A Message from Interim Dean Beegan

The Interim Dean of Mason Gross addresses the community in light of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

I would like to extend to the Mason Gross family my heartfelt wishes for your safety.

We have been through some tough times at Rutgers over the years. On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was on what turned out to be the last train leaving Penn Station New York on my way to teach. When the train emerged from the Hudson tunnels, I saw the Twin Towers in flames. By the time we had reached Newark, cell phone coverage had abruptly stopped. The New Brunswick campus was deserted, and classes were cancelled for the following week. However, the semester was soon up and running, and the continuity that those classes provided helped students and faculty through a traumatic year. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy was devastating for many of our New Jersey students and families. Rutgers supported those students, yet teaching continued after a brief shut down.

But COVID-19 is different. The day before our highly anticipated Mason Gross Downtown Celebration at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center (NBPAC) on March 11, we were informed that it could not go ahead. On March 12, all face-to-face instruction ceased at Rutgers, and this situation continues for the rest of the semester. Yet the university is still open, and our dedicated staff are still working. Students who cannot return home are still in dorms; Rutgers is providing them with food and support.

Over spring break, our faculty and instructors were hard at work devising ways of delivering their courses remotely. In the arts we have challenges that most academic schools don’t have. Yet our wonderfully creative and committed faculty are devising methods of remotely critiquing a painting class or a brass ensemble when students cannot be in the same room.

Ruqqayya Maudoodi and her colleague Professor Richard Metzger, who helm Mason Gross’s thriving Rutgers Arts Online division, are providing faculty with training and specialist support. With this commitment and expertise, we will find ways of successfully continuing the semester.

Nevertheless, what we cannot do, given the necessity for social distancing, is to hold the end-of-year capstone events, the performances and exhibitions that normally provide showcases and celebrations for our graduating seniors. Even commencement cannot go on. However, plans are already underway to hold these events later in the year or in the new academic year. Please stay tuned to our social media accounts for updates.

Thankfully, some of the semester’s key events have already occurred: In February, I had the privilege of attending two performances of The Winter’s Tale by our BFA Acting students at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. These were moving yet humorous performances before appreciative audiences. Looking back now on The Winter’s Tale, its message of rebirth and persistence are even more resonant. In times like these, we turn to the arts for solace and for meaning in our lives.

And we have much to look forward to: Mason Gross will be back in the fall under our new dean, Dr. Jason Geary, and Rutgers will be back under its new president, Dr. Jonathan Holloway. We look forward to this rebirth.

Many of you have asked how you can help students during this difficult time. Thank you so much for your concern and for showing the world the true meaning of Scarlet Forever. You can send your support via the Rutgers Foundation New Brunswick Dean of Students Emergency Fund via this link.