May 19, 2016President's Post #93: Class of 2016
For the past decade it has been a privilege for me to preside over the College’s Commencement Ceremony and this year was no exception.
The Ramapo College Class of 2016 was a determined group of 1,509 students and it was a proud moment for me and members of the Board of Trustees to shake their hands as they crossed the stage on May 13.
The Class of 2016 included 65 Educational Opportunity Fund Program participants, 15 Veterans from the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard as well as New Jersey Air and Army National Guard, and 99 graduates that have affiliated with our Office of Specialized Services. Further, the class also included international students from Bulgaria, China, Azerbaijan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Turkey & Vietnam. In addition, several of our graduates studied or completed internships abroad in Argentina, Australia, China, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Nepal, Netherlands, Peru, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Tanzania, Turks & Caicos, and the United Kingdom.
During their time at Ramapo, members of the class invested their energies in myriad activities. They participated in undergraduate research, Relay for Life fundraising for Cancer, a 5K Color Run that supported Ramapo scholarships, awareness campaigns dedicated to the prevention of sexual assault and suicide, rallies protesting discrimination and police brutality, and programs to generate Hurricane Sandy and Nepal relief.
The Commencement Ceremony celebrating these individuals was a memorable one with insightful remarks delivered by thoughtful people. Award of Merit recipient Dr. Joseph Barone ’83 encouraged graduates to embrace the “excellent mistakes” they will make in life. Distinguished Professor Dr. Anthony Padovano shared with the graduates, “We were privileged that we came to know you, stood by your side and, today, watched you walk into your future. How foolish it is to believe that America has lost its way and to imagine that you walk into a blighted world or that the past was so much better than the present. You are the future of this nation and of our world. You will give this nation and the world few regrets; you will make both of them aware of how much more the future holds for all of us.” Student speaker Lindsey Hughes ’16 noted, “As we entered this institution we all walked under the Arch, some of us bright eyed and ambitious– others timid and scared of what our future at Ramapo would hold. Years later, as we walked back through the Arch yesterday, leaving campus in our rear view, I hope we all reflected on the countless memories Ramapo gave us, the lifelong friendships we have made, the education we received that will prepare us for our next step and ultimately the persons we have become during our time at Ramapo.”
Thank you to all of the people who participated in this special day and congratulations to the graduates, families, and friends of the Ramapo College Class of 2016!
Peter P. Mercer
February 2, 2016President's Post #92: State of the College Address, January 2016
On January 27, 2016, President Peter Mercer delivered his spring State of the College Address. A summary of that address follows.
Welcome to the spring State of the College address. We are joined today by Board of Trustees Chair George C. Ruotolo, Jr.; and Trustee Susan Vallario.
Ramapo: Advance is a plan for advancing our campus safety. We have made significant progress on the plan since its development in August.
• The revised Sexual Misconduct Policy Governing Students was implemented this semester and and information session on the policy will take place at 3pm today.
• We have moved to conducting Title IX investigations via a pool of trained faculty and staff. Title IX Investigator Training was delivered to more than a dozen faculty and staff earlier this month. That group includes: Ron Boseman, Jill Brown, Brittany Goldstein, Matt McMahon, Clare Naporano, Ivy Payne, Alfred Prettyman, Tamika Quick, Emma C. Rainforth; Alexandra Simone, Debra Stark, and Danielle Walker.
• The memorandums of understanding with the Mahwah Police Department and the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office are in their final stages.
• A sexual assault survivor who requires transportation to Valley Hospital (for evidence collection and medical treatment) or to Hackensack Planned Parenthood (medical treatment only) will be provided the service free of charge by the College. Further, the taxi company selected to provide the transportation is also used by the healingSPACE Sexual Violence Resource Center. All drivers are screened for a driving/criminal background check by law enforcement.
• On the training front, Haven: Understanding Sexual Assault Training will be rolled out in the spring for faculty and staff, participants may choose between a face to face training or an online training.
• Phase II of the Stafford Report which is largely focused on programming is now available on the Ramapo: Advance site and I expect that the next 6 months will provide opportunities for us to collaborate as a community on the best approaches to programming recommendations.
• Ramapo will host the Association of Title IX Administrators regional investigator training conference in late May in which more than 100 Title IX professionals are expected to visit our campus over the span of two days. Our service as host will also allow for up to 20 Ramapo individuals to participate in the conference at no cost.
Nearly 100 colleges and universities are currently under investigation by the Office of Civil Rights for their handling of sexual misconduct cases and that number has nearly doubled in the past year. Ramapo is not on that list. We are indeed not alone as we navigate Title IX, but I do believe we are generally ahead of our peers.
Grant Thornton Operational Review
Last year, my office advised that the College would be engaging Grant Thornton to conduct an operational review of many institutional elements related primarily to staffing, structure, and technology. That review was and is intended to reveal opportunities for efficiency and to, in part, help mitigate the College’s structural deficit.
Over the past several months, the team from Grant Thornton has met with more than 30 faculty and staff. They have reviewed organizational charts, Weave reports, financials, etc… Their draft report is due this month and its recommendations will lead to change. It is so important to remember though that Grant Thornton is not the silver bullet in our work towards ameliorating the structural deficit, it is one element in the College’s efforts to reduce the structural deficit. We are also looking at operational budget adjustments, cost sharing, and additional revenue sources, etc. All of these things will require, to some extent, a shift in how we operate as a college. The current fiscal health in public higher education in NJ, and really across the country, requires us to proceed in this manner.
Turning the Tide Report: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions by the Harvard Graduate School of Education
A Harvard-based group is calling for colleges to change their application processes to give greater importance to applicants’ community involvement, asserting that intellectual and ethical engagement (such as concern for others and the common good) are both “highly important.”
The report concludes that teens are taught to “emphasize personal success rather than concern for others,” and adds that changing the application process would send a strong message to young people. The report also makes recommendations for reducing “undue achievement pressure” and redefining achievement. Some of those recommendations are to:
• Make some SAT scores optional;
• Challenge the “misconception that there are only a handful of excellent colleges and that only a handful of colleges create networks that are vital to job success”; and
• Charge Admissions offices with warning students against submitting “overcoached” applications, saying such applications can “jeopardize desired admission outcomes.”
While Ramapo has long benefitted by taking a holistic approach to applicant review, the report from Harvard reinforces an imperative on college campuses to reflect on their practices and to consider new ways of doing things. Change is always in the offing.
The Diversity Action Committee and Schomburg Scholars Program will present the 2016 Diversity Convocation with Dr. Marc Lamont Hill on Wed., Feb. 24, 2016 @ 3:30pm in the Auxiliary Gym (Bradley Center). Dr. Hill’s Lecture, “Building Community in an Hour of Chaos: Progress in the Age of Obama” will offer a critical analysis of the current social and political moment. Lamont Hill has been the subject of much scrutiny and advocacy recently for his stances on religion, terrorism, and social justice.
Admissions and Recruitment
Graduate Admissions. We just concluded an extremely successful graduate admissions cycle for the spring 2016 semester. Congratulations to MSET, MAEL and MSN as well as the Graduate Admissions Office who finished this cycle at 229% of their deposit total.
Applications. Currently, interest in Ramapo College has never been higher. As of January 20, the Admissions Office reports receiving 5,910 Applications thus far for the fall 2016 incoming class. This is the highest number of applications we’ve ever received at this time of the year and are on pace to again increase total applications over last year.
NASPA Undergraduates Fellow Program
Ramapo is proud to have three students participating in the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program (a national higher education administrator’s organization). The Program is an initiative to mentor students from traditionally underrepresented and historically disenfranchised populations. Students and mentors apply as a pair. Current Ramapo students and mentors include Uma Joshi and mentor Joe Connell, Frank Albergo and mentor Rick Brown, and Alaina Seyler and mentor Tracey Pastorini.
