Like many communities across the nation, the St. John’s University community has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We keep in our thoughts and prayers our community members who passed away, those who have lost loved ones, those who are afflicted with this disease, and those who are facing financial hardship due to the global public health crisis.
In responding to this pandemic, St. John’s University has endeavored to make decisions by prioritizing the health and safety of our students and employees. This led us to quickly transition to online instruction and remote working which caused major disruptions in our normal academic and business operations. With stay-at-home restrictions, our homes have now become places where we teach, learn, work, and worship remotely.
Over the past several weeks, one question that has often been asked is when we will be able to return to on-campus academic and business operations. While the continued uncertainty surrounding this pandemic leaves us with many unanswered questions, we have to look to the future and be proactive in planning and preparing for the return to our campuses.
To this end, I would like to announce the appointment of a cross-functional task force – the Return to Campus Task Force (RCTF) – to develop a comprehensive plan for the safe and gradual return of our students to campus in the coming academic year. The work of the RCTF will be guided by federal, state, and local guidelines and recommended best practices to control the spread of the virus. As always, the health and safety of St. John’s students and employees will remain our highest priority as we plan to return to campus in phases, hopefully, starting sometime in the summer. In addition, contingency plans must also be developed simultaneously in the event of another major outbreak that may require a return to remote learning and remote workplace situation.
The RCTF will be led by Joseph Oliva, Vice President for Administration and General Counsel and Simon Møller, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs who will serve as Task Force Co-Chairs. The members of the RCTF include the following:
Initially, the work of the RCTF will focus on the following five key areas:
Since we have to adapt to a new normal until the pandemic is over, developing the plan to return to on-campus academic and business operations will require innovative solutions that can only be successfully implemented with everyone’s support and cooperation. I encourage members of our community to send your ideas and suggestions to any member of the task force. I ask the RCTF to submit their preliminary plans as soon as practicable so that their recommendations can be presented to the President’s Advisory Council, Provost’s Deans Council, Academic and Administrative Assembly and other constituent groups to seek feedback and comments. We hope to share the recommended plan of action with the campus community by this summer.
I thank the RCTF members for their leadership in developing a pathway forward for us to safely return to our beautiful campuses. As we navigate these unprecedented challenges, we must continue to work together in ensuring the health and safety of everyone. I am hopeful that we can welcome all members of the St. John’s University community, including our incoming and continuing students, back to campus in the near future.
—Conrado "Bobby" Gempesaw, Ph.D., President