Dear Kean Community,
Another challenging week draws to a close with all of us, I hope, having made it safely through Tropical Storm Isaias and with the campus suffering just minor damage with downed trees and power lines. There are hazards that we must prepare for as best we can and respond to with strength and determination. I see so much of that strength in the Kean community, that “climb higher” spirit, and I am determined to support it.
Our Restart Plan for Fall now reflects the input of seven working groups that included representatives from every area of campus. I participated in many of the working group sessions, and they gave me time to reflect on aspects of our plan that require attention, specifically the social and emotional well-being of our faculty, students and staff as well as conditions for learning.
The coronavirus pandemic continues to create stress and anxiety for all of us. We are constantly confronted with choices that can affect the health and well-being of ourselves, our family members and our communities. Do I send my children to school or keep them home? Is my child safe away at college? Should I go to the store? Can I visit my parents?
In the Contact Tracing/Testing work group, I heard professors Maria del Carmen Rodriguez, Ph.D. and Norma Bowe, Ph.D., both emphasize a need for the University to provide additional resources for the health and well-being of both students and employees, including faculty. I heard similar concerns in other work groups, and more from our student leaders in a recent Zoom meeting.
This week, I signed off on the University’s award of approximately $4.8 million in state GEER funds. I immediately directed our finance office to dedicate $1 million of those funds toward the expansion of health and wellness counseling services for students as well as mental health services for our faculty and staff. Social and emotional well-being is a priority; our success as a community depends on it.
The University Planning Council (UPC) also welcomed me to its summer session this week, and I asked the membership of this universitywide strategic body to work as part of my transition team in the weeks and months ahead. Specifically, I tasked the group with identifying five areas where the University should focus on making improvements, and to report back to me on both the rationale for these selections and strategies to accomplish these goals. I look forward to hearing these ideas and strategies. I also told members of the UPC that the University would be undertaking a series of climate surveys aimed at gauging perceptions of the educational and work environment here at Kean.
For many, August brings vacation days and the chance to slow down a bit. Not so here at Kean this year. Instead, we are moving into high gear as we prepare to launch the Fall semester with a mix of enhanced online learning and face-to-face instruction. I am excited by the energy and passion I encounter with each new initiative, meeting and event.
We are Kean strong!
Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D.
July 31, 2020
Dear Kean Community,
Welcome to the end of an eventful week at Kean University, having celebrated the Class of 2020 as they proudly take their place in the history of our Kean community.
As hundreds of graduates crossed the stage in Alumni Stadium under a blazing sun, I was reminded of the sacrifices our students make to earn their degrees and the promise they show for our future. Well done, graduates. The combination of intellect and resilience you demonstrated will take you far in this world. But remember, wherever you go, your Kean family always has your back.
I want to thank the many volunteers and staff who organized our seven commencement ceremonies, particularly Valerie Winslow and the Conference and Event Services team, John Wooten and the Kean Stage team, Chris Rustick and all of OCIS, and Karen Smith and her team in University Relations. It was no easy undertaking. From following health and safety protocols to registering graduates, the work was complex and thorough. Our graduates and their families had a great experience, and I appreciate the effort that went into it. We were committed to giving our students an in-person ceremony, and we made it happen — safely and beautifully.
The University also moved forward with the important work of executing our Climb Higher Restart Plan for Fall. Under the direction of Felice Vazquez, senior vice president and special counsel, and Suzanne Bousquet, Ph.D., vice president for academic affairs, the President’s Task Force continues to review all aspects of campus life to formulate the best practices that will guide our efforts.
Eight working groups composed of faculty, staff and students met all week long to provide feedback on the plan to date and offer new ideas on how to make our Fall strategy even more successful. Together, with input from all members of the campus community, we will finalize a Fall plan that balances safety and security with access and academic excellence. We continue to receive valuable feedback from the University community regarding our plan via our campus survey. If you haven’t completed it yet, I encourage you to do so.
The end of the week also brings a decision related to concerns raised by some of our students. While many students are returning to campus this Fall, others will continue to learn remotely as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As a result, I have directed the finance department to suspend the University Center fee for the upcoming academic year for all students. This suspension will save our students about $1.6 million this academic year, which amounts to about $150 per student.
This savings, in combination with the Board of Trustees' decision to freeze tuition and fees for the new academic year at last year’s rates, should reduce some of the burden on our students as they and their families try to manage their way through this COVID-19 crisis. Kean now offers the lowest tuition and fees of all comprehensive universities in New Jersey. We will continue to take steps to support students whose families have been impacted by COVID-19, including offering assistance through the federal CARES Act grant program and waiving payment plan fees.
We are committed to supporting our students through this pandemic and beyond. Together, we will climb higher.
Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D.
July 24, 2020
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:
We continue our preparations for the fall semester at a time like no other: in the midst of a global pandemic and against the backdrop of protests across our nation calling out for justice. This is an extraordinary time; we face challenges that were unimaginable just a few months ago. Such an extraordinary time requires each of us to reflect on how to bring forth the best within us. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented acts of leadership and humanity.
We need look no further for inspiration than the legacy of the late U.S. Representative John Lewis, a legendary civil rights leader and towering figure in the fight for justice. Time and again, Congressman Lewis modeled unprecedented acts of leadership, such as marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma 55 years ago for a legendary showdown with Alabama state troopers; and unprecedented acts of humanity, such as imploring us to "release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge" even as he bore the lifelong scars of a skull fracture from that protest in Selma. The legacies of Congressman Lewis and the Reverend C.T. Vivian, another civil rights legend laid to rest just yesterday, serve as exemplars of an unwavering, lifelong commitment to equity and justice. Through word and deed, both Lewis and Vivian fought daily for justice because black lives matter.