Public Safety Outreach
Newsletter. By now, you have likely noticed that the Office of Public Safety has been working hard on strengthening its community outreach program. Its weekly newsletter has one of the highest open rates of our electronic newsletters and I want to give a special nod to Officer Tracey Barmore for coordinating the newsletter.
Training. Further outreach by Public Safety has included two training sessions between the Mahwah Police Department, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office and our own full Public Safety force to review protocols and enhance communication between the three offices.
Poetry Slam. In addition, on February 22, the Public Safety Outreach program will host a Poetry Slam in the Alumni Lounges between 10pm and 11:30.
Educational Opportunity Fund
Welcome. I would like to welcome our new Director of the EOF Program, Barbara Harmon-Francis to Ramapo College. Please stand, Barbara.
National Capitol Forum on Hispanic Higher Education Conference. I am pleased to share that three student leaders from the EOF Program, Gloria Bramon, Ana Rosano and Essey Wilson along with Student Development Specialist Erika Vega will attend the 21st Annual National Capitol Forum on Hispanic Higher Education Conference in Washington D.C in March.
International Representation. Also, EOF’s Student Development Specialist, Marita Esposito, was accepted to present at the National Academic Advising Association entitled Aspire, Connect and Empower Conference in Dubai. Her presentation is entitled “Intrusive, Holistic Advisement for Low Income First Generation Students.”
Alternative Winter Breaks
Ramapo students continue to take advantage of opportunities to engage in service projects. Several students participated in our alternative winter break programs recently. I’m pleased to highlight two of those programs.
Atlanta, Georgia. Two staff members accompanied 7 sorority and fraternity student leaders on a trip to Atlanta. This is the second time that the college sponsored a trip to this location. The service sites for this trip included:
• Books for Africa: This organization assists African communities in gaining access to school books.
• The Gateway Center: The Gateway Center is designed to serve as a gateway to the community continuum of care that helps individuals move out of homelessness.
• Covenant House Georgia: A place that provides shelter and services to homeless and runaway youth; and others.
Puntarenas, Costa Rica. One staff member accompanied 11 students on a trip to Costa Rica to work with the El Manantial bird/animal sanctuary. This trip marks the 6th time that Ramapo has partnered with the sanctuary. Ramapo students helped care for the animals and learned about the conservation of the Macaws.
2016 King Day of Learning Activities
Our Equity and Diversity Programs partnered with our Community and Civic Engagement Center (CCEC) for the 3rd Annual King Day of Learning Activities. On January 17, one Equity and Diversity student staff member and five CCEC student staff members attended the Apollo Theater and WNYC Public Radio’s co-sponsored program “Race and Privilege: Exploring MLK’s Two Americas.” Then on January 18, the students who attended the event at the Apollo prepared an interactive presentation for student leaders from the Center for Student Involvement, Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, and Student Government Association. On January 19, the same students met with other student leaders to facilitate large and small group conversations on the topics of race, privilege, equity, diversity, immigration rights, and the importance of civic participation and activism.
Vote Everywhere: The Andrew Goodman Foundation
The CCEC has announced that two of our students will be ambassadors to the Andrew Goodman Foundation’s nonpartisan program, Vote Everywhere. Vote Everywhere seeks to leverage the history of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement to inspire today’s students to take action for positive social change.
Faculty Athletic Representative. Ramapo College Athletics is pleased to announce that Dr. Ben Fine, faculty member in Computer Science, has accepted the role of Ramapo’s NCAA Faculty Athletic Representative (FAR). Thank you, Ben.
Student-Athlete Awards. Further, our student athletes have been very busy. 20 of our student-athletes from the fall season earned top prestigious awards from the New Jersey Athletic Conference and Larysa Iwaskiw was named AVCA All-American for her efforts on the volleyball court this past season.
Team Service. Also, our sports teams participated in 12 community service events this past fall including events with the Mahwah All-Stars, breast cancer awareness, Juvenile Diabetes, and gender relations and sexual violence awareness walks.
Marketing and Web Administration
If you have visited our homepage recently, you know that the website redesign has been completed and the new www.ramapo.edu homepage design was launched before the winter break. All sections of the website will move to the new design on a rolling basis over the next couple of months. The Marketing and Web team will contact each unit before sites move to the new design. The new design addresses the strategic plan, it is based on feedback from a college-wide survey and is responsive, which means it resizes and works better on smart phones and tablets. In addition, it has new features and tools that better highlight the College including alumni and student success stories, updated links/navigation, an interactive majors and programs exploration tool, and more.
Welcome. The new year marked the appointment of Kirsten DaSilva as our Vice President for Administration & Finance. Please stand, Kirsten.
Adaptive. The FY17 budget process is already upon us, but this year the College is using its new software system, Adaptive Insights, to create the FY17 budget. All areas of budgeting have been moved from Excel spreadsheets into Adaptive Insights, and this process has helped cut at least 4 months from the budgeting process (a nearly 50% reduction in time). Adaptive will be used to request FY17 funding for Inflationary, Capital and SPIF. The Budget Office is rolling out mandatory training for those who will enter budget requests, which will occur in mid-February, and we hope that this tool will not only help the budgeting process, but planning and forecasting as well.
On the HR front, the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) new requirement to send all employees eligible for health insurance coverage an annual statement describing the insurance available to them has been delayed. IRS Form 1095-C is now required to be sent to employees by March 31, 2016 and ITS is working with HR and Business Services on these new reports.
Name Change. There have been a lot of changes within the Bursar’s Department, with Artie Chill retiring after 41 years with the College, and a departmental name change later in the semester. The Bursar’s Office will be renamed to align its name with its function, and will be called the Office of Student Accounts. Look for announcements later in the spring semester for more information.
Electronic W2s. The College continues to embrace technology and commit to sustainable practices. I am pleased to note that Payroll is doing its part to move towards sustainability. It is asking all employees to “go green” and sign up for their electronic W2. More than 109 colleagues have already signed up, and you can sign up until February 1 on Banner Self Service.
Capital Projects Update
Library Renovations and Addition. With approval from the Board of Trustees, the College is seeking State bond funds that would be used for a $50 million capital project to renovate the George T. Potter Library and construct a 43,650 gross square foot Learning Center. Features of the renovated building and new addition would include quiet reading areas; library collections and stacks; computer laboratories; group study and meeting rooms; a multipurpose room for large workshops and academic seminars; art galleries; etc. The project is identified in the latest Campus Facilities Master Plan as a high priority and the conceptual plans are available in the Library. In the months ahead, the College’s Office of Capital Planning & Construction will work together with Library staff, representatives from the Faculty Assembly, staff from the various centers, and other stakeholders to develop further the preliminary program for the project, floor-by-floor. Speaking of the Library, Dean Siecke is pleased to announce that the George T. Potter Library is continuing to offer extended hours throughout the semester, made possible by the College’s 100 Jobs Initiative. The Library is now open until 2:00 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. on Friday, and 11:00a.m.-7:00 p.m. on Saturday.
Padovano College Commons. We are moving forward with our plan to take the former Copy Center located in the old stone garage and repurpose it for dining, socializing and meeting. A generous pledge from Professor Anthony Padovano will help support the project. Project architect and engineers completed plans and specifications that were released by the Department of Community Affairs for construction. A request for proposal was issued for public bidding, and submissions were received in late October. As the lowest bid exceeded the available project budget, all bids were rejected and the project architect is evaluating design elements of the project and developing a list of alternates in order to rebid the project. The updated project schedule reflects commencement of construction this spring and completion in the fall.
Anisfield School of Business
School, faculty, and student achievements continue to abound in ASB:
• The AACSB International Continuous Review Committee has concurred with our Peer Review Team’s recommendation for the extension of our accreditation by AACSB. The Board of Directors of AACSB will make the final ratification at their meeting on February 11, 2016.
