University announces new planning groups to chart course for campus reopening, non-reopening

Seton Hall announced on Wednesday that it would create two new working groups to begin laying out separate plans to reopen campus in the fall or keep its gates shuttered should public health officials deem it unsafe to return.

The groups, referred to as Contingency Planning Group A and Contingency Planning Group B contain 11 and 28 members, respectively, hailing from various areas of Seton Hall’s faculty and administration. The groups also include consultants from Keeling and Associates, the outside higher education consulting firm retained by Seton Hall to assist with its long-term strategic planning.

Seton Hall announced on Wednesday that it would create two new working groups to begin laying out separate plans to reopen campus. (Nicholas Kerr/Editor-in-Chief)

According to an email sent out to the University community, Contingency Group A will plan for Seton Hall’s campus to reopen in the fall with a return to in-person instruction, while Contingency Group B will develop “multiple strategic contingency plans” to prepare for the possibility that public health officials may recommend otherwise.

“We look forward to welcoming students and the entire community back to our campuses as soon as safely possible. The more comprehensive our planning, the greater our ability to effectively anticipate any outcome,” University President Dr. Joseph Nyre said in a statement. “I want to thank the many members of our Seton Hall community who continue working day and night to advance the University in support of our students.”

The two new working groups are meant to build on the efforts of the previously established Great Minds Forward Committee, which was appointed to recommend “communal and celebratory events and activities” for when campus officially reopens.

Seton Hall’s announcement came just hours New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday that he would be extending the state’s public health emergency, which began in March, by another 30 days.

Murphy clarified that, though he was extending the emergency, iit should not be interpreted that the state is not seeing data indicating that it is moving in the right direction.

“I want to ensure that this extension is not interpreted to mean that we are reconsidering our path forward or changing course on the principles I laid out last week in the Road Back plan,” Murphy said. “We will continue to stand by these principles and protect public health as we responsibly take steps to get the economy moving again”

Last week, Murphy announced his economic and public health recovery plan, but unveiled no distinct timeline on when the state could begin to reopen.

On Tuesday, the Governor said he was hesitant to release a timeline despite announcing that infection rates were continuing to flatten, citing the fact that New Jersey is very much still embroiled in the fight against COVID-19.

“I’m sorry we can’t give you more definitive guidance yet on things that we’re working on. By the way, non-essential retail I hear morning, noon and night,” Murphy said. “I appreciate all that. I appreciate all the inputs and the wisdom on beaches. We still have people getting sick, going to the hospital and sadly over 300 we’re reporting have died.”

Like Murphy, Seton Hall was also reluctant to release any specifics in terms of what the various contingency plans may actually look like, but Wednesday’s announcement could inspire some faith for students itching to return back to campus in the fall.

“President Nyre’s email about Seton Hall opening in the fall is giving students hope and helping them get through these hard times, especially on the first day of finals,” Rebecca Rutherford, a junior marketing major, said. “I for one can’t wait to be back with my friends and the rest of the Seton Hall community. I have full faith that administration will bring us back in the safest way possible.”

Seton Hall Chief Financial Officer and Group A committee chair Stephen Graham echoed Rutherford’s sentiments, expressing pleasure in working to assist with the campus’s reopening.

“We all look forward to our return to campus,” Graham said in a statement. “We must take precautions, plan wisely and manage our budget — but we will be prepared.”

Nicholas Kerr can be reached at Find him on Twitter @nickdotkerr. 

Author: Nicholas Kerr

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