One university’s complete fall 2021 plans … as of now

In-person learning, much fuller residence halls and COVID testing await students at Rider University.

Rider University in Lawrence Township, NJ, announced its plans to open the fall semester on Sept. 8 with a “more dynamic and engaging” return to more normal operations – COVID-19 pending – with several new changes and some pandemic holdovers in an effort to keep students safe and thriving.

The most notable is that those who had in-person classes prior to the pandemic will have them again in the fall. Those that functioned as online or hybrid back in March 2020 will continue in those modalities. That means Rider doesn’t have plans to expand virtual learning as of now, pushing its campus toward a more traditional academic college experience.

That stance is being embraced by many other colleges and universities, too, as they look to get their students back in the classroom. McDaniel College in nearby Maryland said Monday that 90% of its classes will be in person in the fall. Austin Peay University in Tennessee said its classes also will be face-to-face.

“Things are already beginning to come back,” Maria Cronley, Austin Peay Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs said in a statement. “We have set our fall class schedules, which reflect pre-COVID class offerings with mostly face-to-face classes.”

And yet, most are keeping an eye on the virus.

Though Dr. Gregory Dell’Omo, President and Dr. DonnaJean Fredeen, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, said they were “cautiously optimistic” that Rider would have “extensive” teaching, housing and dining options for students, they added this caveat: “we also continue to abide by federal and state COVID-19 regulations and prioritize the health and well-being of our campus community.”

Rider leadership told students they must be COVID-tested before they arrive on campus … and also will need to perform once-weekly tests when there. Its COVID-19 Implementation Team has advised students to continue with protocols: Social distancing of six feet, hand-washing, getting travel guidelines early if out of state or outside the country and if possible, get vaccinated. McDaniel College is urging students to do the same.

The more things change – even with the imminence of vaccines – the more they stay the same.

“We hope today’s announcement provides a very high-level overview and expectations for our return to campus, but we know you most likely have many more questions yet to be answered,” the letter said. “We ask for your patience as we work through the myriad of details required to make this transition a smooth one. We will do our best to keep you apprised of information as it becomes available”

What Rider’s residence halls will look like

Rider believes it will have a spot available for all students who wish to have housing in the fall. Just over 50% of its 3,900-plus undergraduates live in university-affiliated residences. The university has asked students to both pay for their deposits by the end of the month and have their applications completed by April 5 to have a place in its lottery system. Rider expects to have all room assignments completed by April 30, which is the final day of its spring semester.

To help ease a potential glut of students in on-campus residences, Rider has waived the requirement that its freshman and sophomores live in university-affiliated housing. It also has a provision, just in case, for students who have contracted COVID-19 by blocking off quarantine and isolation spaces.

As with its classes, Rider is telling students to expect a return to normal in housing too – it plans to use “bed spaces as designed” – meaning that single-occupancy rooms will be limited. Those who still want single rooms that do become available will pay double the rate.

As long as COVID is still a factor, on-campus housing will not be a free-for-all – students will still need to follow protocols and Rider will be heavily cleaning and sanitizing residence buildings this fall.

What Rider dining will look like

Even in the return to “normalcy”, Rider’s Dining Services will be instituting temperature checks for those who enter dining halls while enforcing other safety protocols. In addition, it is likely that the university will limit the amount of traffic within those spaces, especially if its student body and faculty haven’t been fully vaccinated.

Rider is telling students it prefers to have them place orders and reserve all-you-can-eat seating options using GrubHub rather than using cash or simply showing up to eat at its cafes, coffee shops and convenience outlets. It is telling sorority members that they must have a dining plan so all students can adhere to public health guidance.

A couple of unique offerings Rider is hoping for in the fall are the return of its Teaching Kitchen, which provides healthy and low-cost mea ideas for students similar to other universities, as well as take-home meal kits for students to prepare in their residences.

In addition, it will offer contactless delivery of meals, beer and wine to housing from various restaurants on campus. For those in quarantine, Dining Services is planning daily meals through GrubHub as well as keeping “robust pantries stocked.”

Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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