• In November, 2015, Finance major Emma Munro was one of the top five scorers in the Americas for the Bloomberg Aptitude Test in finance and has joined the Bloomberg Institute Hall of Fame. Emma shares the Hall of Fame honor with students from the University of Chicago, University of Virginia, NYU and TCNJ.
ASB faculty have published several research articles in peer reviewed journals since September, 2015, some of them include:
• Management Professor Rikki Abzug and co-author Dr. Natalie Webb had their paper entitled “Financial Dereliction of Duty: Are charities that aid servicemen and veterans systematically mismanaged?” accepted for publication in the journal Armed Forces & Society.
• Management Professor Susan Eisner’s paper “The In-Factor: Signature Traits of Innovation’s Leaders” was just published in the Journal of Applied Business Research.
• In December, Management Professor Rick Nunez (who returned to us from Montclair this past fall!) had his paper “The Temporal Dynamics of Firm Emergence by Team Competition – Examining Top-Performing Solo, Family and Team-based Startups” published in the Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship.
• Information Technology Management Professor Yuan Gao and Economics Professor Xiaoyu (Sh-ow’-u) Wu had their paper “User Acceptance of Learning Technology: The Case of Using Moodle” published in The International Journal of Learning: Annual Review in October, 2015.
• Charles Steindel, Resident Scholar in Economics, formerly Chief Economist for the State of New Jersey and Senior Vice-President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, is the new Editor-in-Chief of Business Economics, the journal of the National Association for Business Economics.
School of Contemporary Arts
CA is also replete with achievements:
• During the last week of the winter break, thirty Ramapo Theater students participated in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival regional competition in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Four of them made it to the semifinals of the Irene Ryan Acting award: Kelly Blake, Amber Walker, Tom Kiely, and Lawrence James (L. J.) Hickmon. Both Tom and L. J. made it to the finals, and then L. J. went on to win the award, the first Ramapo student to do so! He will compete at the nationals at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D. C., in April.
• Twenty-two members of the Ramapo Chorale were also busy over the break, on a concert tour in Cuba, directed by Lisa Lutter and accompanied by Itay Goren. The tour included a performance with the National Choir of Cuba.
• Two members of the Ramapo College Concert Band, Meghan Mudrick and Josh Raymundo, have been selected to perform with the New Jersey Intercollegiate Band next month at the New Jersey Music Educators Conference in New Brunswick.
• Visual Arts major Gina Scalza will be exhibiting her art as part of the exhibit WORD at the respected Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art. Her work will be part of an exhibition that includes well-established artists like Ann Hamilton, Robert Indiana, and Jeffrey Gibson, along with many emerging artists. It opens February 27 and runs through July 31.
Salameno School of Humanities and Global Studies
Continuing along the thread of school-based successes, SSHGS also has much to share:
• In October, Professor John Gronbeck-Tedesco had his book titled Cuba, the United States, and Cultures of the Transnational Left, 1930-1975 published by Cambridge University Press.
• Professor Dean Chen has his third book, US-China Rivalry and Taiwan’s Mainland Policy: Security, Nationalism, and Taiwan’s 1992 Consensus, set to be published early next year by Palgrave Macmillan.
• Professor Stacie Taranto presented a paper titled “Foregrounding the ‘Silent Majority’: Vatican II and the Roots of Lay Catholic Political Party Realignment in the Sixties” at the Society for U.S. Intellectual History Conference this past October in Washington, DC. The paper was based on a chapter of Taranto’s forthcoming book Kitchen-Table Politics: Conservative Women and Family Values in the Seventies, slated to be published by the University of Pennsylvania Press early next year.
• Professor Edward Shannon presented a paper at the South Atlantic Modern Language Association Meeting in Durham, North Carolina in November titled “’Who are all these friends?’: The Politics and Poetics of Naming the Dead in Woody Guthrie’s ‘Plane Wreck At Los Gatos (Deportee)’”. In addition, in January, Shannon participated in a Faculty Resource Network Seminar on Critical Reading and Critical Thinking held in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
• Professor Jeremy Teigen co-presented a paper on “Political Attitudes of Recent U.S. Veterans” at the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society, held in Chicago in October.
• Three SSHGS students presented papers at the biennial convention of Phi Alpha Theta, the national History honor society, held earlier this month in Orlando, Florida. They included: Sara Barsky, “Pushing for Peace: The United Nations during the Congo Crisis, 1960-1961”; Karlito Almeda, “A Closer Look into Policies and Relationships: A Brief Analysis of Two Administrators’ Liability in the September 11th Terrorist Attacks”; and Samantha Sproviero, “Bletchley Park Intelligence and the Battle of the Atlantic”.
• Lastly, with a major grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the funding arm of the National Archives, the Salameno School is now host to the Jane Addams Papers Project. Under the direction of Dr. Cathy Hajo, this print and digital publication project will make available the letters, speeches, and other writings of Jane Addams, one of the leading social reformers and peace activists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It will also give students hands-on experience with all facets of a historical publication project.
School of Social Science and Human Services
There is also much to celebrate in SSHS.
• The Spring 2016 volume of the Ramapo Journal of Law & Society was recently published. Led by Dr. Sangha Padhy and Dr. Mia Serban, the journal showcases the work of two recent LAWS graduates and several other articles from undergraduates across the country including the University of California, Berkeley. In addition, Dr. Padhy has her latest forthcoming book, Greening Law: Environmental Human Rights and Social Justice in India, coming out this year.
• Dr. Emily Abbey has in press her latest edited books, the third and fourth since her arrival at Ramapo, The Poetics of Everyday Life and Cultural Psychology of Transgenerational Family Relations: Investigating Ambivalences. In addition to these books, Dr. Abbey has a commentary in the refereed journal Culture & Psychology.
• Ramapo will host the Tri-State Ed. Leaders Superintendent Summit on February 26. Senator Cory Booker and NJ Commissioner of Education David Hespe will be on campus along with nearly 800 superintendents from NJ, NY, and CT.
• Several Sociology students have been accepted to present their research at the American Sociological Association national conference in March in Seattle, WA.
• Dr. Maya Poran and Dr. Leah Warner will accompany some of our Psychology students who will present their own research at the Association for Women in Psychology Conference in March in Pittsburgh, PA.
• Dr. Eva Ogens, using a model and simulations to understand how antibiotics work, will be published in The American Biology Teacher, Spreading Disease-It’s Contagious!.
• The MSW students and faculty will be traveling to Ghana in May to work on issues related to global public health at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.
School of Theoretical and Applied Science
TAS is pleased to share the following achievements:
• Professor Sara Carberry reports that the American Chemistry Society’s Ramapo student group received an honorable mention for their chapter and also won the national chemistry week demonstration contest at the Liberty Science Center in the fall. They’ve earned first place in 4 out of the past 5 years. Chapter members will represent Ramapo at the national ACS meeting this spring in San Diego.
• Dean Eddie Saiff was recently elected chair of the board of directors of the New York- New Jersey Trail Conference.
• Again, congratulations to TAS Professor Benjamin Fine on his appointment as the College’s NCAA Faculty Representative.
•More News from TAS
Capital Campaign. On December 4, the Board of Trustees and Board of Governors officially celebrated the success of the College’s $56.1 million Further Our Promise Comprehensive Capital Campaign. More than any dollar amount raised, the lasting impact for our students and faculty is what speaks of the real success of the campaign. I thank the more than 13,500 donors who supported this effort. Our faculty and staff participation was tremendous.
