June 2, 2020

With commencement in the books – and what a commencement it was (!) – and summer sessions underway, I wanted to provide an update on our continuing remote operations. Let me start by saying that I’ve appreciated your commitment to Bergen Community College, our College, as we navigate this extraordinary set of circumstances.

As we slowly begin to rebuild our lives after two months of sheltering in place it’s vitally important that we do so with an eye of preserving the health and safety of our loved ones as well as the Bergen community. With that in mind, here’s the latest update.

Operations

  • The College’s on-campus operations at all three locations remain closed until further notice and all employees will continue to work remotely. There are times when certain employees have to be on campus to complete assignments associated with their responsibilities to keep the operations of the College moving forward. Arrangements have been made with their supervisors and Public Safety as to when, where and how to enter the College.
  • The drive-through testing site at the main campus will continue through at least June 30.
  • A “Reopening Bergen Task Force” consisting of management, faculty, staff and bargaining unit leaders has formed to discuss, outline and plan for the College’s reopening. The task force has focused its efforts on the fall semester and the potential options for in-person, hybrid and online classes and work schedules. Once the task force has reached agreement on the approach to be taken in reopening the College, the plan will be presented to the board of trustees. After board review, the plan will be shared with the College community in the coming weeks.

Classes

  • I appreciate your assistance in communicating with students – both past and present – about the availability of classes. With job losses mounting and economic conditions spiraling downward, Bergen must continue to position itself as an accessible, affordable and high-quality choice in higher education. To that extent, we have launched our latest promotion campaign to highlight the outstanding educational opportunities that exist at Bergen. I thank you for your efforts in spreading this message.
  • Additional summer sessions begin June 29 and Aug. 10. All will take place online.

Virtual Events

  • I am incredibly proud of the College’s first-ever virtual commencement, which lived up to the idea of becoming the “most global … most social … and most unique” of all-time. Within 24 hours, more than 11,000 people watched the event – making it one of the most-watched community college commencements on YouTube in the entire country! Thank you to all who played a role in celebrating our graduates.
  • As we continue the work of planning for the reopening of the College, I will soon host a virtual town hall to discuss the state of our institution and answer your questions related to our operations. Please continue to watch your email for notice of the town hall.

Lastly, as you know, the pandemic has taken a considerable social, emotional, psychological toll on the country. Coupled with the financial instability of the federal, state and county’s economic picture, the road ahead will be a bumpy one. As these entities represent major funding sources for the College, we too have absorbed considerable losses. In fact, and despite summer 1 enrollment coming in ahead of projections – a positive development – many students have struggled to pay their tuition, thereby complicating our own revenue challenges.

As we continue to review the impact of these developments, the College will undoubtedly need to make difficult decisions about how to ensure its fiscal health and future. I am aware that in previous years the executive leadership took considerable efforts to make adjustments to stabilize the College’s budget. However, we now face challenges of declining enrollment, coupled with lost revenues (state, county and local) due to the pandemic that we must address. Once our various funding sources have a greater understanding of their own obligations, shortfalls and revenue, the College’s financial picture will become clearer. We will make every effort to balance our budget.

While we have had to shelter in place and work remotely, it’s important that you continue to take care of yourself and your loved ones. Remember to take any vacation time you have to refresh and reinvigorate yourselves.

Thank you for all you do and I hope to see you again soon.

Sincerely,
Dr. Tony Ross
Interim President


April 8, 2020

As we continue to work, teach and learn from home, I’d like to share a few updates from this week.

FEMA Site/Remote Operations
Earlier this week, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will continue to use the main campus as a “drive-through” testing facility through June 1 (at minimum). Thus, we must transition our entire summer class schedule online. We will do so quickly, as registration continues concurrently.

Additionally, the announcement also means we will continue our on-campus closure through June 1. Employees should plan on working remotely through at least this date.

Commencement 2020
After much deliberation, and in the interest of the health, safety and welfare of the College community and guests, commencement 2020 will take place virtually, and not at MetLife Stadium as originally planned.

