Return to Campus Update

With the start of a new academic year almost upon us, I want to provide an update on plans regarding the College’s operating status. On June 16, I shared a communication indicating that all part-time and full-time employees (except 10-month faculty) who were not already working at least partially on campus should plan to return to working on campus for at least a portion of the workweek starting July 19. I am glad to have seen so many of you on campus and at the Centers over the past few weeks. I share your enthusiasm about working collaboratively in person, while continuing to practice the safety protocols that were communicated by e-mail on July 15.

I am writing today to share the next steps in our return to campus plans. Effective Monday August 30, I am asking that all employees return to on-campus work for their full workweek (except 10-month faculty, who will be on campus in the Fall semester according to their individual teaching schedules). Further communications regarding the new remote work policy recently approved by the Board will follow in the coming days for those employees who may be eligible. For information regarding the process for requesting workplace accommodations, check InfoNet for updated protocols and request forms, which will be posted in the next few days.

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As we approach a full return to on-campus operations, please consider the following:

  • So far over 400 employees have responded to the voluntary, confidential survey regarding vaccination status, and 95% of us have reported that we have been vaccinated.
  • Updated safety protocols were shared by e-mail on July 15, including the requirement to wear face masks indoors (except when working alone in a private office). We will continue to reevaluate these protocols in light of new Executive Orders from Governor Murphy and new and revised guidance from the New Jersey Department of Health, the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, the Middlesex County Office of Health Services, and other agencies such as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All indications are that wearing a face mask is our best protection at minimizing the transmission of COVID-19. Any changes in protocols will be communicated via e-mail. Please wear a face mask indoors.
  • Schedule time to speak with your supervisor to ask any questions you may have in advance of August 30, such as confirming work hours, break times, and office location.
  • If you present with COVID-19 symptoms such as unusual or persistent cough, shortness of breath, and fever, stay home and contact your supervisor before working on campus.
  • Contact your supervisor if you are not vaccinated and come into close contact with a person who tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Department heads who plan to make facilities requests such as moving of furniture should open a work order in advance of August 30.
  • Confirm that you have a Middlesex College employee parking sticker on your vehicle and know which lot to park in on campus. If you have questions about parking or need a parking decal, please e-mail human_resources@middlesexcc.edu for assistance.

During our phased return to campus, there have understandably been questions relating to these safety protocols, including those that may vary from other institutions especially residential four-year college and universities. Our current protocols are consistent with, or exceed, mandatory requirements as set forth in the Governor’s Executive Orders and from guidance issued by the NJ Office of Secretary of Higher Education, the NJ Department of Health, and the Middlesex County Office of Health Services. Examples include planning for a reduced on-campus instruction schedule this Fall, limitations on indoor activities, requirement for continued indoor masking, sanitizing and disinfecting efforts by our custodial staff, and significant initiatives by the Facilities Management team to enhance air quality in campus buildings. The result of our following these protocols is that there have been no known cases of on-campus transmission of COVID-19 at Middlesex College to date.

I have also heard from several members of our College community regarding the College’s decision on not mandating vaccination for students and employees on campus at this time. As a community college, our student body is different than that of our four-year peer institutions, many of which have experienced complications related to residence halls where masking mandates are not easily enforced. By and large, community colleges across the country have so far decided against mandating vaccination, in part to be able to serve disadvantaged students who often do not have access to the Internet at home. This is also a data-driven decision: nearly 70% of Middlesex County residents 18 and over are fully vaccinated, and Middlesex County’s transmission rate is 10% below the statewide average. In addition, there have been no studies to date as to whether a vaccine mandate at an institution of higher education reduces the risk of transmission of COVID over simply requiring the wearing of face masks indoors. We now know that those of us who are vaccinated can contract COVID, be asymptomatic, and still transmit the disease. Our best protection is wearing a face mask since we do not know who may be infected, whether vaccinated or not. We will continue to encourage everyone in the community to consider getting the vaccine, including hosting additional on-campus vaccination clinics starting on August 24 in Crabiel Hall. Choosing to get vaccinated and wearing a face mask are the best protection against COVID-19.

Late last week, the NJ Department of Health released new advisory (not mandatory) guidance for New Jersey’s institutions of higher education, which the College administration is in the process of reviewing. Should any protocols require adjustment in the future, I will communicate to you in a timely manner via e-mail. An updated COVID-19 Protocols FAQ will be posted soon to InfoNet. If you have questions, please e-mail covid_reporting@middlesexcc.edu for assistance.

We will doubtless be confronted with new challenges as the Fall semester unfolds. I pledge to address new developments in as prompt and transparent a manner as possible. We may sometimes disagree about actions undertaken. I believe the safeguards being taken at this time are reasonable and appropriate and afford the entire campus community protection while still enabling us to serve students and our community.

Please note that the Fall Convocation will be live streamed on Monday, August 30, beginning at 9:00 a.m. A link to the live stream will be shared via e-mail the week before. We are planning an outdoor all-employee barbecue on the Quad in front of the College Center beginning at noon that day. I hope to see you there!