanna Carman 

Students expressed their thoughts about the fall 2020 semester, with suggestions and concerns coming from preliminary feedback from a Rider News survey. 

Some students left suggestions for improvements for the  fall 2020 semester suchs as  a reduction in tuition, more on-campus events and activities, advocacy for either fully in-person or fully remote classes, more enforcement on social distancing and more clear and consistent communication about the fall semester plan. 

“Tuition should have been lowered because we are not getting the same enrichment out of online classes. Not even close,” a participant commented in the survey. 

Some students left brief comments like, “More social life,” or “The lounges in the dorms need to be opened.” 

Vice President for Student Affairs Leanna Fenneberg said that the university has hosted “dozens of events during the start of the fall semester” and that many of these events were planned to be remote “to both minimize the risk of infection, and to be inclusive to all students, the majority of whom may never physically visit campus this semester.” 

“However, some in-person, on-campus events are being offered, as long as they adhere to COVID-19 informed safety and planning protocols,” Fenneberg said. 

She also explained that residence hall lounges are currently governed by the state of New Jersey guidance, “which states that residential ‘common areas remain closed.’” 

Other survey participants had more detailed comments about the fall 2020 semester plan. 

“The entirety of the semester should remain online-only. The pandemic is still essentially at its height in the US with the very real potential to get worse come late-fall. To forcefully mitigate [the] risk that students and faculty shouldn’t be trusted to mitigate themselves and for the safety of all, the decision should have been made early on to stay fully remote for the time being. Applying a date to the situation only furthers the scheduling and logistical upheaval we’ll find ourselves coping with in the weeks to come,” a student stated in the survey. 

Sophomore public relations and sociology double major Keyonna Murray said she appreciates the fact that “Rider has put in the effort to design an entirely remote curriculum.” 

However, she thought that “if they chose remote as a format across the board, it kind of puts everybody on the same playing field, especially when it comes to any opportunities that you get outside of class and things like that or being able to connect with your professors.” 

Senior psychology major and community assistant (CA) in Beckett Village Alyssa Darden acknowledged the precautions the university established to ensure safety, but expressed concern about the enforcement of wearing masks and social distancing. 

“But as far as enforcing it, I don’t know how well we are doing with that. Like I see Public Safety, they are walking around, but they are not really saying anything to people who don’t wear their masks, as far as what I’ve observed anyway,” said Darden. “And, you know as a [CA], like we do say something to people. We write them up. But you can’t really … be policing or anything all hours of the day.” 

This sentiment is supported by a comment from a participant of the survey, who said that they wanted, “harsher consequences for those who violate mask or social distancing policies.” 

Another Beckett Village CA and junior marketing major Meghan Mulhearn explained that there is a lot of pressure on her to enforce the rules and she can only do so much “as a student and the job.” 

According to section four of the Student Code of Social Conduct, the failure to adhere to campus-wide pandemic/emergency directives, “may be issued specific to Residence Life or to the entire Rider community via email, RiderAlert, and/or instructions given by Residence Life, Public Safety, Student Affairs or other staff and faculty.” In addition, consequences can range from level one to level five violations. 

She also said that the university should be updating the Rider community about the coronavirus cases. 

“[As] I said, I wish they would inform us more if like you know God forbid anyone is getting sick or like anyone in [the] residential halls like I’m living in a residential hall,” Mulhearn said. “We would like to be updated if like someone got sick on what wing or whatever, something like that.” 

However, the university said in a university-wide email sent on Jun. 29 that confirmed coronavirus cases will be listed “as a cumulative tally by month on our website and will not issue individual notifications each time we become aware of a positive case within our University community.” 

Since March 2020, the university has publicly reported nine positive coronavirus cases, including four in August and none this month as of Sept. 15.

Junior accounting major Patrick McLoughlin said that the timing around the concept of the fall semester plan was “very hasty.” 

“Rider could’ve really not had as much of a messed up communication if they had just waited because they said themselves in the email, they did not expect [New Jersey Governor] Phil Murphy to make that announcement so they were just completely caught off guard by that,” McLoughlin said. “So it just seems like OK, you had the plan. You were ready to reverse course with that plan and then you were just like, ‘well I guess we’ll do sort of a half measure of our original plan.’”

He also said that a more “uniform line of planning and thinking” would have improved his image of Rider. 

Darden expressed that she would’ve liked more “frequency” in communication about the fall plan. She also suggested that there needs to be “more communication all in all” since, “nobody really knows what is going on in the spring.” 

“And we don’t know where their head is at in terms of that. And so, come November when we’re all going home, those of us who are on campus, are going home to take our finals and have Thanksgiving and all of that, should we pack up all of our belongings or should we not? We don’t know,” she said. “And it’s hard because obviously, they don’t know the direction of the pandemic either and so we don’t know what to expect, but we just want to prep as much as we can.”

Murray shared that she would like to say to students and parents who remain frustrated, “everybody in the administration, all the professors, all the faculty, they are still people too.”

“I think that one thing I’ve realized throughout this whole pandemic is that at the end of the day, like all of these like titles and positions and stuff like that, they really don’t mean much of anything. You know, because if we’re not taking care of each other as people then what are we really doing.” 

Associate Vice President for University Marketing and Communications Kristine Brown declined to comment.  Students are still able to take the brief Rider News survey here: https://survey.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_42bhxSNyzjrB685

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