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President's Post #108: State Budget and Higher Education

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends,

Barbara Harmon-Francis, EOF Director, testifies before the legislature

With every budget cycle comes a tug of war among competing priorities. The threat and, often times, the reality of diminishing resources pushes us to reexamine our investments, expenses, and our values. We see this play out annually at the federal, state, and institutional level.

The proposed federal budget includes significant cuts and/or the elimination of funding for programs such as:

  • Pell Grants: Provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate and certain post-baccalaureate students to promote access to post-secondary education.
  • Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants: A grant for undergraduate students with exceptional financial need.
  • Federal Work Study: Provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to help pay education expenses.
  • TRIO: A set of federally-funded college opportunity programs that support students from disadvantaged backgrounds. TRIO includes programs such as Upward Bound and Student Support Services.
  • GEAR UP: A competitive grant program of the U.S. Department of Education that increases the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education by providing States and local community-education partnerships six-to-seven year grants to offer support services to high-poverty, middle and high schools.

EOF student Jaime Velazquez testified before the legislature.

To echo a statement put forward by the American Council on Education, “Federal programs for college students date back to World War II, and have enjoyed strong bipartisan support ever since.” These are programs that provide countless Ramapo College students with access to higher education and critical resources to foster their academic success.

RCNJ faculty, staff and students in attendance at the State budget hearing.

While the State of New Jersey’s proposed budget calls for student financial awards at all levels of need to increase 2 percent over Fiscal Year 2017, the Educational Opportunity Fund’s grants and scholarships, would be cut by 8.4 percent.

Members of Ramapo College testified before the New Jersey Senate and Assembly Budget Committees.

Testimony by Karlito A. Almeda

Testimony by Stephan Lally and Jaime Velazquez

Testimony by Barbara Harmon-Francis

Their testimony focused on restoring funding to public higher education, and their personal narratives, are perhaps more compelling than any statistical data I could present here. I encourage you to read their testimony and to consider how you too might advocate for public education nationally and/or locally.

Peter P. Mercer, President

Note: For guidance on your advocacy efforts, I encourage you to contact the Student Government Association, my office, or the Civic and Community Engagement Center.

Categories: Uncategorized

President's Post #107: Principles for Immigrant Students

Dear Students and Colleagues,

On February 22, 2017 the Student Government Association (SGA) hosted a forum focused on discussing the role of the College as a “sanctuary” in the lives of our immigrant students.

I was pleased to support the SGA event as both a participant and an attendee. I joined with students, administrators, staff, and faculty to hear a diversity of perspectives shared in what I would characterize as a largely respectful and thoughtful discussion.

Borne from that discussion and subsequent exchanges with my office, the Student Government Association, and others, the SGA passed legislation on March 1, 2017 outlining “Principles Related to Immigration and Undocumented Students at Ramapo College.”

These principles have my full support and I would like to commend the Student Government Association, Senator Stephan Lally in particular, on facilitating a highly productive and iterative exchange of ideas. The SGA’s legislation is a testament to what can be achieved when inclusivity, constructive criticism, and collaboration are central in difficult dialogues.

I would also like to share these DACA related resources developed, in part, by the College’  Faculty Resource Center.

The SGA’s Legislation and the associated Principles are noted here in full text:

Whereas: The Student Government Association (SGA) of Ramapo College of New Jersey is the official persistent voice of the student body and the liaison body to the Faculty, Staff, Administration, the Board of Trustees, and the Board of Governors of Ramapo College; and

Whereas: Members of the student body, faculty, and staff expressed their views regarding Ramapo College becoming or not becoming a “sanctuary campus” in a Student Government Association hosted forum; and

Whereas: The Student Government Association acknowledges that there remains no statutory or legal definition for “sanctuary campus” and, as such, the term is subject to broad variation in meaning and political association; and

Whereas: The Student Government Association has endeavored to identify principles related to immigration and undocumented students at Ramapo College; and

Whereas: As Chief Executive Officer, the College President is responsible, in pertinent part, for ensuring the safety of all students and has welcomed and engaged in dialogue with the Student Government Association and others on this front; now

Therefore Be It Resolved: The Student Government Association recommends to the College President the administration’s adoption of the principles set forth by the Student Government Association on matters related to immigration and undocumented students at Ramapo College.

Article I.
Principles Related to Immigration and Undocumented Students at Ramapo College:
a. The College refuses the voluntary sending, receiving, maintaining, or exchanging with any Federal, State, or local government entity information regarding the citizenship or immigration status of any member of Ramapo College;
b. The College refuses officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement physical access to all land owned or controlled by The College to the fullest extent allowable under the law;
c. The College prohibits any employee of The College from inquiring about the immigration status of any individual on campus;
d. The College does not use e-verify;
e. The College prohibits housing discrimination based on immigration status;
f. The College will continue to publicly support undocumented and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students’ equal access to in-state tuition, financial aid, and scholarships, and The College will continue to publicly support the continuation of the DACA program.

Article II.
The College publicly advertises that student counseling services are available on a strictly confidential basis and students who have concerns about their legal status should solicit input and advice from the Roukema Center for International Education to ensure their academic success at Ramapo College.

Article III.
The College will: Contact other schools in the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities (NJASCU) to demonstrate support for a formal statement that illustrates the legal protections NJASCU institutions provide their students and staff, work with the Student Government Association to author a position statement noting these principles and, The College will continue to work with its peer institutions to raise awareness around this critical issue.

Peter P. Mercer

Categories: Uncategorized

President's Post #106: State of the College Address February 2017

On February 8, 2017, President Mercer delivered his State of the College Address. Below is a summary of that address.

The world appears as a different place than when we last met. It is as if everything has been turned upside down. America suddenly seems divided into two solitary groups: the first made up of avid supporters of the new Administration and its ideas for change, and the second comprised of equally ardent opponents.

Much has already been written about why this occurred and I do not intend to add my conjecture to the pile. My obligation— our obligation – is to move forward. In that respect, I am heartened. Studies have shown that whereas only 25% of the population is satisfied with the direction the country is going, a full 60% are satisfied with the state of affairs in their own communities.

Our best hope for the future lies in devoting our best energies to the unique community that is Ramapo College. Without that devotion, we run the risk of becoming less competitive at a time when the underlying forces are marshaling against us. Now is the time to re-assert the primary virtues of a Liberal Arts education and Ramapo College’s fundamental commitment to our students.

I believe we should view this as a tremendous opportunity. People of character often tend to thrive in the face of diversity.

This morning I welcomed the President (Mr. Samuel Amoako-Kusi) and the Secretary (Ms. Athina Osei Kyeremateng) of the Student Representative Council of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana. Samuel and Athina are here with us in the audience today. During their visit this month, they will gain insights into the student governance structure at Ramapo College, as well as the issues present in U.S. Higher Education today and indeed there are issues.

With the recent confirmation of Elizabeth Devos as Secretary of Education there is reason for us in public education to be considered and cautious. Some of us may recall years ago when the Spellings Commission issued its report and the spirit of deregulation that followed.

 Time will tell how the Department of Education will address Title IX and other relevant issues in the coming years, but regardless of its future positions, the College will continue to advance campus safety in all of its forms. Some recent accomplishments on this front include:

  • the establishment of an on campus Office for Violence Prevention to be led by a Prevention Education Coordinator and that search is currently underway;
  • the completion of Campus Security Authority training;
  • new student participation in SCREAM theater, a nationally recognized program that educates students about sexual violence, and in  an Affirmative Consent workshop, “Zero Shades of Gray”
  • The ongoing training of Title IX investigators

With respect to federal financial aid and student loan debt, the future of these programs and policies is also in question. What we do know is that Jerry Falwell, president of Liberty University, who was recently appointed to the Federal Task Force on Higher Education Policy has described the current regulatory environment of our sector as “over-reaching.”

So what does deregulation, limited access, and a high level interest in an uninformed citizenry mean for Ramapo College?

  • It means angst and discomfort for many much of the time.
  • It suggests that as educators and students we must be impeccable in how we articulate our opinions, advocate our strengths, and model compassion and good citizenship.
    • For example, several student groups have organized a Unity Rally for tomorrow and it is my hope that their demonstration will bring people together to, in their words, “learn and embrace different cultures” and I would add, different perspectives. POST SCRIPT NOTE: Due to inclement weather, the Unity Rally was rescheduled for February 16 at 6pm.
  • It represents increased competition for students, faculty, and staff.
  • It requires us, as a College, to do everything we can to ensure the quality of the Ramapo experience is superb. From the courtesy with which we answer our phones to the excellence with which we deliver our courses, there is no room for even marginal error any longer. 