Major Gifts. Recent major gifts that have been received include a $250,000 endowment to support our Honors Program from Robert and Ann Hiden. An additional science lab was supported with a gift of $75,000 from the Birch Foundation. We received a most generous commitment ($50,000) from our own Dr. Eddie Saiff and his wife, Robby, for the Dean’s Suite in the recently renovated G building. Alumna Marilyn Clark increased her endowed scholarship fund by $50,000 and alumna Carol Schaffer just provided an additional $25,000 for her annual scholarships. The Foundation expects to provide a record number of student scholarships this year, estimated at $580,000 – which is 14% higher than last year.
Endowment. The Foundation Endowment balance increased to more than $16 million. In Fiscal 2015, we had 16 new endowments created, including four established by College members bringing in more than $600,000 in permanent funds and $780,000 in pledges.
Grants & Sponsored Programs. The Office of Grants & Sponsored Programs has worked with the campus community to secure 11 awards totaling $2.1 million. Some of those funded projects since my last State of the College include support for STEM programming:
• Grants of $500,000 from the NJ Sports and Exposition Authority for the Meadowlands Environment Center (MEC);
• A $153,000 grant from the Little Ferry Board of Education;
• A $68,000 grant from the Wayne Board of Education; and
• A $7,000 grant from the Murray Charitable Trust for MEC programming.
Together, funding for these projects totals $728,000.
Question & Answer
January 26, 2016President's Post #91: Welcome and Welcome Back
Dear Students and Colleagues:
Welcome (and welcome back) to campus.
Institutions of higher education have changed dramatically since their origins as training grounds for the clergy or the children of the bourgeoisie. Yet, despite the magnitude of those changes over time, higher education has managed to hold fast to many of its storied traditions. This commitment is known as commensalism, a word originally used to describe the practice of dining together but whose broader modern definition denotes, “the means by which a sense of community and long-term institutional loyalty is created.” It reflects our determination that academic training must be completed by providing students with broader social experiences. These social experiences often become significantly represented in institutional traditions.
Last week we welcomed 300 new students to Ramapo. Despite the bitter cold, the students, faculty, and staff rallied together and processed under the Arch in keeping with Ramapo tradition. Pursuant to another Ramapo College tradition, I will deliver my State of the College Address on January 27 at 1 p.m. in Friends Hall (SC 219). Please join me to hear about the many wonderful continuing achievements as well as the challenges ahead. Opportunities to come together over the next few weeks include:
• An information session on January 27 at 3 p.m. in SC157 regarding the revised Sexual Misconduct Policy Governing Students.
• The kickoff of African Ancestry Month on February 1 at 12:30 p.m. in Trustees Pavilion (space is limited.)
• The national tour of the 35th Annual Black Maria Film and Video Festival will come to campus on February 12 at 8 p.m. in the Sharp Theater.
• The Diversity Action Committee’s Diversity Convocation on February 24 at 3:30 p.m. in the Auxiliary Gym featuring Dr. Marc Lamont Hill.
• The President’s Advisory Council on February 26 at 11:30 a.m. in Trustees Pavilion.
Again, welcome to a new semester at Ramapo College.
Peter P. Mercer
December 21, 2015President's Post #90: A Season for Inclusion
Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends:
At this time of year when exams, essays and holiday events compete for our attention among the regular demands of everyday life, we are all conscious of the need to take a half step backwards and reflect on the closing of another year. It is my hope that, as members of Ramapo College, we share a unique sense of community that follows from Ramapo’s particular values and traditions that emphasize inclusion and mutual respect for one another’s differences.
Recent terrorist incidents threaten to abrade that fundamental communitarian element in ways that we must all resist. It is important, as we enter the holiday season, to reinforce our commitment to inclusion by reaching out to peers who may be feeling lonely or even alienated. Our Muslim colleagues, in particular, need to hear that they are valued just as all of us recognize that same need within ourselves. Now is the time to stand up and actively affirm the principles and beliefs that unite us.
I am proud to serve as your President and I thank you for your efforts in support of the College while wishing you the most tranquil and restorative of holidays.
Peter P. Mercer
December 16, 2015President's Post #89: Ramapo: Advance Progress Report
Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends,
The College issued Ramapo: Advance in August 2015. I am pleased to provide you with a report of the progress made during the past four months. As you may recall, Ramapo: Advance is a plan to advance campus safety at the College. Further, it represents our promise to take substantive action to improve how we educate our students about the resources available to them, and enhance the steps we take to reduce the occurrence of sexual misconduct on our campus, as well as to ensure cases are fairly adjudicated.
Our purpose in publishing Ramapo: Advance was to publicly share our plan for integrating and activating campus safety recommendations contained in two separate reports produced by external experts (Anne Milgram, Esq. and D. Stafford & Associates). We have made substantive progress on all of the initiatives housed in the plan, and you can review that progress by clicking on Ramapo: Advance Progress Report.
Of special note within the Ramapo: Advance Progress Report, I ask that you turn your attention to the compliance and structural initiatives related to Title IX. First and foremost, as I wrote in September, Kat McGee has assumed the position of Director of Affirmative Action and Workplace Compliance. Her first objective was to follow up on the recommendations related to identifying and training Title IX investigators. We are identifying a pool of investigators to conduct Title IX investigations. These compensated positions are available to current faculty and staff.
The application to serve as a Title IX Investigator is available by visiting http://www.ramapojobs.com/postings/975. If you have not already considered taking advantage of this opportunity, I encourage you to do so for it is truly emblematic of the College’s mission to promote inclusiveness, engagement, and community involvement. Comprehensive training will be provided on campus to selected investigators January 11-13, 2016. More information may be obtained by contacting Kat McGee, Director of Affirmative Action and Workplace Compliance/Title IX Coordinator at email@example.com.
In addition, as we begin to move beyond the compliance recommendations contained within Ramapo: Advance, this spring semester we will share Phase II of the Stafford Report. Phase II’s focus is largely on programming and content development. Phase II will continue to require thoughtful collaboration across campus and we look forward to engaging with many of you on its recommendations in the spring for implementation in fall 2016.
Ramapo: Advance, while comprehensive, does not paint the full picture of our collective efforts to provide a safer campus. It is heartening for me to share with you some of those other meaningful efforts here:
• The Student Government Association and Black Student Union have collaborated on public efforts to promote a safe campus.
• The Public Safety Department launched community outreach initiatives aimed at fostering community and trust-based relationships including its newsletter as well as its blue light program.
• Many of our faculty, staff, and students have worked together to expand Ramapo’s It’s On Us campaign through peer networks and special events like Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.
• The Title IX Committee, comprised of students, faculty, and staff, continue to meet monthly with a focus on thwarting a campus culture of violence. The Committee has focused on community education. It published a Sexual Violence Resource Packet (currently available in the Public Safety Department) and it identified a new training model for College employees for release this spring. The Committee has also researched survey options to assess the prevalence of interpersonal violence and further identify strategies to prevent violence and support survivors.
Thank you all for your attention and contributions toward a safer campus of which we can all be proud.
Peter P. Mercer
December 1, 2015President's Post #88: Town Hall December 2, 2015
Dear Students and Colleagues,
Nationwide, college students have been using their collective voices to band together to protest acts of racism and other forms of discrimination on their campuses. For too long, higher education professionals have been unresponsive to the calls of the student body in relation to race-based discrimination.
I acknowledge that Ramapo College is not immune to racism and discrimination. I wish to hear your personal experiences, feedback, and suggestions on making our campus a more inclusive and diverse atmosphere for everyone. As President of the College, I believe that community dialogue is especially important when our campus faces difficult issues. Such dialogue is incomplete without the voices of students, faculty, staff, and administration.
Thus, I invite the Ramapo community to participate in a Town Hall meeting on Race and Inclusion on campus this Wednesday, December 2nd from 12:00pm-1:00pm in Friends Hall. Members of my cabinet and I will be in attendance to express our thoughts and feelings about a more diverse and inclusive Ramapo, the initiatives that we have taken within the past few years, and the initiatives that we plan to implement in the near future. The Town Hall will also provide an opportunity to share perspectives regarding inclusion and our campus climate.