While we can no longer gather at MetLife Stadium, we’ll celebrate the class of 2020 via a virtual ceremony complete with remarks from government leaders, the valedictorian and the reading of graduates’ names Monday, May 18 at 5:30 p.m. And here’s the best part: you can share the live stream with family from around the world, making this the most global celebration in Bergen’s history. We have some very exciting things planned for this first-ever virtual commencement. We’ll publish additional details soon – please check your Bergen email frequently.

Student Affairs

  • Online registration for summer and fall sessions has begun. Students can email [email protected] for assistance or visit bergen.edu to register.
  • The State has extended the new filing deadline for state financial aid to June 1 for students who plan to enroll for the 2020-21 academic year. Remember, filing the FAFSA can unlock programs that can make Bergen more affordable.
  • The Faculty Senate has passed a resolution to offer students a pass/fail option on course grades this semester. This means that students will have the option to choose pass/fail or a letter grade in their individual classes. We will publish additional details shortly.
  • Bergen’s vibrant campus life will continue … online! Each week during the pandemic, we will publish “Virtual Life @ Bergen,” a directory of off-campus remote events and activities sponsored by organizations such as the Office of Student Life, Phi Theta Kappa and STEM. Visit here to see this week’s events. To submit an event, visit here.
  • Students who rented textbooks from the bookstore will receive a prepaid shipping label emailed to them to avoid a late fee. Email [email protected] with questions.

2020 Census
The federal government has launched the 2020 Census. As you know, completing the Census remains vitally important to the institution, as the decennial survey serves as the basis for the allocation of federal congressional seats, funds and resources. The government has mailed Census forms to households – I encourage you to fill yours out or, for the first time in the country’s history, complete it online. Our Phi Theta Kappa chapter has developed a plan to promote the Census among our student body as well. I thank them for their efforts.

Recognizing Courage
While COVID-19 has unquestionably altered our way of life, it has not stifled the enduring American spirit. Throughout the nation, and right here at Bergen, people have committed acts of selflessness, altruism and heroism. And we want to know these stories! If you, or a student, faculty or staff member that you know, has helped bring light to the darkness known as COVID-19, I encourage you to email Dr. Larry Hlavenka at [email protected] – he’d like to begin a campaign that recognizes the efforts of those in the College community responding to the COVID-19 epidemic.

Virtual Classrooms
The College has an enterprise license for Cisco’s WebEx Video Conferencing application. This license provides faculty and staff with the ability to schedule and host online classes/meetings safely and securely. The WebEx platform offers a rich set of features and functions to make your class or meeting interactive, productive and secure. Nationally, numerous security issues have impacted other platforms – including the popular “Zoom” – that have forced companies, colleges and school districts to stop using the application. Bergen does NOT support the use of Zoom and strongly encourages College employees to use WebEx, the institution’s fully licensed and supported web conferencing application. If you would like to review instructions and/or brief tutorial videos on the use of WebEx, please visit the “Working Remote” web page here.

Personnel
Even though we continue to work from home, that doesn’t mean faculty and staff won’t require time off away from the computer to decompress. As such, faculty and staff can request time-off through vacation, sick, personal or floating holidays through the ADP time management system. I don’t expect anyone to work nonstop simply because we’re all “at home.”

I hope you have remained healthy during this pandemic. Please take care!

Sincerely,
Dr. Tony Ross
Interim President


March 27, 2020

This update comes to you in hopes that you and your loved ones are well and continue to practice the health advisories that have been issued by the county, state and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

First, let me say that I am very proud of the way our students, faculty and staff have responded to the transition to remote operations and learning. Even as the College had no choice but to close, operate remotely and move classes to online instruction, everyone has been resourceful in ensuring that Bergen students receive the education they so desperately seek to earn.