Much has been talked about recently regarding sanctuary cities and sanctuary campuses. I wish to reiterate the sentiment expressed in my earlier messages regarding President Trump’s Executive Order:

  • I’d like to assure our students that before the College will release personally identifiable information connected to your education records, a judicial order or a lawfully issued subpoena is required.
  • Colleges and universities are considered “sensitive locations” under federal immigration policy, and federal immigration officials generally do not take enforcement actions on campus.
  • Declaring ourselves a sanctuary campus, which while it is a term not formally defined, could place us at risk of losing federal funding and, while we have a robust endowment, it is by no means sufficient to offset the resources our students receive from the federal government. For example, approximately 30% of our students receive the federal Pell Grant. In addition, a substantial number of our students participate in the Perkins loan program, Stafford loan program, and federal work study program.

Outside of officially declaring ourselves a sanctuary campus, there are other initiatives we engage in to reassure our students and one another. All stakeholders should know that Public Safety will not inquire nor record the immigration status of students or other persons; and immigration status has never been and will never be a factor in student housing or enrollment decisions.

On the Collective Bargaining front, I host monthly meetings with the representatives of AFT, CWA, and IFPTE. Occurring simultaneously but separately from those meetings, the process of negotiations indeed grinds slowly, but IFPTE has settled, AFT is at the table, and CWA is awaiting a court ruling regarding steps.

Some positive takeaways from those meetings include:

  • Voiced appreciation for a perceived shift in HR’s approach to discipline as a development opportunity.
  • The training and development position is posted and the committee is established, it includes: Jill Brown, John Thompson, Anthony Casilli, Deb Schultes, and Rosa Diaz Mulryan.
  • Employees have expressed interest in an on campus child care center. We will explore such a venture but I caution upfront that such business ventures can be very cost prohibitive.
  • Employees have also expressed interest in expanding our dependent waivers program for undergraduate instruction. We will also explore such an expansion.

We are also re-looking at the issue of releasing a less redacted version of the Grant Thornton report as requested by the unions, however, it is unlikely that doing so will occur in a way that is satisfactory to many of you.

The values of a healthy workplace include increased productivity and morale, and reduced absenteeism and healthcare costs. I acknowledge that employee wellness is pivotal particularly during times of stress:

  • The first annual “Spring Into Wellness” event will take place on March 29 in the Bradley Center. Tables and staff from offices all over campus will provide wellness resources and information to students and employees.
  • The Krame Center offers free weekly meditation for students and employees: Mondays and Thursdays at 1:10pm, and Wednesdays at 5:30pm.
    • The Krame Center also recently announced its partnership with the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts. For those of you who may be curious about the Mindful fellows program please speak to a fellow, faculty members from all of our schools have completed the program. If any of them are here today, please stand: Maisha Amen, Amanda Beecher, Alejandra Bozzolasco, Sasha Bogdanowich, Julie Fitzgerald, Mark Howenstein, Kelly Dolak, Ann Lepore, Seon Mi Kim, Eva Ogens, Ed Shannon, Shridevi Shivarajan, Mary Starke, Paula Straile-Costa, Malavika Sundararajan, Terra Vandergraw, and Ashwani Vasishth.
  • Many of us belong to a gym or we occasionally pay to take yoga, swim, spin, pilates, or Zumba classes. I am pleased to announce that the College will issue free Bradley Center memberships for faculty and staff. The free memberships are a non-taxable benefit and will go in to effect on July 1 of this year and will be made available to all full-time and part-time employees and retirees.

With respect to our financial health, the College was recently reassessed by Standard & Poor’s and earned an A rating with a positive outlook.   Factors supporting the ‘A’ rating include:

  • good quality of students and historically stable enrollment
  • consistent conservative budgeting and financial planning practices; and
  • excellent adjusted unrestricted net assets as a percentage of adjusted operating expenses.

In contrast, the agency also reassessed the state of New Jersey and bestowed upon it an A- rating with a negative outlook.

Purchasing successfully negotiated a competitive three year contract extension with Follett for management of the college bookstore. We look forward to our continued relationship with Teri King and her Follett colleagues.

An RFP for dining services management was recently issued, responses are in hand and will be reviewed over the next few weeks. Our relationship with Sodexo is one that many of us value greatly but the College must do its due diligence to ensure that our contract for food service remains competitive and cutting edge.

ITS has partnered with departments across the College on a series of implementations including the integration of Slate Admissions application and Ellucian Banner Admissions.  In its first year, the Office of Admissions has saved approximately 112,000 pieces of paper so far by processing applications electronically via the Slate software. By having our internal ITS talent lead and/or support these integrations and implementations, the College has saved a significant amount of money that might otherwise go to external third parties.

The Center for Innovative and Professional Learning is required to generate net revenue. One strategy it is pursuing to do so is the launch of a series of summer programs to attract high school students to our campus including: Art Portfolio Preparation, Brazilian Percussion, Numerical Analysis, and an online Web Site Development course submitted by Professor Alex Vengerov and approved by ARC as a 3-credit course specially designed for high school students.

Last year PepsiCo announced that its environmental sustainability programs saved the company more than $375 million in five years. The savings were achieved through the continued progress of the company’s water, energy, packaging and waste-reduction initiatives. I am pleased to share that our Committee on Campus Sustainability, Residence Life, the Center for Student Involvement, and a number of student clubs have been very active on this front. This month alone, these groups are organizing a series of sustainable-minded events including participation in the National Campus Eco-challenge competition, a Food Waste Audit, a Trash Audit, and the launch of an App for students to make it easier for them to find other students with whom they can share rides.

On the enrollment front, the high school population is shrinking, and competition for students is more fierce. After steady increases in the overall number of high school graduates for the last 15 years, the US is headed into a period of stagnation. The nation is projected to produce fewer high schools graduates in all of the 10 graduating classes between 2014 and 2023 with year of greatest decline as 2017. In 2013, the Northeast produced approx. 639,000 graduates, which represented 18% of the national total. By 2030, the number of high school graduate is projected to decrease to about 567,000 graduates, this means the Northeast will produce only 16% of the national total.

Getting back to what I mentioned earlier, we must continue to focus on doing what we do but we must do it even better than before. A few examples:

  • Graduate enrollment continues to remain strong at Ramapo, finishing the Spring semester at 106% of its established target.
  • Our M.S. in Accounting Program has launched. The program prepares students for Certified Public Accounting certification and a wide variety of professional endeavors, including forensic accounting and fraud examination; students can obtain both B.S and M.S. degrees in five years. Are Dean Ed Petkus, Karen Norton, and Professor Connie Crawford here? Please stand to be recognized. Thank you and your colleagues for your diligence in bringing this program to fruition.
  • The Office of Student Accounts and a few other student facing units were open on Martin Luther King day. Student Accounts reported that it serviced over 100 students and their families that day. Both parents and students alike expressed their pleasure that we were here to assist them. Targeting our services in this way is critical to our success.
  • The TRIO Student Support Services Grant program, housed in the Office of Specialized Services, reported a six year graduation rate of 78% in its Annual Performance Report to the Department of Education for students who started in the fall of 2010. The 78% rate is 23 percentage points higher than the grant’s objective of 55% and almost 5 percentage points higher than the College’s rate of 73.2% for the same period.
  • Our Peer Facilitation Program was selected as the Bronze Award Winner for the 2016-2017 NASPA Excellence Awards. NASPA is an international student affairs association of over 15,000 members.
  • Professor Eric Wiener and students from his Ecological Field Research class documented over 8,000 hawks, falcons, vultures and eagles (including 10 golden eagles!) migrating past the Ramapo Mountains this past Fall. Two of the students, Patrick Erb and Holly Ellerbusch, will present the findings this spring at the Annual Conference of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Ecological Society of America. All of the data the team collects are being shared with the NJ Department of Environmental Protection.
  • Student Michael Flood, also working with Professor Wiener, will present findings from his project about a rare outbreak of oak leaf roller moths that defoliated thousands of chestnut oak trees over in West Milford, NJ. Those data are also being shared with the NJ Conservation Foundation.

Our campus continues to shift and change and renew itself. Ramapo College is now the full-time host of the Bergen County Office of the New Jersey Small Business Development Center.  The Center’s consultants help small businesses expand their operations, manage their growth, or start new ventures. They will also be working with faculty and students as a resource for research and classroom learning experiences.

Facilities Management recently underwent a restructuring of its management team.  As a result, one managerial position was eliminated and it is designed to improve work order response times, increase agility, aid in succession planning, and empower and recognize the very good work of our facilities management team.