I hope to see you there.
Peter P. Mercer
September 11, 2015President's Post #87: State of the College Address
Dear Students, Colleagues and Friends:
On September 9, 2015 I delivered the fall State of the College address. My remarks are summarized below.
I am pleased to share that we are joined today by Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli, Board of Trustees Chair George C. Ruotolo, Jr., Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet, Trustee Gary Montroy, Mahwah Council President John Roth, Trustee Susan Vallario, and Student Trustees Stephen Geerlof and Josef Weikl.
Across North America, there appears to be a pronounced reluctance to say anything positive about a liberal arts education. A case in point – the lead article in this month’s Harper’s Magazine entitled “How College Sold its Soul …and Surrendered to the Market”
The premise of the piece is that there are essentially three potential purposes of a college education:
1. Commercial: Preparing to start a career
2. Cognitive: Learning how to think
3. Moral: Not learning right from wrong but developing the ability to make autonomous choices independent of parents, peers and society.
The author’s conclusion is that American colleges are almost exclusively fixated on the commercial.
A much more positive piece appeared in an editorial in Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper. The author, a Canadian College President (therefore a credible source) named Alan Wildeman, begins as follows:
Who would have thought it would come to this? Academics around the world are having to explain why there is value in studying history, English, philosophy, psychology, creative arts and the other subjects that collectively make up what is referred to as the liberal arts, or the humanities and social sciences. It is the equivalent of masons having to justify mortar and plumbers having to justify pipes.
The exhilaration of the Age of Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries has been replaced by the nervousness of what appears to be an Age of Justification in the 21st century. Modern society’s love of innovative gadgets and apps, pronouncements that youth can now be taught on the Internet (and possibly become high-profile entrepreneurs to boot), and social media outpourings that give falsehoods as much airplay as truths, have created a cocktail of rhetoric for critics who are sure that a liberal arts degree is a worthless investment.
The Age of Enlightenment was about the growth of literacy, and the expanding awareness of diversity and knowledge in cultural, literary and scientific thought. The Age of Justification appears to have as its worrisome centrepiece the belief that the value of something exists only when viewed through a prescribed lens at the current moment.
We all agree that there should be good rationales for public expenditures. But there are problems if, in trying to justify something, we fail to take into account all the relevant information.
He goes on to cite economic data confirming the monetary value of a liberal arts education and notes that anyone visiting universities across Asia will find that liberal arts programs are taking off. That is definitely something I recognized when visiting several Japanese universities in May.
I mention this because I believe it is important for us, as the state of New Jersey’s designated public liberal arts college, to stay the course and not to be misled by media hype that is a common feature of daily life.
As a public college, Ramapo has a public responsibility not only to take account of all relevant information but also to provide it. This gives rise to a higher level of scrutiny and, for that reason, we regularly undergo assessment (both internally and externally) as one way of ensuring that our programs and policies meet the appropriate standard.
As you all know, this has recently been done with respect to our policies on alcohol use, as well as our policies on sexual assault and also with regard to our formal system of laying complaints and adjudicating them.
It is important to realize that the consultants’ reports contain a range of recommendations and these were described in the Ramapo: Advance document. As that document made clear, there are a number of recommendations, particularly in the report from former Attorney General Milgram, that are still under discussion and about which no decision has been made.
These are complex issues with many constituencies and several points of view. Even as President I have little control over them. The reality is that the College as a whole must be accountable. And if Ramapo is not presently organized to provide that accountability, organizational change will have to take place to enable us to do so.
We need the participation of every campus group – faculty, staff and students – in addressing these issues. That in turn requires that we familiarize ourselves with all the facts, that we turn to primary sources for information rather than to sensationalized headlines or idle chatter on social media platforms—that we approach the exercise with open minds.
Somewhere along the line we have tended to lose sight of certain principles and even to ascribe a different set of beliefs to the administration. I therefore want to state those principles at the outset.
1. Sexual assault is never the fault of the victim. Period.
2. Alcohol consumption does not cause sexual assault. Period.
3. There is, however, a strong correlation between alcohol consumption – especially excessive consumption – and sexual assault. Frequently this involves the predatory use of alcohol by the perpetrator and the consumption of alcohol by the perpetrator.
4. Abuse of alcohol poses its own set of issues and problems and these problems have persisted at Ramapo for too long and we have been looking at theme independently for years.
As indicated in the Stafford Report, “It is not unreasonable …that a spike (in reporting) will occur once the existing outreach program regarding reporting and response is strengthened…” And so, if we continue to enhance what we do to train students around the resources available and how to report incidents of assault, we should not be surprised if the number of reports increases.
With respect to holding the perpetrator accountable, we take several measures including interim suspension from campus, a full Title IX Investigation (if found guilty, then expulsion) and compliance with a criminal investigation at the victim’s request.
With respect to supporting the victim, we provide ongoing support services from Health and Counseling Services and HealingSpace, ongoing communication with the Title IX Coordinator, full institutional compliance with the prosecutor’s office and/or police should criminal charges be pursued, and the possible issuance of a no contact order against the perpetrator.
I’d like to also take this time to clarify the consultant recommendations we have accepted that are aimed at thwarting a campus culture of violence, those we have not accepted, and those that require deliberation and as such we have not yet taken action on.
Recommendations we have accepted:
- A new Title IX Infrastructure featuring:
- robust sexual assault prevention and awareness activities for faculty, staff, students, and peer leaders. I’d like to describe only some of that training now:
- Resident Assistant Training: On August 25th RA’s completed a lengthy mandatory training presented by Title IX Coordinator Kat McGee which provided a comprehensive overview of Title IX, support/medical/reporting options for survivors, and RA responsibilities for reporting all sexual assault disclosures. RA’s also received a follow up communication detailing the reporting process they were trained on. All Office of Residence Life staff also received this communication including professional staff/administrators.
- Faculty Training: 75+ faculty attended a workshop at the May 20th Faculty Conference entitled “The First Line of Response: Student Disclosure of Sexual Assault.” The workshop included training from Gina Giordano, the Outreach Coordinator at the healingSPACE sexual violence resource center located in Bergen County. 19 faculty members participated in a Title IX training at the New Faculty Orientation on August 18th. Video of this training will soon be linked to on the Faculty Resource Center website. President Emma Rainforth sent the Faculty Assembly a welcome back email on August 30th which included a sample of an optional syllabus statement, as well as information on the NJ Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights. Both of these documents are also on the Faculty Assembly website. The syllabus statement discusses the role of faculty as Responsible Employees who must report sexual assault to the Title IX Coordinator within 24 hours.
- Staff Training: Last spring all staff were required to complete the online WeComply Title IX training program. The training helped complement the College’s obligations under the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) and Campus Sexual Violence Act (Campus SaVE); wherein the College is required to offer primary prevention training to employees before July 1.
- Additional Student Leader Training: On August 28th 250 student leaders including the SGA, FYS Peer Facilitators, Center for Student Involvement student staff, club, and fraternity/sorority leaders participated in a Title IX training on sexual assault reporting requirements and a separate It’s On Us workshop. All First Year Seminar classes are doing a bystander intervention follow-up based on It’s On Us the week of 9/14. All incoming EOF students were trained on Title IX this summer during a Healthy Love Party presented by the Women’s Center.
- Public Safety Training: All Public Safety officers have received training over the summer in the areas of Clery, Title IX and VAWA as well as instruction on Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Harassment, Intimate Partner Violence, and handling of the survivor.