Also, as we continue to watch stories and view photos of those on the front lines of the COVID-19 response, there’s a constant: first responders and healthcare workers. As we know, community colleges educate and train many of them – nurses, respiratory therapists, diagnostic medical sonographers, paramedics, law enforcement officers and firefighters just to name a few. We recognize the millions enlisted into this fight – especially those who study or teach at Bergen. We prepared you well, but nothing could prepare you for this. Your dedication inspires us all.

Bergen has done its part to support health professionals in this work, as well. We’ve had many of our colleagues and students serve as volunteers at the FEMA “drive through” testing facility on campus and other locations throughout the county and we thank you for your selfless and heroic acts during this trying time.

Additionally, thanks to the College’s Health Professions Integrated Teaching Center, the College nurse, buildings and grounds, public safety, science departments and other areas of the institution, we’ve assembled more than 134,000 pieces of critically needed personal protection equipment (PPE) such as N95 masks and nitrile gloves and donated them to Bergen County’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) for distribution to hospitals and other front-line healthcare operations.

We welcome the opportunity to stand at the center of this crisis as a facility opening its doors to our community. After all, it’s what we’ve done for more than 50 years.

And that’s why we’ll continue to offer our summer and fall 2020 semesters – it’s what we do! We educate! Registration opens online Wednesday, April 1.

Other Notes/Reminders

  • All College locations remain closed until further notice. The return date to campus is subject to the evolution of COVID-19 and revised guidance. As such, it’s very important that you continue to monitor College communications.
  • Classes will continue to be taught online for the remainder of the spring semester.
  • All staff are to continue working remotely.
  • All Spring 2020 on-campus events are cancelled and the College has suspended scheduling any new events.
  • The College has begun to develop contingency plans regarding commencement 2020. We remain committed to celebrating the class of 2020 and have already discussed some creative solutions toward doing so.
  • Students can explore the College’s remote resources via the Bergen Weekly or here.
  • Visit here for resources on employee rights from the federal government.

I hope you have remained healthy during this global crisis. Please take care of yourself! And thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,
Dr. Tony Ross
Interim President


March 20, 2020

We begin a “new normal” for the spring 2020 semester on Monday, March 23 – all classes will take place entirely remotely and online.

Online Learning
If you haven’t already done so, you must check your Bergen-issued email address and Moodle for directions from your professors. Faculty have communicated their plans for the rest of the semester, so it remains critical that you do so before classes begin again. While this unprecedented arrangement will include a bit of a learning curve – for all of us (!) – I have no doubt that you will persevere. Similarly, I know our faculty will find new and creative ways to deliver the high-quality Bergen education that we remain renowned for offering.

Remote Services/Resources
The College’s dedicated staff has worked diligently to ensure students have access to the same resources online that they would have had on campus. Please note the following:

  • The Center for Student Success – all staff are working remotely; students with existing appointments will be contacted. For students interested in advising, counseling and other assistance, please visit here for details. Email [email protected] with general questions.
  • The One-Stop – contact staff at [email protected]. Additionally, online registration for summer and fall 2020 classes will begin as scheduled Wednesday, April 1. Sections fill quickly – register early for the best options. Your first payment is not due until mid-July. Staff encourages students to file their FAFSA to unlock programs that can even make Bergen tuition-free.
  • The Cerullo Learning Assistance Center – staff have worked hard to develop online methods for tutoring. Once tested and confirmed, the center will announce details.
  • The Office of Specialized Services – contact staff at (201) 612-5269 or [email protected].
  • Information Technology Help Desk – will operate Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Call (201) 447-7109 or email [email protected] for assistance.
  • Bookstore – all operations have shifted online; visit here to purchase books and have them shipped to your home for free. Additionally, a variety of publishers have made their e-books free through Redshelf – visit here for details. For additional bookstore support, email [email protected].
  • Testing – in-person testing resumes as soon as the college reopens; students can submit their SAT or ACT online using this form. For all other testing questions, email [email protected]
  • New Jersey Resources – the New Jersey Council of County Colleges has compiled this document with information on unemployment, food and other types of specialized assistance.