The solar arrays on the rooftops of Mackin and Bischoff Hall are nearly complete. Construction for solar arrays on the A-E wings, the Bradley Center, and the Potter Library is currently taking place and is expected to be completed this June.  Preparation for ground mounted arrays on the berms near Health Services are in process and being scheduled to start mid-February and completely installed by the end of this semester. Coordination of the parking lot canopies is ongoing with a logistics plan expected later this month.  At this time, any approved plan will require us to take one parking lot offline at a time while foundations are installed. Possible locations for the redistributed parking are being evaluated, including the parking lot at Mahwah Township’s Continental Soldiers’ Field.  Until a viable plan for parking is finalized, the carports will be delayed until at least mid-May when the parking lots will be mostly empty of cars, eliminating contention for spaces. The entire solar array project is currently scheduled to be completed by mid-summer.

The Office of Residence Life opened gender inclusive restrooms in Laurel, Mackin, Bischoff, Pine, Linden and Overlook residence halls.

The Padovano College Commons is finally well underway. The old Carriage House will be repurposed into a coffee shop and activity space.  Interior demolition has been completed. The installation of new rough framing and heating & cooling, electrical, and plumbing systems is in progress right now with the installation of sheetrock and ceilings to follow.  Construction is scheduled to be completed by summer.

There is perhaps no single capital project that will have a more significant impact on Ramapo College than the renovation of the Potter Library and the new addition of the Learning Commons. We have already secured more than $5.7 million in gifts and pledges for the project and another $1.3 million is pending. I would like to recognize the members of the Campus Campaign Committee. Please stand if you’re here with us today: Roark Atkinson, Susan Auger, Bonnie Blake, Joan Capizzi, Marie Ciampi ’15, Angela Cristini, Harold Crocker, Anthony Dovi ’05, Odalin Dume, Kathleen Finnegan ’80, Sue Gluchanicz, Cathy Hajo ’85, Teresa Hutchins, Robin Keller ’98, ’02, ’07, Liz Kloak ’16, Amruth Kumar, LeQuan Norman, Eva Ogens, Purvi Parekh ’01, ’04, Ivy Payne ’12, Eddie Seavers, Ellen Senese, Liz Siecke, Jose Vallejo ’02, and Hillary Westgate. Please consider joining with them in supporting this effort. Internal participation is what matters to outside corporations and foundations when evaluating our requests  to them for funds.

I am also happy to share some other examples of palpable good will on our campus. First, the Friends of Ramapo organization has almost 250 members including young families and retirees. The Friends of Ramapo provide valuable Scholarship support to our students. This year alone, 9 scholarships were awarded, totaling $19,700.  And the Friends of Ramapo have pledged $75,000 over the next 5 years to support the new Library and Learning Commons Project.

Second, if Elaine Himmelberg is here, please stand. Thanks to Elaine’s leadership in 2017, Ramapo faculty and staff will use payroll deductions to contribute $6,240 to charities of their choosing – including National Kidney Foundation, Puppies Behind Bars, Ramapo College, Alzheimer’s Association, Ocean Conservancy, Native American Rights Fund, among others.  This represents a 13% increase in charitable commitments over 2016.

Third, Human Resources and the Professional Staff Association are coordinating a program for employees’ dependent children grades 3 through 8 on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Among some of the activities the children will participate in is a photo session at my desk.

Fourth, the Cahill Center is implementing Ramapo’s first College-wide celebration of National Student Employment Week with daily celebrations of food, prizes and entertainment for our approximately 1,000 student employees. The week will take place from April 10-14.

Fifth, the Public Safety Outreach Unit, Officers Tray Barmore and Will Holmes, did a walk-around during exams as Santa and Santa’s Helper handing out candy canes. The Department of Public Safety conducted Winter Break Training that included “Active Shooter” training with the Mahwah Police Department and all officers received training by the Public Safety Managers, Tom Mauro and Frank Dara on Racial Diversity and Effective Communications.

Sixth, the Ramapo Readers Project has provided nearly 150,000 books for students and families in Paterson. Ramapo will be recognized by the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey Association as a “Company that Cares” in March as a result of their efforts.

Seventh, building upon a series of student-led activities focused on #GivingTuesday, the College targeted its outreach to our alumni, parents, and faculty/staff. We exceeded our goal and 538 donors made a gift or pledge. In addition, our own Student Governors of the Ramapo College Foundation, Princep Shah and Sarah Brown, organized the Roadrunners Give Back Campaign and worked in conjunction with the Foundation’s Giving Tuesday initiative. The main purpose of their event was to raise awareness among the student body about the importance of giving back. They asked students, faculty, and staff to write a message about why they think giving back is important or how they have benefited from various Ramapo scholarships. 175 students participated.

I’d like to see a show of hands for those who attended the Diversity Action Committee’s recent Diversity Convocation Luncheon or Address.  It featured Kanya Balakrishna of The Future Project. She spoke about the tenets of “possibility thinking” and the importance of cultivating people’s talents and potential to achieve. We do a very good job of fostering our own brand of “possibility thinking” here at Ramapo from clubs and organizations to student leadership development and student/faculty mentoring. A few examples:

  • On January 21, Tamika Quick, Advisor to the BSU and17 students from the Black Student Union organizations participated in a seven hour retreat to discuss their mission, vision and goals for the upcoming spring semester.
  • In December, three ASB students represented Ramapo College in the ‘College Fed Challenge’, 2016 at the Federal Reserve Bank, NYC. The students played the role of monetary policymakers by analyzing economic conditions and recommended a course for monetary policy to the economists of the Fed.
  • Heidi Pilla, a literature major, presented her paper, “The Importance of Symbolism and Parallelism in The Great Gatsby,” at the 2016 COPLAC Northeast Regional Undergraduate Research, Scholarly, and Creative Activity Conference in October. Her paper was also published in Metamorphosis. She wrote the paper for Survey of American Literature: Romantics to Contemporary, taught by Professor Lisa Williams.
  • Resident Student Victoria Einchenlaub and GRD Amanda DelGaudio attended the 2016 MACUHO Conference, they presented “Fostering a Safe Community to Call Home.” They talked about how to build inclusion, eliminate micro aggressions, and cultivate better ally behavior for students of diverse backgrounds.
  • Fall 2016 marked the first semester for the newly conceptualized Emerging Greek Leaders Program. 20 Greek leaders were selected to be inducted into the inaugural class and will serve as peer leaders for engaging and training their peers during the Spring semester’s new member education process.
  • Senior Frank Albergo has been selected as a student staff member for the Northeast Greek Leadership Association conference this month. He has also been nominated for the Greek Leader of Distinction Award to be presented at the conference.  This represents the first time a Ramapo College student has been nominated for the award.
  • Stephen Geerlof, student trustee and employee in the Center for Student Success, had his first article published this September in Educause Review titled “Choosing Your Degree Pathway: A Student Viewpoint On Choosing A Degree Planning Tool And An Academic Advisor ” which focused on his participation in student success initiatives at Ramapo.
  • Visual Arts major Monica Lucianna has a drawing in Subjective, a current exhibition in New York City sponsored by the New York chapter of the Women’s Caucus of Art.
  • Over the winter break, 28 theater students attended the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Regionals held at Montclair State University, accompanied by Professor Terra Vandergaw. Two of the students were selected to participate in the Nationals, which will be held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
  • Six students majoring in Communication Arts have been selected to present their research papers at the Eastern Communication Association Student Research Conference in Boston in March on a range of topics including “An Analysis of Evolving Gender Representations of Male Disney Villains” and “The Impact of Celebrity Narcissism on Instagram Towards Young, Affluent, White Women in America.”
  • 15 EOF students recently attended the Bryant Student Leadership Group’s Conference. Ramapo won an award for bringing the largest delegation of students to the conference. The conference had student leadership tracks for African American, Asian American Pacific Islander, and Chicano Hispanic Latino students and they participated in a recruitment event where they spoke to high school students, from along the East Coast, about what Ramapo has to offer.
  • Last month, the Office of Equity & Diversity Programs sponsored a two day training for students that have volunteered to serve as Diversity Peer Educators. These students will provide ongoing educational training and workshops related to equity & diversity programs.
  • Cory Rosenkranz, Coordinator of Substance Abuse, brought four students to the Apple Training Institute to train participants on how to implement an evidence-based substance abuse prevention and education model on a college campus through a comprehensive, action plan. This opportunity was made possible under the NCAA Choices Grant.
  • The EOF Program has started a male mentoring program that is run by student development specialists Tushawn Jernigan and Andre Turner. Men Achieving Success Together (MAST) meets up to six times a semester.  The group has an upcoming community service event, where they will feed the homeless.
  • On April 28, Ramapo College will host its annual Athletics Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Is Kathleen Finnegan here? This year, the College will formally recognize Kathleen’s 41 years of service when it inducts her as a remarkable administrator and coach.
  • Athletics has had tremendous success this year. This fall, women’s volleyball had one of the most successful seasons in the program’s history. They won the NJAC regular season championship for the first time here at Ramapo, and they earned an at-large bid to the NCAAs, another first.  Currently the men’s basketball team, after a historic start of 19-1 is currently ranked #7 in the nation and looks to take home the NJAC crown for the fourth time in program history later this month.