As we face the unprecedented challenges before us, my decision-making is guided by three pillars: safety, equity and academic excellence. The safety of our students, faculty, staff and entire Kean community must remain paramount and will continue to guide every single decision we make as our public health landscape evolves in response to COVID-19. In the interest of equity, we must consider the impact of our decisions on every member of our diverse campus community and ensure that everyone, without exception, is afforded the opportunity to learn and grow. Finally, we must find a way to maintain and bolster academic excellence regardless of whether instruction and learning happens in a lecture hall, in the virtual realm, or a hybrid approach combining both options.
To advance our goals, the University currently is undertaking an extensive project to expand our digital infrastructure. A $3 million investment in a comprehensive WiFi upgrade on the Union campus is currently underway. Additionally, I recently approved plans to upgrade and outfit a series of classrooms, and three major lecture halls, with state-of-the-art technology that will provide a fully immersive experience for students regardless of whether they are participating in-person or virtually. This technology also will be available in mobile formats for smaller classrooms at the request of the instructor.
President Barack Obama recently said that the crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others, sharpens our focus, reveals inequities, and unveils new leaders. "This is a time for real leadership in all walks of life,” he said. Let us all be leaders of the Kean community and stand together as we face unprecedented challenges. We must remain steadfast in our collective commitment to safety, equity and academic excellence. I challenge each of you with the immortal words of Congressman Lewis that are etched above a doorway in the Civil Rights Room of the Nashville Public Library: "If not us, then who? If not now, then when?"
July 22, 2020
President Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D. today announced a Climb Higher plan for the Fall semester that is designed to provide students with full access to the courses and services they need to succeed as well as enhanced safety measures for students, faculty and staff.
The Fall semester will begin on September 1 as scheduled with remote learning through Blackboard for all students and continue that way for the first three weeks of the semester. On Monday, September 21, the University will enter a face-to-face and hybrid phase that will add on-campus instruction to approximately 30 percent of courses. When the University breaks for Thanksgiving on November 25, all courses will return entirely to remote learning until the end of the semester.
“We need to approach the Fall semester with three things top of mind: safety, equity and academic excellence,” Repollet said. “This staggered approach will allow both students and faculty to acclimate to our enhanced remote learning and prepare together to enter the hybrid and face-to-face phase of the semester in certain courses.”
In August, the University will identify the courses that will be offered in a face-to-face or hybrid formats as well as those that will remain entirely remote for the duration of the semester so students can review and complete their registration.
Face-to-face courses will be delivered mostly on campus with some resources augmented by Blackboard. Hybrid courses will alternate between face-to-face meetings and online sessions. Kean Online courses will not be impacted by these plans.
This holistic approach toward our course offerings respects the diversity of our learners and the unique circumstances of our faculty.
The add/drop deadline will fall within the initial three-week remote period of learning, which means students will have the chance to assess which courses they feel comfortable – or uncomfortable – pursuing in a remote environment before finalizing their schedules. The remote period will also allow faculty to directly interact with their students and identify strategies and protocols for the in-person instruction that begins for face-to-face and hybrid courses on September 21.
“This approach gives both faculty and students the time to prepare for returning to teaching and learning in the classroom,” said Suzanne Bousquet, Ph.D., vice president for Academic Affairs. “Not all courses will transition to in-person, but those that do can do so seamlessly.”
At the President’s direction, the Office of Academic Affairs is prioritizing labs, studios, research and clinical courses for the face-to-face and hybrid structures.
Kean is committed to offering all first-year students the opportunity to register for face-to-face courses that introduce them to the college experience and student resources, including the Transition to Kean class and other entry-level general education courses. The University is also committed to ensuring that students who struggle to learn in the digital environment due to learning or access issues have the chance to register for face-to-face courses.
The three-week remote period will not impact move-in plans for residential students, who are scheduled to return to living on campus at the end of August.
The University is in the process of finalizing the next phase of its Return to Campus plan, which will include testing requirements for residential students and on-campus employees as well as an enhanced contact tracing initiative in coordination with Union County.
The president directed the chairs of the Presidential Task Force to create working groups this week to facilitate additional feedback on the University’s reopening plan that will be submitted to the state of New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education.
The Kean community is also invited to complete this Return to Campus Survey.
July 1, 2020
Dear Kean University Community,
Today begins our journey, as a team, toward reopening our campus community. Phase 1 of our Campus Restart Plan prepares to bring our senior managers and academic administrators back to campus this summer, and subsequent plans are under development for faculty and students to return safely in some fashion this fall. While there is much work to do, we want to ensure that we create a strategic path forward for all of our campuses. Thank you to Dr. Dawood Farahi and the leadership of the University who began setting the foundation to reopen.
The past few months have presented challenges that none of us could have predicted. The global health crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has caused grief and concern among members of our community and around this world. We also have endured racial injustices happening across the nation. We watched a man murdered as he pleaded for his life, propelling people across the country to protest against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The social and emotional well-being of our students and staff is important and we will continue to have dialogue around these issues and lead as agents for positive change.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” As we transition into the summer months, we will continue to involve members of the university community on the President’s Task Force to evaluate all aspects of campus life and position our University to be stronger moving forward. We will solicit feedback from all stakeholders on the Task Force’s recommendations throughout the summer to ensure the continuity of learning at Kean.
Serving our students and faculty is paramount during these unprecedented times. We will uphold the Student Bill of Rights outlined in New Jersey’s State Plan for Higher Education so that no student is deterred from pursuing the college experience. We will engage and collaborate with our faculty and staff to help develop academic and organizational supports to become an improved, transparent and inclusive organization. I genuinely believe that people are the greatest asset of any community and, with your help, Kean University will continue to provide a world-class education for our students and contribute to the global economic engine.
Together, we will position ourselves to emerge stronger than ever post COVID-19.
Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D.