Other Notes

  • All College locations are closed until further notice. The return date to campus remains subject to the evolution of COVID-19 and revised guidance. It remains very important that you continue to monitor College communications.
  • All staff are working remotely.
  • All spring 2020 on-campus events are cancelled and the College has suspended scheduling any new events.
  • While commencement 2020 remains scheduled as planned for Monday, May 18 at 5:30 p.m. at MetLife Stadium, the College has begun to develop contingency plans in the event of its postponement or cancellation. The College remains committed to celebrating the class of 2020 however feasible and has already discussed some creative solutions toward doing so.
  • “Drive-through” COVID-19 testing began at the main campus today. Federal, state and county officials are coordinating all aspects of this event.

Sincerely,
Dr. Tony Ross
Interim President


March 18, 2020

Beginning at noon today, the College closed all locations until further notice. The return date to campus remains subject to the evolution of COVID-19 and revised guidance. It remains very important that you continue to monitor College communications.

Today’s update will include some new information and a recap of the critical items we’ve already announced in preparation of the campus closure.

Technology Resources

  • Your personal computer can access all College systems – it is not necessary to have a College-issued device. Systems such as Colleague, LaserFiche, Moodle, Google, My Documents and Shared Drives can all be accessed via a web browser.
  • For faculty and staff working remotely, information technology has compiled a resource library available here. The group will continue to add new documents, videos and resources.
  • This link is also accessible from Bergen.edu under the COVID-19 banner.
  • For assistance, the help desk will operate Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Call the help desk at (201) 447-7109 or email [email protected].
  • The College has used SignalVine as a text messaging platform for students and has now piloted using it for group-specific information for faculty and staff as well. To receive these texts, please update your mobile phone number here. Scroll to the bottom and confirm your number; if you need to edit, click the “pencil,” edit the number and click “Save.”

For Students

  • Faculty will communicate with students regarding their planned individual delivery of courses – including labs, clinical rotations and other specialized considerations.

Key Announcements Recap

  • All on-campus classes at all Bergen locations are cancelled for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester. Classes will take place remotely/online beginning Monday, March 23.
  • All employees will now work remotely from home. Supervisors will determine action plans for departmental work and discuss with their staff members.
  • All College personnel, including part-time, temporary and student staff, will continue to be compensated.
  • No personal days or sick days will be assessed for employees during this time.
  • All spring 2020 on-campus events are cancelled and the College has suspended scheduling any new events.
  • While commencement 2020 remains scheduled as planned for Monday, May 18 at 5:30 p.m. at MetLife Stadium, the College has begun to develop contingency plans in the event of its postponement or cancellation. The College remains committed to celebrating the class of 2020 however feasible and has already discussed some creative solutions toward doing so.
  • “Drive-through” COVID-19 testing will begin at Bergen Friday. Federal, state and county officials will coordinate all aspects of this event.
  • During this unprecedented time in our world, many have experienced considerable anxiety and stress. Any faculty or staff member experiencing these types of symptoms does not need to suffer in silence – please contact the College’s Employee Assistance Program through Magellan at 1-800-523-5668 or click here.

Please take care of yourself during your time away from the institution.

Sincerely,
Dr. Tony Ross
Interim President


March 16, 2020

As we continue to address COVID-19-related changes to the College’s operations, academics and personnel, today we will try to reiterate some key items while introducing some new information too:

Yesterday’s Key Announcements

  • “Drive-through” testing will not begin at Bergen until announced by officials. No College personnel or buildings will be used as part of this event.
  • Through Wednesday, March 18, faculty/staff who need to pick up belongings at any location may visit from 8 a.m. to noon each day. All other faculty/staff should not report to any location.
  • The College will close beginning Wednesday, March 18 at noon to Friday, March 27 at 10:59 p.m.
  • All on-campus classes at all Bergen locations are cancelled for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester. Classes will take place remotely/online beginning Monday, March 23. Faculty will communicate with their students regarding their planned individual delivery of courses.
  • Through Friday, March 27, all employees will work remotely from home. Supervisors will determine action plans for departmental work responsibilities and discuss with their staff members.
  • All College personnel, including part-time, temporary and student staff will continue to be compensated.
  • No personal days or sick days will be assessed for employees during this time.