With respect to faculty and staff achievements, we also have much to commend:

  • Professor Elaine Patterson’s text “Transition from Clinician to Educator: A Practical Approach” was voted #2 on the American Journal of Nursing’s list of books of the year 2016.
  • ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society. It named Professor Amruth Kumar as an ACM Distinguished Educator. To quote the association, “ACM Distinguished Members are recognized for their individual contributions to the field of computing, and their achievements have advanced the science and education of computing in a significant way.”
  • In November, Professor Fran Shapiro-Skrobe presented a paper entitled “The Importance of a Text’s Surface Features on College Students’ Critical Reading Skills: Little Items with a Big Impact” at the annual conference of the National Association of Literacy Educators & Researchers.
  • EOF and TREO inducted three faculty members as honorary Chi Alpha Epsilon (XAE) National Honor Society members. The faculty inductees include: Professor Karl Johnson, Dean Edward Saiff, and Professor Frances Shapiro-Skrobe.
  • Professor Peter Heinze recently published “Psychopathy, unconscious shame and attachment: Considering the Psychodynamics of Psychopathy” in The Journal of Psychodynamic Practice.
  • Professors Michael Bitz and Tilahun Sineshaw traveled to Ethiopia over winter break through the Provost’s Sub-Saharan Africa Travel Grant. They worked with school teachers and university faculty there to build creative pathways to literacy and presented at Addis Ababa University, a development session titled “Literacy, Creativity, and Cognition: Exploring Learning and Development through Youth-Generated Comic Books.”
  • Professor Mia Serban was invited to the United Nations Development Programme in Paris where she presented “Regime Change and Property Rights Consciousness in Post-Communist Romania”, which is also forthcoming in The Journal of Law and Social Inquiry.
  • On February 24, under the leadership of Professor Eileen Klein, Ramapo College is hosting the New Jersey BSW Educational Associations Annual Policy Symposium, titled “Changing Political Climate: Local and Global Implications.”
  • Next month, Dean Ann Marie Moreno and Professor Stephanie Sarabia will be taking 11 MSW students to Lisbon, Portugal to examine their system of drug decriminalization including visits with parliament members who were instrumental in passing the legislation and researchers from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
  • Professor Stacie Taranto’s book, “Kitchen Table Politics: Conservative Women and Family Values in New York”, will be released from University of Pennsylvania Press on March 21, 2017, in its Politics and Culture in Modern America Series. Professor Taranto also has an article entitled “Goodbye to the Party of Rockefeller: How a Decidedly Un-Silent Minority’ Pushed the GOP to Embrace Antifeminism,” coming out in Inventing the Silent Majority in Western Europe and the United States: Conservatism in the 1960s and 1970s, an anthology edited by Anna von der Goltz and Britta Waldschmidt-Nelson, to be published by Cambridge University Press.
  • Professor Lisa Cassidy’s article “The Ethics of Shaming in the Era of Social Media” has been accepted into the edited volume Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Shame—currently the proposed volume is being reviewed by SUNY Press and by Lexington Books.
  • Professor Paula Straile-Costa will be presenting a paper entitled “Fears and Fantasies of Globalization in the Americas: Faustian Epics of Human-Alien Contact and Coexistence from Cuba, Brazil and the United States,” at the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts annual conference in March.
  • Professors Paula Straile-Costa and Lisa Williams attended the NYU Faculty Resource Network (FRN) Winter Seminar titled “Uprooted and Displaced: Refugees, (Im)Migrants, and Exiles in World Literature.” Professor Susan Hangen also attended the program and took part in an accompanying seminar on “Refugees and Migrants in the 21st Century.”
  • Professor Susan Hangen also presented a paper based on her funded research on Nepali restaurants in New York City at the South Asia Institute. The paper is titled, “The Momo Matrix: The Evolution of Nepali/Himalayan Restaurants in New York.” She is revising the paper for publication.
  • Professor Hugh Sheehy has short stories out this winter in the literary magazines Guernica and The Collagist.
  • Professor Pinar Kayaalp’s article “An analysis of the hospitals of Sultan Suleyman and Hurrem: Two Different Approaches to Healthcare in Sixteenth-century Ottoman Empire” was published in last month’s issue of The Journal of Medical Biography.
  • Professor Yvette Kisor presented her paper “Children’s Beowulfs for the New Tolkien Generation” at the Beowulf for Younger Readers Symposium. In May she will present her paper “Tolkien’s Monsters: An Asterisk in His Translation of Beowulf” at the 52nd International Congress on Medieval Studies. In July 2017 she will present her paper “Tolkien’s Beowulf: Translating Knights” at the International Medieval Congress.
  • Professor Sam Mustafa completed his fifth book last semester, titled Paper Kingdom: Napoleon, The Germans, and the Strange Case of Westphalia, under offer from Palgrave Macmillan.
  • On Tuesday, January 20, more than 350,000 people viewed Mediacracy, a staged reading of the November 2016 New York Times interview with Donald Trump, on Now This News’ It was composed and directed by Professor Peter A. Campbell, and performed by a chorus of twelve women, including five Ramapo students and alumni.
  • Professor Rachel Budin recently designed lighting for the play Brownsville Song: B-Side for Tray at Florida Studio Theater in Sarasota.
  • Professor Gilad Cohen was commissioned to compose a piano trio by the Concert Artists Guild. The piece, which is titled “Around the Cauldron”, will receive its world premiere on March 14 at Carnegie Hall.
  • Professor Lisa Lutter will direct 26 Ramapo Chorale students in a Spring Break concert tour in Ghana, which includes performances with the choir at KNUST.
  • Professor Jackie Skrzynski has work in the exhibition “Order and Chaos” at Western Kentucky University.
  • Professor John Peffer will present a talk, “Youth Protest, Art, and Post-revolution Iconoclasm in South Africa circa 2015,” at the symposium Imagining Histories, Performing Identities to be held on February 25 at the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester.
  • Michael Alcee and Tara Sager, Psychological Counselors in Counseling Services, co-authored an article for The Journal for College Student Psychotherapy entitled “How to Fall in Love with Time-Limited Therapy: Lessons from Poetry and Music.” Dr. Alcee also authored an article for The Journal for College Student Psychotherapy entitled “The Importance of a Male Presence in College Counseling.”

Question and Answer

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President's Post 105: Statement on Federal Executive Order

Update: On February 6, 2017 Ramapo College endorsed the statement issued by NJASCU. 

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends:

All members of Ramapo College are valued. While this is indeed true for all, I write to emphasize its magnitude for our international students, faculty, and staff. As I traveled this weekend from San Francisco to New York, I saw some of the chaos and disbelief occurring in the airports. However, I also witnessed palpable good will among airport personnel, passengers, protesters, and others.

Such good will is also present here on our campus. In recent years, we have reiterated our support of internationalization and multiculturalism through our Strategic Plan and the development and strengthening of associated curricula and programming.  In September of 2013, along with many of the presidents at our sister institutions, I endorsed a letter urging the NJ Congressional Delegation to address the adverse impact of current immigration policy on the state’s higher education system and economic growth. More recently, on December 1, 2016, I again joined my presidential colleagues and signed a letter pledging to support our students who registered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

President Trump’s January 27 Executive Order (EO) “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” has raised critical questions and concerns for many of us and our families. Indeed, some of the elements of the EO readily appear incongruous with the purposes of higher education. The College, however, continues to review the order and the associated rulings that have since been issued to understand more fully how our campus may be affected.

Ramapo College has existing policies and procedures to protect its members and their privacy. In addition, Ramapo is a long standing member of NAFSA (the world’s largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education and exchange). We rely on NAFSA, in part, for guidance on matters related to the interest of our international students and scholars and participants in our study abroad programs. NAFSA issued this advisory regarding President Trump’s Executive Order. It details the exception made for lawful permanent residents and it describes the application of the EO to nonimmigrants and immigrants. I encourage you to review it and direct any questions you may have concerning any international travel or immigration policies to Ramapo College’s Roukema Center for International Education. 

In addition to NAFSA and the Roukema Center, helpful resources for faculty, staff and students also include:

Perhaps, however, our biggest resource is one another. What we can learn from one another through patient, respectful dialogue, and simple kindness yields us tremendous and transformative power. I have no doubt that we are a campus that is, and will continue to be, enriched by the range of our human experience.

Peter P. Mercer, President

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President's Post 104: 20 Days Into 2017

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends,

Welcome and welcome back to campus.

We are only 20 days into 2017 and there is already a host of news items to share that reflect the talents and energies of so many of you.