To continue with the recommendations we have accepted and other initiatives we have taken:
- The establishment of a pool of investigators;
- The identification and training of four deputy Title IX Coordinators;
- A revised charge to the Title IX Committee which will focus on thwarting a campus culture of violence and will engage faculty, staff, and students in that work;
- I continue to meet with finalists for the Director of Affirmative Action and Workplace Compliance/Title IX Coordinator position. I’d like to thank the search committee, under the leadership of John Woods, Ombudsman, for the expediency and thoroughness with which they have conducted the search;
- Enhancing or expanding healthy gender identity workshops, bystander intervention trainings, and Rape Aggression Defense courses;
- The creation of a centralized web site for assault information and resources;
- The adoption of a mobile anonymous reporting system as a complement to the Good Samaritan Policy:
- The Good Samaritan Policy exists so that students will do the right thing and seek medical attention for themselves or others without the fear of disciplinary outcomes.
- The incident does not become recorded on the student’s official disciplinary record in the Office of Student Conduct.
- Amnesty, under the Good Samaritan Policy, has been granted in 100% of the incidents when a student has sought medical attention for themselves or another student who was intoxicated.
- The Good Samaritan Policy is applied after an incident has been reviewed in the Office of Student Conduct. College personnel responding to an incident will follow all protocols on the scene, including documentation of the incident and of those involved.
- The Good Samaritan Policy applies to students who seek medical attention for themselves or students seeking help for another intoxicated individual. Medical attention includes an assessment by first-responders.
- Other violations of the Code of Conduct documented, including but not limited to: the threat of harm to self/others, damage to College property, violations of the College Hazing Policy or sexual victimization may be referred to the Office of Student Conduct for review and possible disciplinary action or referrals to the Center for Health and Counseling Services. In other words, other Code of Conduct violations associated with the incident may not be granted amnesty.
- I’d also like to take this opportunity to share that Chief Batelli, at our meeting with Student Leaders last week, advised that the Township of Mahwah has immunity laws which find that an underage person and one or two other persons shall be immune from prosecution if the underage person called 911 and reported another underage person in need of medical assistance due to alcohol consumption; a similar law is in place for a person who, in good faith, seeks medical assistance for someone experiencing a drug overdose.
- The adoption of a new policy on sexual misconduct for implementation in spring 2016 and at the same time the elimination of disciplinary board hearings for sexual misconduct cases.
Let me be exceedingly clear. Rape is never the fault of the victim.
The College has been criticized by some for addressing sexual assault by solely buckling down on our alcohol policies. As I hope I made very clear just moments ago, this is not the case.
We are holding perpetrators accountable. We are supporting the victims. And we are investing significant time and resources to overcome a campus culture of violence.
Let me also share though why the conversation on assault at Ramapo is incomplete if alcohol consumption is not also discussed.
Michael Kimmel, a distinguished professor of sociology at Stony Brook University, recently wrote a piece in The Atlantic in which he asserted that certain structural factors appear to make rape especially prevalent on some college campuses. Kimmel wrote, “…aforementioned research on athletics and fraternities suggests, (sexual assault) likely happens the most on residential college campuses where there are lots of people of the same age going to alcohol-soaked parties in all-male residences with no official administrative oversight…”
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine found that alcohol consumption by the perpetrator and/or the victim often precedes sexual assaults among young people in the UK.
In a 2004 study published in Aggression and Violent Behavior, researchers reported that:
- “A number of personality traits, attitudes, and past experiences have been systematically linked to sexual assault perpetration, including beliefs about alcohol and heavy drinking. In contrast, only a few experiences have been significantly related to sexual assault victimization,” and the the research finds, in part, that:
- “The cues that usually inhibit sexually aggressive behavior, such as a concern about future consequences, sense of morality, or empathy for the victim, are likely to be less salient than feelings of anger, frustration, sexual arousal, and entitlement, especially among men who are predisposed to being sexually aggressive. Thus, when intoxicated, men who are predisposed to being sexually aggressive may be more likely to act on their desires;”
- “Men who have committed sexual assault are more likely than other men to endorse traditional stereotypes about male dominance and gender roles (e.g., men being responsible for initiating sex and women for setting the limits), rape myths (e.g., women say no when they mean yes and enjoy forced sex), adversarial beliefs about relationships between men and women (e.g., “all’s fair in love and war”), hostile attitudes toward women, and the acceptability of using force in interpersonal relationships;” and
- correlational findings suggest that “men who believe that alcohol increases sexual arousal may feel more comfortable forcing sex when drinking because they can tell themselves that it was the alcohol that made them act that way and that the woman was also sexually aroused.”
Further, divorcing alcohol consumption from the discussion on sexual assault, the issue has merited our attention for too long. Over the years, Ramapo has experienced multiple transports to hospital for severe intoxication, criminal mischief perpetrated on campus by those intoxicated, and a disturbing number of incidences in which students are not exhibiting care for one another in these situations. We are not alone as a campus in having these challenges, but that is not a license for us to condone their persistence by inaction. Here are some of the things that we are doing:
- Expanding RA rounds and continuing to look at the role of the RA.
- Hiring additional public safety officers to carry out an ambitious community policing plan and increasing number of officers on patrol on historically active nights; this includes:
- Public Safety is paying closer to attention to activity in public spaces. If students in groups have open containers or cups, the officers will approach the group and speak with them, advising them of the policies and note the laws prohibiting such.
- Once groups start to build in size, officers monitor for noise levels. In all cases, the group is asked to move along if they become loud. Public Safety’s response to inside group policies remains the same: they respond to complaints, overcrowding and/or alcohol present.
- Officers are asking students as they come into the Village Area to show their College ID, making sure we have RCNJ students in the area, or if a visitor, that they have a Guest Pass. This validation is a practice in place in our other residences.
- Mahwah PD’s presence on campus, while helpful and necessary at this time, does not reflect the culture of communal accountability and care for others that I hope, as a college, we can nurture without an ever present armed police force; this is hopefully a short –term measure.
- Enhanced coordination/regular meetings between Student Life, Res. Life, Student Conduct, Public Safety, and the Center for Health and Counseling as well as planned meetings with Mahwah PD including weekly meetings with College representatives of these areas and a planned set of scheduled debriefings with Mahwah Police.
- A revised charge to the President’s Alcohol and Other Drug Task Force which includes these entities and members of the local business and social services communities.
- A second meeting with Student Leaders on September 23 at 3:30pm in Friends Hall.
- Support of a student-led revival of the off campus shuttle program. This program was not discontinued by the College. Last year, my office communicated to the then SGA leadership that the College has protocols for participating restaurants/pubs and that the owners or managers of those establishments must first meet with campus officials face to face to review and endorse the protocols. Last year, one participating establishment lost its shuttle privileges due to a violation of campus protocols. Other establishments discontinued their shuttles arguing that (1) either the shuttle was not lucrative or (2) they were dissatisfied with the behavior of our students. Students may revive this program by contacting local establishments; my office will provide students with the shuttle protocols to inform that outreach.
Here are some of the recommendations we have not accepted:
- Altering the physical space or wet designation of qualified Village apartments;
- Taking actions to convert to a dry campus; or
- Issuing a default ban on alumni from attending student residential gatherings.
And finally there are recommendations that still require deliberation and that we have not yet taken any action on; they include:
- Requiring students to register parties;
- Rescinding the “in the presence of alcohol” rule; and
- Replacing fines with community service.
Effective Sept. 1, Public Safety moved to the Division of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs to foster synergies and alignment with the student experience and campus safety.
David Nast has been appointed Acting Dean of Students while Dean Van Der Wall is on leave.
The Vice President of Administration Finance Search Committee is now evaluating finalists.
Welcome to Harold Crocker, Director of Athletics, Nicole Morgan Agard, Director of Employee Relations, Shawn Oneill, Director of Financial Aid, Sara Gazillo, Executive Assistant in my office, and Marie Ciampi, Secretarial Assistant in my office. Brittany Goldstein will continue to serve as Chief of Staff but has also taken on the role of Board Liaison
In the summer, I met with Professors Donna Crawley and Eric Karlin and Board Chair George Ruotolo to discuss matters of shared governance. These meetings will continue and should foster improvement in the College’s vertical and horizontal communications.
