Rider announces formation of task force to plan for fall semester

Group will address the impact of coronavirus on University operations
Adam Grybowski

Rider University announced on May 7 the formation of a committee tasked with informing a comprehensive plan for the fall semester. 

Rider is currently operating with the intention of being fully open in the fall, but in a letter to the campus community announcing the task force, President Gregory Dell’Omo said it was imperative for the University to plan now for different scenarios that could be made necessary by the coronavirus.

"In a perfect world, we would be able to assure students and everyone else about what will precisely happen in September,” Dell’Omo says. “Unfortunately, there are too many unknowns outside of our control right now to state a definitive answer except that we will do everything within our power to protect the health and safety of our community and provide students with the enriching education they expect and deserve."

The Fall 2020 Planning Task Force will help ensure Rider is prepared to achieve those goals. Dr. Kelly Bidle, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is chairing the task force, which is comprised of other senior leaders and faculty, along with outside public health experts serving as advisors.

Like many colleges and universities around the country, Rider moved to remote and alternate instruction for the final portion of the spring semester and the summer. Possible recurrences of coronavirus could instigate a range of scenarios between that model and the campus being open as it would be under normal conditions. The Task Force is charged with evaluating those options.

“As much as we wish we could resume business as usual in the fall, it's unrealistic to think this virus is going to suddenly disappear and not have any effect on our operations,” Bidle says.

The group has already identified four key areas to focus on: academics, safe return to campus, student experience, and finance and enrollment. It has developed working groups dedicated to each of those topics, comprised of more than 60 members of the faculty and staff and students.

“As we work on evaluating the various options for fall opening,” Bidle says, “I'm confident that the work of our groups, comprised of leaders from across our campus community, will take seriously our charge to make recommendations to President Dell’Omo that are in the best interest of our University. There are clearly very difficult choices ahead.”

As the University moves forward in its decision-making process, prospective students and their families are engaged in important evaluations of their own about choosing where to enroll.

"The uncertainty of the fall semester presents a major challenge for students and their families who are considering colleges and trying to make a decision," says Vice President of Enrollment Management Drew Aromando. "We feel that uncertainty too. Our priority right now is to show people in new ways why attending Rider remains a smart, affordable and life-changing opportunity, even as the institution adapts to new circumstances."

As the coronavirus outbreak began growing in the U.S., Rider quickly pivoted to create virtual events for prospective students. Unable to rely on traditional campus visits, Rider is now bringing the University experience to prospective students and their families more immediately than ever before, with virtual open houses, interactive sessions with current students and faculty, and more.

In many ways, the resiliency and ability to adapt has strengthened the bonds of the Rider community. The pandemic has spurred faculty, students and staff to use their ingenuity and resources to make and donate hand sanitizerface masks and ventilator splitters, among other initiatives.

“While this public health crisis is requiring us to make hard choices,” Dell’Omo says, “I'm confident we are up to the challenge and that the talented and resilient individuals working urgently together as one team will help lead us through to brighter days.”