First, I’d like to acknowledge the staff, faculty, students, and alumni who contribute their time and talents to our recruitment and retention efforts. Our enrollment this semester is strong and we continue to see positive strides in the development and delivery of our graduate programs including the most recent launch of the M.S. in Accounting Program. Further, our undergraduate students are continuing with us at noteworthy rates and, to our new transfer students, it was my pleasure to welcome you to campus at the Winter Arching Ceremony earlier this week.

Second, the College has received a series of positive media highlights including:

  • Ramapo was ranked No. 184thin the nation in the Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine Top 300 Best Value Colleges. Other NJ institutions on the list included Princeton, Rutgers New Brunswick, TCNJ, and Stevens Institute.
  • NJ Monthly’s January 2017 issue featured a prominent article on the College’s Krame Center for Contemplative Studies and Mindful Living.
  • NJ Business’ January 2017 issue highlighted the College’s success in competing for federal grants.
  • featured the successes of the RCNJ Men’s Basketball Team on December 29 noting that the team is ranked No. 19 in the Top 25 list as of January 1. The only other NJ institution to make the ranking is Jersey City University at No. 23.

On February 1, our basketball teams will host a doubleheader against Rutgers Newark.  Our Women’s Basketball team will play at 5:30PM and the Men’s Basketball Team will follow at 7:30PM. The matchups will feature the new Roadrunner Pep Band and a recognition ceremony for the Women’s Volleyball Team’s championship season.

Also on February 1, the Diversity Action Committee (DAC) will host the annual Diversity Convocation. The event will feature a luncheon and remarks by Kanya Balakrishna, Co-Founder and President of The Future Project. More information about Kanya is available on the DAC website.

Third, on the capital front the Library/Learning Commons Task Force met earlier this month with architectural and engineering professionals from Bohlin, Cywinski, and Johnson (BC&J) to discuss the phased work of the Task Force and BC&J. Further, the College, with the support of the Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors, has launched a capital campaign for the Library/Learning Commons and nearly $5 million has already been raised toward the project.

Last, although I grew up in Canada, I had frequent introductions to American lore— George Washington confessing to his father that he had chopped down the cherry tree, and Abraham Lincoln allegedly doing his sums by firelight using a piece of coal on the back of a shovel. Corny stuff, perhaps to some, but important nonetheless in impressing the importance of personal virtue in character development.  As New Jersey’s designated public liberal arts college, it is incumbent upon us, in 2017, to continue to inform and challenge one another through curricula that represent multiple perspectives and to create an environment in which those perspectives are valued and respected. When we conduct ourselves with virtue, with personal integrity, we are a stronger campus and, in turn, a greater asset in forging an educated citizenry.

Thank you, in advance, for your continued contributions to Ramapo College.

Peter P. Mercer, President

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President's Post 103: Tenure and Emeritus

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends

At its December 12 meeting, the Board of Trustees approved the granting of tenure to seven faculty members and the awarding of emeritus status to four retired professors.

To borrow from the American Association of University Professors, “The principal purpose of tenure is to safeguard academic freedom, which is necessary for all who teach and conduct research in higher education…Free inquiry, free expression, and open dissent are critical for student learning and the advancement of knowledge. Therefore, it is important to have systems in place to protect academic freedom.” As a professor and an administrator, I know of the dedication and talent required to earn tenure. Congratulations to the following newly tenured faculty:

  • Tammi C. Redd, Assistant Professor of Management
  • Sridevi Shivarajan, Assistant Professor of Management
  • Mark Skowronski, Assistant Professor of Management
  • Dean Chen, Assistant Professor of Political Science
  • Stephanie Sarabia, Assistant Professor of Social Work
  • Andrea Centrella-Nigro, Assistant Professor of Nursing
  • Donna Flynn, Assistant Professor of Nursing

Also on December 12, the Board awarded emeritus status to four esteemed professors. The emeritus title may be awarded to retiring faculty members who have served the college for at least ten years and have been distinguished in teaching, scholarship, college and community service, and the fulfillment of professional responsibilities. It was humbling to present with the Board the resolutions granting emeritus status to:

  • Wayne Hayes, Professor of Sustainability
  • Don Fucci, Professor of Literature
  • Anthony Padovano, Distinguished Professor of Literature and Philosophy
  • Sebastian J. Raciti, Professor of Economics (posthumous)

Thank you.

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President's Post 102: Policy of Non-Discrimination

Dear Students, Colleagues and Friends:

I have become aware of informal student reports of vilification and harassment. Such behavior bears no relation to the type of respectful debate and discussion we should all be promoting at Ramapo College.

I will reissue this assurance as many times as necessary to have it sink in: Ramapo College will not tolerate such behavior.

Any reports of discrimination and/or harassment by others at the College, including students, faculty, staff members, vendors, and contractors should be officially filed as complaints to any of the following entities:

  • Affirmative Action and Workplace Compliance, ASB 017, (201) 684-7540, or
  • Public Safety Department, C Wing, Room 102, (201) 684-6666, or
  • Mahwah Police Department, 221 Franklin Turnpike, (201) 529-1000

For more information regarding the College’s Policy of Non-Discrimination, please review the resources online via the Office of Affirmative Action and Workplace Compliance or visit the Office in ASB017.

Click Here to Read Recent Related Messages 

Peter P. Mercer,  President

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President's Post #101: Message to Campus on Veteran's Day

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends,

Individuals, departments, and organizations across the country and across our campus are engaging in dialogues centered around the presidential election. For those of you participating in these discussions, thank you. And, for those of you who may feel anxious, discouraged, or even dispassionate about the societal impact of this election cycle, I encourage you to reject the false comfort of isolation and instead to engage with your peers, colleagues, faculty, and staff in ways that promote mutual understanding and respect. We all, always, have something to learn and something to share.

Today is Veteran’s Day. After a tumultuous week, it is fitting to reflect more deeply on its historical significance. On November 11, 1918 fighting between the allied nations and Germany ceased on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The resolution passed by the United States Congress in 1926 which established Veteran’s Day includes, in pertinent part:

…the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and…

 …inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.

As we look to the future of America and, more locally to our campus, it is imperative that we continue to hold fast to these tenets of good will, mutual understanding, and friendly relations with all peoples. We cannot take for granted our institutional values which state, in part, that we are guided by:

Respecting each other and our environment—we are an open, inclusive, supportive, and sustainable community.

We advance our values through our good will, mutual understanding, and friendly relations with all peoples. To exhibit any behaviors that fail to honor these tenets and our values would be a transgression of the very principles for which Ramapo College of New Jersey has always served: to educate and to learn from one another.

The College’s Values Statement was approved by the President’s Advisory Council (PAC) in September. It is available in full here. The PAC will meet again on November 18 at 11AM in Trustees Pavilion. Its agenda will include an overview of the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, Compliance and Equity. All are welcome to attend PAC meetings.

Peter P. Mercer, President

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President's Post #100: State of the College Address, September 2016

Hello and Welcome.

I will begin today by discussing the email many of you received on September 7.

The Grant Thornton report has informed, in part, the Administration’s interest in some local negotiations – and this represents a learning process for all parties. To do so, both the union leadership and administration must demonstrate good faith and confidence in discussions and arriving at a solution to these problems.

Local negotiations are focused on reallocating our resources for strategic purposes to deliver services when the students are here to receive them. Deploying largely the same amount of staff when the campus has 6,000 students and when it has 1,000 students begs review.

Allow me to clarify as well some points that I understand have percolated through some of the campus. I understand that it is rumored that I have refused to meet with union leaders. That is incorrect. I have advised the union leaders that I am legally prohibited from meeting with them if the discussion to be had is about the substance of the collective bargaining that is now going on. I have no choice but to say that doing so is not within my purview.

Respect and collegiality are essential to productive negotiations. The President, trustees, and other senior administrators, again, are not permitted to enter into discussions and agreements with bargaining unit leadership. Martha Ecker, Doreen Janes, and John Thompson or their designees work with designated staff on local negotiations, largely David Vernon, Jill Brown, and Nicole Morgan Agard.

Further, the administration is legally bound by the state agreements with the AFT, CWA, and IFPTE. We cannot give-up administrative purview nor assume decision making authority over that which must be negotiated.

Generally, the College administration has managerial prerogative to administer the operations of the College and the College can exercise its managerial prerogative as long as there is not a change in the terms and conditions for a member of a labor union.  If so, any negotiable aspect would be subject to negotiation.

On the subject of position conversion, it is the College’s position that the decision to convert certain 12 month positions to 10 month positions for AFT and CWA is managerial prerogative and not subject to negotiation.  However, there may be certain procedural aspects and impact from the conversion that may be negotiable aspects of this potential transition.

The parties will schedule mutually agreeable times to meet and negotiate until there is an agreement as to any negotiable aspects of the matter or until impasse. At the time impasse is declared, the College would be free to implement the conversion without any further negotiation. There is no set time or number of negotiation sessions required to declare impasse nor is there a finite number of positions which the administration is seeking to convert.

