Student Government Association e-board members, Saint Peter’s President and Cabinet and select senators and class officers filled the screen as they gathered for the SGA Virtual Open Forum this afternoon on Google Hangouts.
The virtual meeting started with remarks from university President Eugene Cornacchia, Ph.D who thanked the community for working hard and being considerate during these times as COVID-19 has altered plans, courses and events for the spring semester.
The forum, moderated by SGA Vice President Jack Payne, presented questions to the president and cabinet written by SGA members and specific class members.
Questions were asked about refunds, tuition, housing, online instruction and the pending commencement for the Class of 2020.
Here is the breakdown of what you missed.
As of now, there is no exact date as to when refunds will go out, but it’s expected to be done by the end of the semester. For returning students, there is an option to transfer a student’s remaining munch money to their plans for next semester. One check or credit will be sent out with the appropriate refund for each student.
Frederick Bonato, Ph.D., Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, said because labs are still being conducted in “creative” ways, he can’t assure lab fees will be refunded for this semester. After future observations, Dean of Arts and Sciences WeiDong Zhu, Ph.D. may find that some lab fees could be refunded partially, but until further notice, there is no concrete answer concerning lab fees.
There will be no refund for course credits because online instructions for each class are currently taking place.
According to Cornacchia, next year’s one to two percent tuition raise has nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic or any other financial impacts. The raise will be a result of ordinary inflation.
Students planning to dorm next semester should still try to meet the housing deadline since Simplicity, the online portal, allows students to submit housing and roommate requests fully online.
Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Information, Technology and Operations Milos Topic states that every dorm building and room have been sanitized and cleaned by special teams contracted by the university. He assured every other building, offices and classrooms have been cleaned as well. The university will resterilize once the university reopens.
The construction of the new residence hall has taken a pause because of the virus, but further developments are still unfolding. The renovations to the RLC are still moving forward but could face small delays.
Cornacchia says that it’s been a long time university goal to expand more online learning. This “crisis” has pushed the school to start moving forward with this, he says. Bonato expressed that going fully online this semester has provided perspective for future references on how professors and the school can provide more online resources for students in addition to face-to-face education.
“Our goal is that online classes have the same quality level as in-person classes,” says Cornacchia.
If students don’t feel the same, they should reach out to the department chair or Dean in order for further observation of the issue can occur. But online instruction, for most professors, is still a learning process.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak in New Jersey, the Commencement Committee assured they had changed the RLC location of commencement after students became outraged. But because of the virus, plans of when and where it will take place are still unknown. But the university stated they are fully committed to planning a celebration for the Class of 2020.
Because commencement is postponed and not canceled, graduating students will not receive a refund on graduation fees as the university has placed orders for regalias and are still planning an event for the seniors.
For students who haven’t taken their senior portraits or would like to retake them, there will be an opportunity in the future when it’s safe to proceed to schedule an appointment with the photographer on campus or in their studio.
For this year only, students will also have the option to submit their own formal portrait. Further details regarding this option are yet to be finalized. This year’s yearbook production has been put on hold until they can ensure each student is able to be featured in the book.
At the end of the forum, the president assured his pride in the community that is Saint Peter’s. The university has donated 9,000 gloves to Hudson County, courtesy of the Arts & Sciences program. The food pantry has donated canned goods to shelters and student nurses are volunteering their time to assist support staff of doctors and nurses.
“Lots of things are happening,” says Cornacchia. “I’m really proud of how you all and your fellow students and the rest of this community have come together. There is no question you will never forget 2020.”