A few weeks ago the College received some initial feedback on our Periodic Review Report from peer reviewers. That feedback was largely positive and attests to the College’s hard work and to the vitality of the institution more generally. The College has responded to that initial review and awaits the Commission’s decision in late November.
GE Task Force
The General Education Task Force held an open forum last Wednesday to discuss the results of the survey of faculty that the Task Force conducted this summer. The survey gathered information on individual parts of the proposed new general education. To be announced are two more forums to continue discussions and a final vote on a revised proposal for a new general education. All should take place this fall. I’d like to acknowledge the work of Ed Shannon and his colleagues on this front. They have undertaken a transformational task.
Class Schedule Task Force
The Schedule Task Force will hold its first meeting after the spring 2016 schedule of classes has been finalized (by the end of this month). The Task Force will examine what worked and what did not did not work as the spring schedule was populated with actual classes. At this time, the Deans are still moving proposed classes out of over-subscribed time slots into less populated slots.
College Affordability Study Commission
There has been much attention lately to affordability and higher education and rightly so. We must do better. Some presidential hopefuls have taken to the road with their plans. Hillary Clinton outlined a plan in which states would receive federal money to eliminate the need of some students to borrow to pay for tuition. Bernie Sanders outlined a plan in which states would receive money from the federal government to eliminate tuition at public colleges and universities.
College affordability is a national issue and I am pleased to be part of a working group aimed at generating local solutions. The biggest problem in New Jersey is that the state has no money. I was appointed as a representative of the NJ Association of State College and University Presidents to the Governor’s College Affordability Study Commission. The Commission has met monthly since the spring. Its meetings are public and take place in the statehouse.
We have received testimony form the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, the Council of County Colleges, members of the public, the state’s independent colleges, and others. NJASCU, student leaders, Financial Aid professionals, EOF professionals, the Secretary of Higher Education, and others have also been invited to provide testimony in 15-16. We are focusing on new strategies that will increase affordability and expedite time to completion. For example, we are considering a proposal that would revise state law to permit colleges and universities to deliver some of the junior and senior year of high school (much like the vocational schools do).
It is no surprise that many of the conversations also revolve around cultivating financial literacy among students and their families. The next Commission meeting is scheduled for September 16 and will be hosted at Union County College. Anna Farneski, in Government Relations, is working with student leaders to coordinate transportation to and from our campus to the hearing that day.
Substance Free Housing
In other Trenton news, in August, Governor Christie signed a new bill into law that calls for colleges, who have more than 25% of their student population living on campus, to offer a sober housing option for students. That’s us.
Sober housing, otherwise known as recovery housing, is an initiative that Ramapo will have fully in place within the next four years. Living with others who have the same shared purpose for sobriety helps those in recovery pursue their goal of a college degree. Counseling Services is dedicating the work of their Substance Abuse Counselor and Graduate Assistant toward designing recovery housing that will serve as a support network for Ramapo students who are in the process of overcoming addiction.
While there are long terms goals for a full program implementation to be in place within four years, there are some tangible efforts taking place right now that Ramapo prides itself in already having developed. For example, this fall will be our 3rd year offering substance-free housing. The addition of recovery housing, which will include Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, group counseling, and study and social activities, will provide students with a safe space within Ramapo College where they can pursue their education without sacrificing their recovery.
Gates Grant/Washington Monthly/US News/Best Practice/Class of 2019
As I already mentioned. Addressing College affordability cannot be approached without also addressing completion. On both of these fronts, I am pleased to share that Ramapo has recently received national recognition. We are the recipients of a Gates Foundation Grant, authored by Provost Barnett, VP Romano and Director of Student Success Joe Connell in recognition of our advisement practices, we were recognized by Washington Monthly as a “Best Bang for the Buck College” and we’ve seen our ranking increase in US News and World Report. Ramapo was selected as 1 of only 24 institutions nationally, and the only in New Jersey, to receive an Integrated Planning and Advising Services (IPAS) grant in the amount of $225,000 over four years from EDUCAUSE.
Our proposal was praised for amply demonstrating a “college-wide commitment to student success that promotes shared ownership for educational progress among students, faculty, and staff through holistic information and services that contribute to credential attainment, especially among disadvantaged students.” The grant, administered through EDUCAUSE, is funded through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.
In addition, last month we were recognized by Washington Monthly as 13th in the category “Best Bang for the Buck Colleges in the Northeast” of the publication’s 2015 College Guide and Rankings. This is the second year that Ramapo has been recognized, ranking 89th overall in 2014. Washington Monthly’s rankings rate institutions based on three criteria: social mobility, research and civic engagement. The magazine also rates colleges that are doing the best job of helping non-wealthy students attain marketable degrees at affordable prices. The “Best Bang for the Buck” category lists colleges that are the best value for your money based on “net” (not sticker) price, how well they do graduating the students they admit, and whether those students go on to earn at least enough to pay off their loans.
We also improved in the rankings by US News and World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges”. We were again named among the top schools in the Best Regional Universities, North category. Of the 42 public colleges and universities ranked, Ramapo College was ranked number 5, increasing one position over last year.
The College, and specifically the leadership of Board Chair George Ruotolo, was also highlighted in the 2015 Best Practices issue of Commerce Magazine for its “robust and ongoing board development program.”
We are also pleased to report that enrollment has again met its undergraduate target. Ramapo received 7,108 applications; 6% more than last year for the class of 2019. Our incoming first year student class is currently at 947,104% of its target. The class represents 20 of the 21 New Jersey counties as well as 10 different states and 7 different countries.
Professional Staff Association
This semester the PSA is teaming up with Professor Stephen Larson to conduct three personal finance lectures for our PSA members throughout the Fall semester – Retirement Planning for all ages, Purchasing/ refinancing a home for all ages, personal finance budgeting for all ages. These sessions will take place during lunch hours, and colleagues are encouraged to bring their lunch.
You may have read in the Daily Digest recently that thanks to the advocacy of the PSA, faculty, staff, and retirees may now audit regularly scheduled undergraduate courses and receive a waiver of tuition. Registration is on a space available basis; employees are responsible for obtaining any necessary prerequisite or restriction waivers from the faculty member prior to registration; seeking supervisory approval, and paying required fees at the time of registration. The registration date for the fall 2015 semester is today.
New SGA Leadership
I have had the occasion to come to know SGA President Alec Weissman and Vice President Erin McKenna (please stand) and I look forward to working with them throughout the year.
2015 Scholars Day (Post Script)
Professor Eric Karlin reports that the third annual “Scholar’s Day: Celebration of Student Creativity and Scholarship” was held on Wednesday, April 29, 2015. The event is an opportunity for the entire college community to celebrate the creative and scholarly achievements of our upper level students from across the entire academic environment of the college. It is juried, with each poster being recommended by the convening group associated with the project.
An exciting new dimension added this year to the event was the creation of an online archive housing digital images of many of the posters that were presented . As the posters can be viewed long after the date of presentation, both current and potential students can easily see and study the accomplishments of Ramapo College students.
Committee on Campus Sustainability
Ramapo College is deeply committed to sustainability action on four fronts: across our campus through the President’s Committee on Campus Sustainability (PCCS), within our student body through student clubs such as 1-STEP and Enactus, with our surrounding communities through our Center for Sustainability (CfS), as well as across the State of New Jersey through the New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability (NJHEPS).
Our efforts encompass: teaching sustainability principles and actions to our students, implementing sustainability practices across all campus operations, advising neighboring communities on ways of becoming more sustainable, and advocating for sustainability policies and collaborations with other educational institutions across the state.
Our faculty, our students, our staff all work on diverse aspects of the urgent need to transform society. From curriculum to facilities operations, from student engagement to consulting work, from public events to conferences, we engage with our world in our efforts to become exemplary in sustainability.