I am pleased that the IFPTE contract was ratified, and Human Resources, along with payroll are working on the adjustments in employees pay to comply with the new contract.

Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Compliance

Nicole Morgan-Agard will continue to report to the Provost in her capacity as Director of Employee Relations, however in a few short weeks, she will also step into the role of Chief Equity and Diversity Officer.

Over the past 12-18 months, issues of diversity, privilege, and inclusion have become more prominent on college campuses and elsewhere. In recent months, the College has hosted forums on these subjects and delivered trainings. We have learned through those mediums as well as our formal data sources that while the College’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is promoted as “campus-wide” it is most prevalent where the environment is welcoming, dedicated to social justice, respectful of freedom of expression, and focused on educating and having an ongoing conversation regarding cultural competence and the benefits and importance of diversity. I am grateful for the input I have received from students, faculty, staff, and the DAC leadership on this issue.

Nicole and her team will work closely with DAC, Equity and Diversity programming and the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force to formulate and establish a shared understanding of equity, diversity, and inclusion as key elements of the Ramapo College mission.

I look forward to also having her join the Cabinet in this regard.

In addition, the Offices of Affirmative Action and Workplace Compliance, Employee Relations, and Human Resources are collecting data to establish an Affirmative Action Plan which will help inform our goals for actively recruiting, hiring and promoting women, minorities, disabled individuals and veterans.

Speaking of veterans, Professor Jeremy Teigen’s research on military/veteran voting and Donald Trump has been featured this presidential election cycle in the Washington Post,, and the Washington Examiner.

Getting back to the Affirmative Action Plan, it is slated for completion later this fall, and will include numerical measures with the intent of addressing the employment of underrepresented and historically marginalized groups across all areas of the College.

On the student side, most notably, this year’s incoming class is the most diverse in Ramapo’s history with 35% of incoming students self-identifying as non-white.  To put that in perspective, in 2009, only 21% self-identified as non-white.

Tamika Quick, Assistant Director for Equity and Diversity Programming, has led two initiatives for providing mentoring support to students of color: Sister Connections and Brothers Connecting. Students of color will be matched with Faculty and Staff of Color to foster an environment where students of color can create community, recognize differences, and celebrate diversity. Also, this year, the EOF program will debut a new peer mentoring program, where all first year students will have a mentor who is an upperclassman.

Our alumni are also establishing themselves nationally on this issue. 2016 Journalism program graduate, Vanna Garcia, was among five individuals interviewed for an article in the May 20, 2016 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, titled “Forum: What Does a Genuine Commitment to Diversity Look Like?” Alongside two professors, a College President, a University VP of Diversity, and a Senior Fellow at a progressive think tank, Vanna provided commentary on the title question.  Vanna, a self-described queer woman of color and first-generation college student was a vocal proponent of diversity and inclusion while at Ramapo and is now currently enrolled in the master’s program in social justice education at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Dr. Tal Yonai, Associate Director of Counseling Services, brought training to campus to educate individuals on how to be more aware of critical mental health behaviors in others. As of today, the College has 138 Resident Assistants and Peer Facilitators who have completed the training. The general population of students, staff, and faculty will be invited to partake in the training over the course of the fall semester. This training moves us toward our designation as a Stigma Free campus. On September 28 at noon at the Arch, Governor Richard Codey will be on campus to declare Ramapo College a Stigma Free Campus. Following the Governor’s presentation, the College will present In Their Shoes, a display of 233 pairs of shoes, representing the New Jersey youth who lost their lives by suicide in 2010-2012.

With a new school year underway, many are wondering what colleges are doing to prevent sexual assault.  As an aside: 2014 Theater program alumna Lexi Lapp appeared in a featured role in the Off-Broadway play Stet over the summer.  The play was based on the 2014 Rolling Stone article about a college student’s accusations of a violent gang rape, and the subsequent discrediting of the article.   The production received an extensive review in the New York Times, with a photograph featuring Ms. Lapp.

I’m proud of our efforts at Ramapo College to educate our students and support survivors. It has now been one year since Ramapo Advance was implemented and we continue to bring forward initiatives for the safety of our students and the entire campus.

We have moved to conducting sexual misconduct investigations via a pool of highly trained faculty and staff. This summer Ramapo hosted the Association of Title IX Administrators regional investigator training conference attended by 130 Title IX professionals including new Ramapo Investigators.

Haven: Understanding Sexual Assault Training was implemented for all faculty and staff with face to face and online training options. Over 90 RA’s and the Residence Life professional staff attended training on the protocol for sexual assault response and community education. This semester our 1500+ new students will be required to participate in the following 4 programs:

1) First, students completed the “Haven – Understanding Sexual Assault” online training prior to arrival on campus.

2) On September 5th new students attended SCREAM Theater (Students Challenging Realities and Educating Against Myths), a peer theater program modeling bystander intervention.

3) Next week students will participate in a 1-hour workshop on Affirmative Consent (entitled “Zero Shades of Grey”) presented by healingSPACE community educators.

4) All First Year Seminar Peer Facilitators will lead an “It’s on Us” discussion focused on scenario-based skill building. Peers will also introduce the It’s On Us campus climate survey rolling out this semester.

When I addressed this topic at the January State of the College Address, I mentioned that nearly 100 colleges and universities were under investigation by the Office of Civil Rights for their handling of sexual misconduct cases. There are now 270 active investigations. I am intent that we not join that number,

In light of this and the well-being of our students, Ramapo continues to strengthen our relationship with the healingSPACE Sexual Violence Resource Center. I thank their community educators and leaders and congratulate them on the launch of the healingSPACE mobile application, New Jersey’s first and only mobile app to connect users directly to a New Jersey-based sexual violence resource center.

We should not look to the administration as a focal point for these issues of diversity, equity, safety, and inclusion. There is a responsibility for all members of the campus to engage in and demonstrate the values we hold dear.

Values & President’s Advisory Council

What are our values? The President’s Advisory Council was established two years ago as a forum for perspectives to be shared on issues of common interest, a sounding board on matters in development, and a vehicle to provide recommendations and advice to me. I am optimistic that at its public meeting on September 23, the PAC will recommend to me a formal values statement that has been under development by the Council since November of 2014.

Some might dismiss the adoption of a values statement as simply a symbolic gesture but I don’t think it is. A vlues statement should be a point of pride and identity for the campus—and I cannot think of a better time in our history than now to extol our values and to demonstrate them in meaningful and compassionate ways.

While the values statement will have several elements- I anticipate that, at its core, it will champion the concept of mutual respect for others through the demonstrated practices of collegiality, civility, and tolerance.

Many, if not most of us already embody these values, here are a few examples of how our actions contribute to an environment of mutual respect and a greater awareness of the world:

    • The Strategic Plan for Comprehensive Internationalization is now in its 2nd year of implementation, and has set the framework for an intentional approach to Ramapo’s academic, co-curricular and community initiatives.
      • This is the year of Sub-Saharan Africa and an Opening Celebration will be held on Wed, Sept. 21 at 6pm in Friends Hall.
      • Also as part of the internationalization plan and the Strategic Plan, the College’s academic programs will be looking to further internationalize by incorporating “meaningful international experiences.”
      • The Roukema Center is launching new programs this academic year that will bring students to Portugal, Cuba, India, Denmark and Jerusalem.
      • Last year, the Roukema Center distributed $90,900 in scholarship funds to students participating in international programs. Additionally, the Center has managed to leverage an additional $50,000 through their partnerships directly to our students.
    • It also gives me great pleasure to announce the launch of the Ramapo College Travel Abroad program for faculty, staff, alumni, and others.  The Alumni Association in partnership with Learning Journeys, a division of Perillo Tours, will offer insightful customized tours led by Ramapo professors in the spring and summer 2017 to world-wide destinations. Professor Yolanda del Amo will take you to Spain, Professor Donald Fucci to Ireland, Professor Erick Castellanos to Italy, and Professor Ira Spar to Israel.
    • Six students were “Meritorious Winners” at the ‘Interdisciplinary Contest in Math Modeling’. All of the students were new to the contest and have majors that span 4 of the 5 schools. One team of students developed a model to select which schools would be the best investment of grant money and another developed a model for an international refugee distribution policy.
    • Professor Gladys Torres-Baumgarten ran a new Study Abroad Course, “International Business Program in Peru,” for which ten students traveled to that country and learned about the interaction of business, society, and culture in Peru.
    • Professor Rikki Abzug and Dean Ed Petkus received a grant to study the sustainability of the eco-tourism industry in Costa Rica.
    • Professor Iraida Lopez has been elected co-chair of the Scholarly Relations with Cuba Task Force of the Latin American Studies Association.
    • In February, Professor Pinar Kayaalp presented a paper titled “Learning Islamic Fashion: Veiling Tutorials on Youtube” at the 10th International Conference on Teaching, Education and Learning in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
    • Professor of Law & Society Dr. Jillian Weiss was appointed the Executive Director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund.
    • The NCAA has recognized us with two grants this year.  Through a partnership between Athletics and HR, we received the Division III Ethnic Minority and Women’s Internship Grant which is “designed to provide financial assistance to Division III conferences and member institutions committed to enhancing ethnicity minority and gender representation in intercollegiate athletics in entry-level administrative positions”.  Mr. Hendro Yauw joined us this fall to begin his internship with us a Sports Performance Coordinator.
    • In July, students, staff, and faculty attended the Campus Pride Organization’s Camp Pride. Campus Pride is an organization for student leaders and campus groups working to create a safer community for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students.  Attendees learned effective strategies for grassroots coalition building and social justice initiatives on a college campus, as well as professional development around human rights and civil rights advocacy.  The attendees will be using their experiences at the academy to help enhance the College’s Safer Zones training curriculum.
    • Late in the spring semester, Professor Lisa Lutter directed a joint concert between the Ramapo Chorale and the Ridgewood High School Choir of Tyler’s Suite, a collection of original choral music written by well-known composers to honor the memory of Tyler Clementi. I was privileged to attend the event which raised a substantial amount of money to benefit the Tyler Clementi Foundation, which was established to raise awareness of and to promote intolerance of bullying.
    • Professor Cathy Moran Hajo was awarded two grants this summer in support of the Jane Addams Papers Project—a grant of $108,620 from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and a two-year grant of $200,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
    • This past spring, two seniors in SSHGS presented papers at the Eastern American Studies Association conference. David Ward presented “Disease Dialogues: How Medical Language Impacted the Lavender Scare” and Francesca Simone presented “AIM [American Indian Movement]: As Portrayed by the Media”.
    • Professor Paramjeet Bagga presented his research with Scott Frees on human genomics at an international conference in Kyoto, Japan this summer. The presentation had three student co-authors, all graduating bioinformatics majors.
    • Professor Marc Gidal’s book, Spirit Song:  Afro-Brazilian Religious Music and Boundaries, was published recently by Oxford University Press.
    • Professor Rena Bacon recently attended the Northeast Association of Advisers for Health Professions meeting and the Regional Conference  where she participated in  meetings and workshops on Study Abroad programs, Increasing Diversity in Health Professions, and the Holistic Review Process.
    • The Upward Bound Math/Science Program celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.  Over 100 Upward Bound students and alumni and founder Dr. Carol Frishberg, came together this summer to celebrate the program’s success. Many Upward Bound students go on to graduate from Ramapo College and we have served more than 500 students from Paterson and Newark public schools through the program.
    • In April, the Civic and Community Engagement Center partnered with the Department of Athletics, Intramurals, and Recreation to host the Special Olympics on campus.  The event was a Special Olympics Track and Field competition and included 30 Special Olympics Athletes from Northern, NJ.
    • As part of its Community Outreach program, Public Safety is now offering 24 hour free coffee and popcorn in Public Safety Office for students. The Public Safety Newsletter continues to be one of the most opened documents on campus. It has now grown and is being used by College departments to get messages out to campus, provides links to apps and resources of all types. And the Public Safety department, Mahwah PD, and the Black Student Union, at its request, are collaborating to host a meet and greet this fall.

The College is pursuing the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement. The Classification is a point of pride. We would be one of a handful of NJ four-year colleges that have attained the designation and would help Institutional Advancement and community partners work with us to identify potential new funding sources related to Community Engagement.

The prestigious classification is elective, it involves evidence-based documentation of institutional practice. In order to foster widespread campus participation, one faculty member from each school, representatives from the student body, and Enrollment Management and Student Affairs will constitute Task Force membership. Dean Aaron Lorenz and Dr. Rick Brown will co-chair the Task Force.

We have much to brag about to Carnegie:

  • Five teams of second-year MBA students were assigned to area businesses for a ten-week consulting assignment as part of their Capstone Course; the teams completed consulting projects and worked with several corporate and community partners including BMW, Nickelodeon, Stryker, Valley Medical Group and the Wyckoff YMCA.
  • On September 28 the College will host its first day of mindfulness. It will include visiting monks from the Blue Cliff Retreat Center, a labyrinth, and workshops on mindful art and eating.
  • In June, Big Brothers Big Sisters recognized Ramapo College’s Civic and Community Engagement Center with its Community Partner Award at its Annual Gala.
  • The College received $680,496 from the Paterson Board of Education for Assistant Vice President Cristini’s “Paterson Ambassadors for Success in Science” program
  • The NCAA also awarded us its Choices Grant. “The NCAA CHOICES program provides funding for NCAA member institutions and conferences to integrate athletics into campus-wide efforts to reduce alcohol abuse.”  This Grant was worked on through a collaboration between Athletics, the Center for Health and Counseling and faculty members, specifically, Professor Stephanie Sarabia from the Alcohol and Other Drug Task Force.
  • This marks the 7th year of the Leaders in Service Program at Ramapo. Students completed service hours with four community partners. House on a Hill, provides services to children of migrant farm workers and other agricultural workers; The Dellridge Health and Rehabilitation Center; The New York/New Jersey Trail Conference; and the Mahwah Environmental Volunteers Organization where our students engaged in hands-on environmental activities to promote sustainability.

Class of 2020

This year, we have enrolled 949 First Year Students, the second largest incoming class in Ramapo’s history. We also welcome a talented group of 84 incoming EOF Scholars and 29 students from 11 countries. Ramapo once again surpassed its previous year application total and received 7173 applications for the class, 1% more than last year’s total.

Graduate Admissions concluded an equally successful recruitment year.  We received 484 applications for our graduate programs and finished at 130% of our new graduate student enrollment target.

To put that in context, this fall we have 474 Graduate Students enrolled at Ramapo College. In 2010, we had 212 graduate students at Ramapo College.  In the 6 years since identifying this as a key enrollment strategy, we have grown graduate enrollment 123%!

  • The Educause iPASS grant, funded through the Gates Foundation and Helmsley Charitable Trust continues to provide operating support for the many initiatives being pursued with the goal of increasing student success. Specifically, we will begin, this fall, with having an advisor  2 days per week at Bergen Community College and 1 day per week at the County College of Morris to facilitate a more seamless transfer experience for students coming from our two largest feeder community colleges.
  • Excited to share that the Peer Facilitator Training Program is in full effect. This year, we are excited to report that there are 2 peer facilitators in every First Year Seminar course where one Peer is a returning upperclass Peer from last year and one new peer.
  • Over the last week and half, we have probably seen the greatest participation in Welcome Week activities from our new students (first year and transfers), particularly for the designated ARCH events which include events like  Arching, Convocation, SCREAM Theatre, Choices and Consequences, School Welcome Receptions with the Deans and Faculty and the Student Involvement and Global Opportunities Fair.

Facilities/Capital Projects

An update on facilities needs to start with the announcement of Michael Cunningham as Director of Facilities. Mike joined Ramapo in 2003 as a Senior Repairer/Mechanical Equipment Specialist, and has continued to grow into roles with more expanse and responsibility, including Chief Operating Engineer and Associate Director of Facilities.

In addition, the facilities group has been working tirelessly, completing almost 6,000 work orders – in the residence halls alone – between check out in May and Labor Day.

Ramapo College has received for the 14th consecutive year the Governor’s Occupational  Safety and Health Award.  Our excellent safety record with a below average OSHA incident rate qualified us for this award.

Library and Learning Commons

Significant support has been secured through the Higher Education Capital Financing Grant Program for Ramapo College.  $15 million has been allocated for the complete renovation of the Potter Library and for the addition of a new Learning Commons. The project will increase group study and meeting rooms, gathering and study spaces, Library collections and stacks space, as well as classroom/multipurpose space.

This new campaign follows a year of increased giving at all levels: unrestricted revenue is up 18% over the prior year, capital gifts are up 77%, on-line giving has increased 29%,  fund raising events revenues increased by 43%, and senior legacy giving increased by 45% – a congratulations to the Class of 2016. They also successfully ran the “Run with Color” which saw significant increases in donations and participation. Student scholarships and keeping Ramapo affordable is always a priority for the College. I am pleased to share that 407 named scholarships and awards were given out in the last academic year. Scholarship awards grew by 17%. The corpus of our endowment continues to grow and goals established under the Strategic Plan are being met.

I thank the many faculty and staff who have submitted grant applications for new initiatives, research and special projects at the College. Over $3 million was secured last year through 22 grants.

Padovano Commons

Mobilization for the Padovano Commons began this week, and we are currently planning a Spring opening for this renovation.

Student Center Dining

The Birch Tree Inn renovations in the Student Center are expected to be completed this semester, providing an updated look for our in-house dining experience.

