Nearly one year after Seton Hall shuttered its campus in response to the growing threat of the coronavirus, University President Joseph Nyre announced on Thursday that a primarily in-person fall semester is in the cards for the University community later this year.
Citing an accelerated vaccine distribution and decreasing numbers of coronavirus cases nationally, Nyre said that the University is planning an academic schedule that will anticipate in-person events and classes with a “considerable number” of staff, faculty and administrators on all of Seton Hall’s campuses, with campus infrastructure operating at full or nearly full operation.
The plan comes with an important caveat, though, noting that the University’s plan is contingent on what government and public health guidelines will stipulate by that time. Still, Nyre cited New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s announcement on Monday that he anticipates the state’s K-12 school systems will be back to in-person learning by September as a hopeful sign for a full return in the fall.
Murphy credited this timeline to the state’s expansion of vaccine eligibility to educators and staff in those schools. However, it is currently unclear when the vaccine may be made eligible for educators, staff and students who learn and work in higher education in New Jersey.
Over 2.2 million vaccine doses have been administered in the state as of March 4, 183,000 of which have been given in Essex County alone.
“Guided by our existing Restart Plan and in consultation with the Health Intervention and Communication Team, we are developing approaches that will bring our fall 2021 plans to fruition,” Nyre said in a community-wide email publicizing the plans. “We will share additional details with you as they become available. Until then, please continue all you are doing to keep yourselves and each other safe and healthy; we must remain vigilant in our actions.
Despite the announcement, in-person living and instruction for the fall would be far from new for members of the University community, who have been engaged in a mixture of virtual and face-to-face learning since August, with students getting to opt into a hybrid model or choose to attend classes remotely.
Right now, it is unclear what role, if any, virtual learning will play in Seton Hall’s plan for a fall return.
Seton Hall has not been the only institution making plans for a full fall return, with neighboring Temple University in Philadelphia announcing on Monday that it, too, plans to hold primarily in-person classes for the upcoming semester after an academic year of predominantly online instruction.
Nicholas Kerr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @nickdotkerr.