New Operations Announcements

  • The Anna Maria Ciccone Theatre and Bergenstages have cancelled the remainder of their performance schedules.
  • The spring season’s Bulldogs athletic schedule has been cancelled. Student-athletes should maintain this year of eligibility.
  • The Paramus-Meadowlands shuttle is suspended.
  • All campus events through Friday, March 27 are cancelled and the College has suspended scheduling any new events.

New Personnel Announcements

  • Faculty/staff: when visiting the Paramus campus through Wednesday, March 18 to pick up belongings, please use the Pitkin Education Center student center doors across from West Hall.
  • During this unprecedented time in our world, many have experienced considerable anxiety and stress. Any faculty or staff member experiencing these types of symptoms does not need to suffer in silence – please contact the College’s Employee Assistance Program through Magellan at 1-800-523-5668 or click here.

Communication Updates

  • To date, the institution has sent 12 official statements through email, social media and Bergen.edu and participated in three Bergen County-organized news conferences.
  • Dr. Tony Ross hosted a town hall forum; click here to watch it in its entirety. Additionally, click here to read a text transcript of questions submitted via Webex and here to read an FAQ document prepared in advance of the forum.
  • PR organized for the Record to photograph the extremely dedicated buildings and grounds team who has worked to sanitize the campus. This also provides the community with some visuals of our action steps. We want to personally express my appreciation for our buildings and grounds team as well.
  • While we refer to March 27 on several occasions, please know this date remains subject to change to a later date given the evolution of COVID-19 and directions from the county and state. It remains very important that you continue to monitor all communication from the College.

Thank you and continue to follow email, social media and Bergen.edu for the latest updates.


March 15, 2020

Yesterday, we learned through the media that New Jersey officials planned to use Bergen Community College’s parking lot “C” at the main campus as a “drive-through” test site for COVID-19 examinations. Though this came as a surprise to the institution, we understand the rationale for taking this action and embrace our role as a community center. Please note, no College personnel or buildings will be used as part of this event. “Drive-through” testing will not begin at Bergen until later this week.

Operating Status

  • From Monday, March 16 through Wednesday, March 18, faculty/staff who need to pick up their belongings at any location may visit campus from 8 a.m. to noon each day. All other faculty/staff should not report to any location – including those in Paramus, Lyndhurst or Hackensack.
  • In light of this decision – and in the interest of protecting our students, faculty and staff – we must begin to close College operations.
  • The College will close beginning Wednesday, March 18 at noon to Friday, March 27 at 10:59 p.m. No one will be permitted to visit any College location except for the executive team, or designees they assign. We will continue to reassess our reopening date as conditions evolve.

Remote Learning Begins

  • Additionally, we have taken formal action today to cancel all on-campus classes at all Bergen locations for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester. Classes will take place remotely/online beginning Monday, March 23. Faculty will communicate with their students regarding their planned individual delivery of courses.
  • We did not arrive at this decision lightly and considered many variables – including some students’ limited access to the Internet at home – but, given the evolution of COVID-19, we must take steps to ensure our academic continuity.
  • In addition to testing our remote learning/business capabilities throughout the past few weeks, the College has surveyed its student population to assess the availability of technology resources at their homes. We will continue to review these results and craft appropriate strategies to address these issues as they arise.

College Personnel

  • From Monday, March 16 to Friday, March 27 all employees will work remotely from home. Information technology will provide directions, FAQs and training on working remotely for faculty and staff this week.
  • Supervisors will determine action plans for departmental work responsibilities and discuss with their staff members.
  • All College personnel, including part-time, temporary and student staff will continue to be compensated. The College will release additional details shortly.
  • No personal days or sick days will be assessed for employees during this time.
  • Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Brock Fisher and deans will continue to communicate regarding the online delivery of classes. Faculty with laboratory or physical resource concerns should contact their chairs to make arrangements.