Solar Array

Despite scheduling delays, the installation of the solar array, located on the roofs of buildings, in the parking lot, and on the berm alongside of route 202 is expected to begin this Fall.


Parking is always a topic Presidents discuss at their peril. You will recall why we eliminated first year parking. We didn’t eliminate it, I eliminated it in the misplaced view that doing so would lead to some sort of enrichment in campus life. In fact, all it did was yield the most imaginative reasons, by way of appeal, that students needed cars. So, this is the first year in at least four that first year students are permitted to park on campus and so there are more students competing for parking spots than there were in the past.  However, the delays of the removal of the temporary trailers near Mackin/Bischoff have impacted the number of spaces available. We are aiming to have the trailers removed by October 1st and appreciate everyone’s patience in the interim.


The Ramapo Green web site has up to date information on these and other sustainability endeavors:

    • Professor Michael Edelstein recently represented the College at a workshop on environmental victimization organized by the International Association of Impact Assessment for the World Bank.
    • Professor Daniela Buna started her sabbatical at the naval postgraduate school. She is   working on thermoelectric generator modeling and a microwave detection materials project.
    • Professor Ben Neill has been awarded a very competitive grant from New Music USA to develop Fathom, a series of music/video pieces, with his collaborator Mimi Goese.  Fathom is based on real-time environmental data taken from the Hudson River.  With support from the Ramapo Faculty-Student Research initiative, Professor Neill has engaged two music students to work on the project.
    • Professor Karl Johnson participated in a joint conference of the American Anthropological Association and African Studies Association held in Senegal. The workshop was titled “Innovation, Transformation and Sustainable Futures in Africa.”
    • One of Professor Sarah Carberry’s research students presented at the Green Chemistry Conference in Oregon.
    • The Electrical Shop has installed new energy efficient LED lighting throughout the auxiliary gym.
    • Hydration stations were installed in every suite style or room style residence hall building.
    • Several offices are transitioning to paperless operations and workflows. The Board of Trustees, the Cabinet, my office, Dean’s Council, Prospect Research, and Admissions have largely moved in this direction. Human Resources is also working to convert the manual, paper-based staffing requisition process to an automated workflow.
    • Composting on campus has been expanded to reach the residents of the Village and, as a pilot program, the residents of Redwood CPA.
    • A Town Hall on Campus Sustainability is being held at 2 PM in the Alumni Lounges today.

Alumni Achievements

  • Recent Psychology graduate Christopher Warren recently learned of his acceptance to Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School. Chris has credited Dr. Gordon Bear and the student-faculty research he did while at Ramapo as integral to his 97th percentile scores on the MCAT exam.
  • After working with Professors Christian Reich, Joseph Cataliotti, and Naseem Choudhury, recent graduate Aliana Acciardi is about to embark on her PhD in neuroscience.
  • Recent Law & Society graduate James Ticchio just began his first year at Georgetown School of Law on nearly a full ride.
  • The Engineering Physics class of 2016 was a very strong graduating class. Eight students had one or more summer internships at NJIT, University of Texas, Celgene, etc. and all eight received offers for one more summer internship, graduate studies fellowships and full time employment.
  • 2006 Theater program alumna Jen Ponton has the featured role in the independent film, Love on the Run, which was released at the end of August. Jen has had roles on the television shows Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; 30 Rock; Orange is the New Black; Law and Order, Special Victims Unit; Blue Bloods; The Good Wife; and Boardwalk Empire.
  • 2016 Theater program graduate Lawrence (L.J.) Hickmon recently completed a three-week all expenses paid internship/residency at the Shaw Festival in Ontario, which resulted from his winning the National Partners of the American Theatere Classical Acting Award at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival last spring.
  • 2016 Journalism program graduate Emily Sakowski is currently employed as an Associate Producer at News 12 New Jersey, and writes stories for broadcast.

Faculty/Staff Achievements

  • Andrea Sappelton, Assistant Director in Purchasing, authored an article which was published in the Summer 2016 issue of the National Association of Educational Procurement Journal.
  • Thanks to Dr. Kathy Burke, the College was granted $15,000 from the TD Bank Foundation for Nursing tutors.
  • Professors Julie Norflus-Good, & Anne DeGroot were recently published in the Association of Mathematics Teachers of New Jersey.
  • Professor John McTighe was recently published in Critical Thinking in Clinical Assessment and Diagnosis.
  • Professor Yvette Kisor recently co-authored and Palgrave published Beowulf Unlocked: New Evidence from Lexomic Analysis.
  • Professor Eva Ogens was recently published in The American Biology Teacher.
  • Professor Todd Barnes’ work on Shakespeare was published by Public Books, he lectured on the subject at the Shakespeare Garden at the invitation of the Central Park Conservancy, and he presented his research on Julius Cesar at the London Conference in Critical Thought. His research will be published next month in Julius Caesar: A Critical Reader, edited by Andrew J. Hartley, an Arden Shakespeare Early Modern Drama Guide.
  • Professor Henri Lustiger Thaler edited Witnessing Unbound: Holocaust Representation and the Origins of Memory, forthcoming from Wayne State University Press.
  • The National Science Foundation recommended Professor Catalin Martin’s major research instrumentation grant for funding. The grant has Professor Robert Mentore as co-PI and is for $150k to purchase an infrared spectrometer with optical cryostat.
  • Professor Joost Monen has been published recently through the American Physiological Society Workshop: Institute on Teaching and Learning, and the Experimental Biology International Scientific Conference.
  • Three TAS students, under the tutelage of Professors Seung-sup Kim, Sarah Carberry, and Loraine Tan presented posters at the American Chemical Society National Meeting and Exposition in Philadelphia. Professor Carberry and members of the Chem/BioChemistry club also presented at two conferences of the American Chemical Society (ACS). The Ramapo College ACS student chapter received “Honorable mention” for its chapter which was announced in Chemical and Engineering News. NOTE: The college is at an all-time high for registered clubs and organizations – with over 150 present at the Student Involvement Fair on September 7th.
  • Professor Diane Andronaco has been invited to present at the 2017 Annual American Nurses Association Conference.
  • Brittany Williams-Goldstein , Chief of Staff  and Board Liaison, has been invited to present her mixed methods research on the professional orientations of boards of trustees at the annual conference of the Association of Governing Boards.
  • Professor Stephen Anderson and three students were recently published in the Journal of Undergraduate Chemistry Research.
  • Professor Eric Karlin has an article in in press in the Journal of Bryology.
  • Professor Emeritus David Freund is under contract for a four-volume boxed set of books of his photographic work to be published by Steidl, which is one of the world’s foremost publishers of art books.
  • The Visual Arts Faculty Exhibition, which is mounted every four years, will open later today in the Berrie Center Art Galleries, with a reception beginning at 5:00 p.m. and artists’ talks beginning at 6:00 p.m.  The show will run through October 14.
  • Professor Lisa Williams published a poem titled “Clouds,” in the June 2016 online journal, Quill and Parchment. Only in academic would an online journal be titled
  • The Budget Office will be implementing transaction level detail from Banner into Adaptive so that users will have more detailed information in their accounts to be able to better manage their funds.  In addition, because of all of the hard work on the Adaptive system, Beth Walkley, Director of Budget and Fiscal Planning, was invited to give a webcast presentation to the newly formed Adaptive Insights Higher Education User Group.  It should be noted that as a result of our Budget group reaching out and searching for best practices, Ramapo was the only College that presented at this first meeting.

Question & Answer


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President's Post #99: Library/Learning Center Task Force

Dear Student, Colleagues and Friends,

On June 29, I shared with you that Ramapo College was recommended by Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks for $15 million from the Higher Education Capital Financing Grant Program which will provide significant support for the proposed Potter Library renovations and Learning Center.

I am pleased to advise at this time that I have appointed a Library/Learning Center Task Force. The Task Force will routinely engage with design professionals and others to inform and shape the form, function, and aesthetic of presented plans and designs.

The Task Force includes:

  • Roark Atkinson, Assistant Professor, Salameno School of Humanities and Global Studies
  • Cathy Davey, Vice President, Institutional Advancement & Executive Director of the Foundation
  • Erin McKenna, President, Student Government Association
  • Steven Perry, Dean of the School of Contemporary Arts
  • Stephanie Scheeler, Event Planner in the Office of the President
  • Elizabeth Siecke, Dean of the George T. Potter Library
  • Susan Vallario, Member, Board of Trustees
  • Melissa Van Der Wall, Dean of Students
  • Faculty Member-at-Large (to be identified by the Faculty Assembly) 9/16/16 UPDATE: Leigh Keller, Associate Professor & Librarian
  • Representatives of Ramapo’s Capital Planning Team

I look forward to updating you on this project over the coming year.

Peter P. Mercer







Categories: Uncategorized