Sustainability is integral to our Mission, and is measurably a part of our Strategic Plan. We are signatories to the American College and University College Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), and our students support our membership with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).
We are in the process of installing 5 Megawatts of solar panels and all new construction is committed to green building practices. For more information on the Committee’s activities, contact Professor Ashwani Vasishth.
Outdoor Performance Series and College Commons
My office will launch an outdoor performance series this fall to feature, based on interested parties, spoken word, acoustical performances, poetry, theater, and/or performance art. The series will also serve as a countdown to the grand opening of the College Commons which will feature a dedicated space for student and faculty presentations.
If we adhere to the proposed schedule, and hopefully (as we have on other projects) not have to deal with delays due to bid protests, we should be able to bid, award, construct, equip, furnish and finally occupy the renovated facility by the end of April 2016.
How many of you have visited the new Atrium area? Pretty great, no? The proposed construction schedule for the Atrium area follows two (2) overlapping phases – interior renovations followed closely by building expansions at the north and east elevations of the Student Center. Phase I construction was from April 2015 through the end of August 2015 and yielded the significant changes to seating and grab and go service you can now enjoy. Phase II expansion will take place through to December 2015.
The Department of Community Affairs (DCA) has released plans and specifications for construction. The scope of work calls for parking lot canopies, roof-mounted and ground-mounted panels. We understand that the private partner has lined up contractors and put in place the required Project Labor Agreement (PLA).
Despite having approved plans for the project by Rockland Electric earlier, the utility is now re-visiting the project and conducting a new impact study. See copy of e-mail message, attached. This unforeseen change is holding up the start of construction. If all goes well, we should expect to see supplies and equipment on site in October, and weather permitting, concurrent work taking place for foundations, roof and ground mounts. As a side note, the College has already received $2.2 million from the private partner that paid for the recent re-roofing of academic and other campus buildings, and once the system is operational, it will pay $.105/kilowatt hour for the electricity generated, a most favorable rate.
Student, Faculty, Staff and Program Achievements
In addition to these news items, the College also has much to celebrate with regard to student, faculty, staff and program achievements. They are summarized here.
Question & Answer
September 1, 2015President's Post #86: Follow-Up to Timely Warning Notice
Dear Colleagues, Students, and Friends:
It saddens and angers me that today we had to share information about a sexual assault reported early this morning.
Earlier today many of you received this Timely Warning Notification:
In the early morning hours of Tuesday, September 1, 2015 a female student reported to the Mahwah Police Department that she was the victim of a sexual assault on campus.
The victim reported that the sexual assault occurred in the Overlook Residence Hall. The suspect is a student resident of Overlook Hall who met the victim on campus.
The suspect has been identified, interim suspended, and removed from campus. The matter is presently under investigation.
This incident is all the more troubling given the efforts the College has undertaken in implementing Ramapo: Advance, the College’s plan to enhance campus safety particularly around the subjects of sexual assault, consent, bystander intervention, and alcohol abuse. It is inclusive of recommendations from former New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram and Stafford & Associates, a prominent national campus safety firm. Much work has been done but more remains. As indicated in the Stafford Report, “It is not unreasonable …that a spike (in reporting) will occur once the existing outreach program regarding reporting and response is strengthened…”
As part of Welcome Week, incoming students yesterday and today attended a bystander intervention training called Green Dot. The College devotes time and resources to Green Dot so that students and others are empowered to promote a safe environment for everyone. We are thankful that friends of last night’s victim came forward and, following those Green Dot protocols, sought help on her behalf.
Rape is never the fault of the victim. Too many times, though, predators use alcohol as a weapon to overpower victims.
Distressingly, this morning the Mahwah Police Department was summoned to campus to respond to several instances of intoxicated students, all of whom turned out to be underage. We have been exceedingly clear in our expectations regarding alcohol use and abuse on this campus, and still it appears that some have utterly disregarded these messages.
As a result, today I:
• Met with Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli at my request. Beginning this evening, Mahwah Police officers will begin patrolling our campus with the express prospect of charging underage drinkers. This is a difficult step for me but one necessitated out of continued noncompliance by a reckless, relative few;
• Addressed the assault with first year and transfer students at Opening Convocation;
• Established an agreement with NJ Lead to augment our existing drug and alcohol education programs;
• Reached out to the Student Government Association President to outline the content of a discussion I intend to have with student leaders tomorrow; and
• Met at length with the Chair of the Board of Trustees concerning these issues.
These initiatives, in addition to the ongoing implementation of Ramapo: Advance are our highest priority. As members of Ramapo College, we have a shared responsibility to foster a safe and supportive environment for everyone. As the parent of a son and a daughter, as your President, and also as a member of this community, I consider this responsibility to be preeminent.
Ramapo College urges anyone who believes he/she has been the victim of sexual assault to immediately report the incident. Students may report the offense to the Public Safety Department (including anonymous reporting), the Title IX Coordinator or the Mahwah Police Department.
All options available to students for reporting an incident are listed on www.ramapo.edu/publicsafety/report-an-incident. Any student in need of immediate assistance should call Counseling Services at 201-684-7522 during regular business hours (8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday – Friday). After hours, please call Public Safety at 201-684-6666 to contact an emergency on-call counselor.
August 10, 2015President's Post #85: Ramapo: Advance
In advance of the fall ‘15 semester I write to share with you the College’s progress toward preventing sexual assault on our campus.
You may recall that in November 2014 our campus was rocked when two male students were charged with sexually assaulting a female student and three additional students were charged with invasion of privacy and failure to render aid. Months later, these allegations continue to be deeply distressing, but I remain confident that they are not reflective of our students.
The safety of our students is our paramount concern. Since November 2014, the College has engaged in a wealth of student/faculty/staff-related programs, trainings and policy reforms. In addition, we commissioned two independent reports aimed at strengthening our sexual assault prevention and education policies and practices. The first report was produced by D. Stafford & Associates, a professional consulting firm specializing in campus safety, security, and law enforcement issues on college campuses. The second report was produced by former New Jersey State Attorney General Anne Milgram.
The reports are substantive in many respects. The reports praise Ramapo’s college-wide commitment to providing a safe campus, they note areas in need of improvement, and they simultaneously establish, through both local and national contexts, the critical role that colleges and universities play in the abolition of sexual assault. Ramapo has begun implementation of a detailed action plan that is the product of both reports. That plan, Ramapo: Advance, is available at www.ramapo.edu/advance.
At Ramapo, from the day our students attend orientation until they graduate, we work to establish expected behavior through our programs, our instruction, and our Student Code of Conduct. Ramapo: Advance is, indeed, an ambitious plan that promotes our values and strengthens our shared commitment to human dignity, to social justice, and to one another.
I encourage you to review and discuss Ramapo: Advance with your colleagues and peers.
Thank you for your consideration.
Peter P. Mercer, President
July 9, 2015President's Post #84: Title IX Summit
Dear Colleagues, Friends, and Students:
The enclosed photo is of Ramapo College student Grace Maute and Brooke Jamison, Graduate Assistant in the College’s Women’s Center.
I am pleased to share that Grace and Brooke co-presented at the 2015 Title IX Summit at Rowan University on Monday, June 15. Their workshop, “Partners in Prevention: Collaborative Programming Across Student Affairs and Academic Affairs,” detailed how Title IX requires ongoing prevention and awareness campaigns beyond the mandatory new student education program.
Grace and Brooke further provided attendees with strategies focused on how to reach the broader student population. They highlighted Ramapo’s approach as well which is to partner across a variety of offices within Student Affairs and to engage faculty for a multifaceted prevention.
Efforts like those of Grace and Brooke both help move us forward as an institution and instill in all of us a sense of pride.
Peter P. Mercer President