Previous Updates

Bergen County Executive James J. Tedesco III has issued an emergency declaration for Bergen County due to COVID-19 that makes recommendations about containment and mitigation of the virus.

Working in collaboration with him and health officials, Bergen has decided to take the proactive measure of extending spring break by one week in an effort to reduce the possible transmission COVID-19 on campus. Note the following:

  • Just as scheduled for this week, the College will remain open, but all classes are cancelled for the week of March 16.
  • Classes will resume Monday, March 23.
  • During this week and next, College leaders will continue to develop academic/business continuity plans to ensure a continuation of the academic schedule in the event of cancellations extending beyond March 23.
  • A plan for making up next week’s classes also remains in development. Additional information will follow for faculty and students.
  • The College will continue to communicate with students, faculty and staff as protocols evolve. We appreciate your patience as we, and the world, navigate this public health concern. Students, faculty and staff should expect frequently updated guidance.

Additionally, the College has banned all institution-sponsored domestic and international travel including to conferences, events and seminars until March 23. If possible, please cancel any reservations. This expands the existing temporary travel policy established last week that asks any student, faculty or staff member travelling internationally to inform the College nurse at (201) 447-9257.


Throughout the progression of COVID-19, the College has monitored the latest guidance from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Bergen County Department of Health Services to inform our response. As an open-access, public institution reflecting the diversity of our county, we believe it remains especially important for us to diligently monitor COVID-19’s progression. As such, we will continue to review the latest guidance and do so until the global progression ceases.

Specialized Precautions
To specifically address COVID-19, the College has implemented the following measures:

  • Practicing enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of physical surfaces, including handrails, door knobs/handles and countertops, at all locations;
  • Promoting everyday measures to maintain good health and hygiene through printed and online materials such as the e-library of resources;
  • Frequently refilling soap, hand sanitizer and toiletries at all locations;
  • Securing a robust supply of disinfecting products through numerous vendors;
  • Establishing a temporary travel policy that requests any student, faculty or staff member travelling abroad to notify the Office of Health Services at (201) 447-9257 prior to their return to campus. Should one travel to – or through – any “Warning Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel” nation, the student, faculty or staff member must complete a self-isolation period (currently 14 days) and a follow-up medical screening through the Office of Health Services before returning to campus. Impacted countries may change with little notice. Domestic travel remains discretionary, but continue to monitor advisories and CDC guidance;
  • Monitoring the latest guidance from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, New Jersey Department of Health and Bergen County Department of Health Services; and
  • Forming a taskforce of College leadership divided into four working groups: academic continuity, business continuity, health response and communication to address the institution’s response.

“Everyday” Precautions
You can do your part to protect against COVID-19 by washing your hands regularly, covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, remaining home when dealing with the flu or viral illness and other everyday measures outlined in the e-library.

Continuity of Academic/Business Operations
A working group of taskforce members has begun to develop plans that could enable academic continuity in the event of a campus closure. This group has outlined resources that support continuing classes and academic events, while also assessing implications for travel. With the consultation of various constituencies, the group will examine existing academic policies and the College calendar.

Meanwhile, a second working group will address the institution’s business operations, identifying essential functions, determining strategies for maintaining critical campus utilities and infrastructure and developing policies that enable remote operations. The group will also discuss implications for staff and plans for acquiring supplies in the event of supply chain disruption.

Respect
Given our diverse community encompassing students, faculty and staff from many different nations and cultures – including those most negatively affected by COVID-19 – this remains a time for unity, not division. As always, the College will not tolerate racism or bigotry directed at any group simply because of their heritage, culture or nationality. COVID-19 remains a global concern – and we at Bergen stand in support of all members of our own global community.

Communication
The College will continue to update the community via printed materials at all locations, the e-library of resources, e-mail, social media, Bergen.edu, the Record newspaper and Bergen County-organized news conferences.

Feedback