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President's Post #117: DACA

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends:

Your news feed, if it is anything like ours, is barraged by headlines that routinely describe significant changes to national policy.

Among these changes, in recent weeks, we have been privy to announcements that portend revisions to Title IX and that end protections for undocumented students. Please know that, as your College President and your Student Government President, our commitment to fostering diversity, inclusiveness, and equity at Ramapo College remains steadfast.

The Trump Administration recently announced plans to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In the spring of 2017 we worked together to enumerate a set of principles for immigrant and undocumented students at Ramapo College. Despite the planned rescission of DACA, those principles remain intact. In brief, they include:
– maintaining a student’s privacy;
– not allowing officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement physical access to College land to the fullest extent allowable under the law;
– prohibiting any College employee from inquiring about the immigration status of any individual on campus;
– prohibiting housing discrimination based on immigration status;
– demonstrating public support for undocumented and DACA students’ equal access to in-state tuition, financial aid, and scholarships.

DACA resources are available at www.ramapo.edu/international/immigration-updates/. In addition, the College’s Office of Equity & Diversity Programming and the Faculty Resource Center also maintain valuable information related to DACA.

President George W. Bush, said, “Immigration is not just a link to America’s past; it’s also a bridge to America’s future.” Nearly 26,000 DACA program participants call New Jersey home. Together, we are working with our congressional delegation, professional associations, and personal networks to ensure that these talented young persons can stay in this country and contribute to its future.

Peter P. Mercer
President, Ramapo College of New Jersey

Stephan Lally
President, Ramapo College Student Government Association

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President's Post #116: Welcome to Fall 2017 at Ramapo College

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends:

Welcome (and welcome back) to Ramapo College of New Jersey!

I often get a chuckle from the annual Mindset List issued by Beloit College. Included among the 60 items on the list for the Class of 2021 this year are:

  • Women have always scaled both sides of Everest and rowed across the Atlantic.
  • Men have always shared a romantic smooch on television.
  • They are the first generation for whom a “phone” has been primarily a video game, direction finder, electronic telegraph, and research library.

While these three characteristics, at first consideration, may seem a tad banal, they are representative of broader and deeper truths. First, regardless of gender, race, religion, disability, etc., our students arrive at Ramapo with a tenacious and inspiring belief in their own capacity. Second, they overwhelmingly bring with them a penchant for acceptance. And third, they are relentlessly connected to information in ways that make navigating volumes of stimuli both challenging and nuanced. So, students, you are wondrous creatures, and the Ramapo College administration, faculty, and staff are here to celebrate your tenacity, encourage your open-mindedness, and facilitate your intellectual growth.

We spent much of the summer preparing for your arrival and, in so doing, doing what we do best—serving as the state of New Jersey’s designated Public Liberal Arts College.  A recent article in The Atlantic asserted that a liberal arts education provides a path for an increasingly diverse array of students who seek to be “difference makers in society.” For example, at Ramapo, our Student Relief Committee was established by students last spring to assist their peers who are facing issues such as homelessness, food insecurity, and other financial hardships.  All students are encouraged to click here to complete the Committee’s brief Needs Assessment Survey, the results of which will be used to guide institutional decision making processes regarding housing, a food pantry, public transportation, etc.

Ramapo’s steadfast commitment to the liberal arts, academic excellence, small class sizes, faculty/student mentoring, access and affordability, and civic engagement were recognized recently by College Choice. An independent authority, College Choice ranked Ramapo among the top three colleges in the state, with Princeton University and Stevens Institute of Technology taking the top two spots, respectively.

So, while there is much to celebrate at Ramapo, there is also a tremendous amount of achievement in the offing. I look forward to your contributions to the College in the weeks and years ahead and I thank you in advance for your tenacity, your open-mindedness, and your appetite for learning.

Peter P. Mercer
President

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President's Post #115: Ramapo Ranked Top 3 in NJ

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, and Friends:

It appears that Ramapo College is finally shedding the dubious distinction of being New Jersey’s “best kept secret.” Last week, College Choice’s ranking of the 20 Best Colleges in New Jersey, placed Ramapo third behind only Princeton University and Stevens Institute of Technology, respectively. As both of these institutions are private, Ramapo was also ranked by College Choice as #1 among nine of the public colleges ranked in New Jersey.

This ranking is a point of pride for many reasons but chief among them is that it was made possible through our collective, multi-pronged, and ongoing efforts over the years to:

(1) Increase the College’s visibility through enrollment and marketing strategies

Did you know? Ramapo College recruits from all 21 counties in New Jersey and from our neighboring states. In the fall 2016 incoming class, Ramapo enrolled students from 20/21 counties, 10 other states, and 6 foreign countries.

(2) Maintain affordable tuition

Did you know? Over the last five years, Ramapo College has maintained the lowest average tuition increase of all senior public colleges in New Jersey.

(3) Invest in high quality instruction

Did you know? Ramapo College has, over the years, reallocated resources to ensure that instruction and academic support receive an increasing share of the operating budget. In addition, recently surveyed alumni overwhelmingly report that the mentoring and individualized attention they received while at Ramapo were hallmarks of their undergraduate experience.

Certainly, ranking agencies and media attention will ebb and flow, but what will undoubtedly remain constant is our shared commitment to proudly serve as New Jersey’s designated public liberal arts college.

Please join me in sharing this news. A detailed press release is available here.

Congratulations and thank you!

Peter P. Mercer
President

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President's Post #114: Charlottesville, VA

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends:

I was disheartened to learn of the events that took place this past weekend in Charlottesville, VA. Innocent lives were lost, and many others were injured, as a result of the act of an individual who, along with several others, came to Charlottesville with hatred and bigotry in his heart. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, as well as with those who were injured in this tragedy.

Ramapo College condemns and rejects all acts of intimidation, racism and bigotry. We remain committed to promoting and fostering diversity and inclusion throughout the College. We will continue to educate ourselves with the aim of eliminating ignorance and bias and enhancing our understanding of and respect for everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexual orientation and religion.

If at any time you are a witness to, or learn of an incident of bias on our campus, please contact a member of Public Safety immediately at 201-684-7432 or contact the Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Compliance at 201-684-6693 or at diversity@ramapo.edu.

Peter P. Mercer
President

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President's Post #113: The Approach of Fall

Dear Students,

I look forward to welcoming you to campus for the fall 2017 semester. I write to update you on some important items to prepare you for your arrival on campus.

For the fall semester, please allow extra time for your travel and commute to campus due to significant road work and consequential detours and delays. Bergen County began its Route 202 Culvert Replacement Project this summer. The College was advised by the County that the project necessitates a full road closure of Route 202 from Darlington Avenue to just south of Ramapo’s South Entrance. While access to the College’s South Entrance remains open during the project, travelers coming from the south have to follow an extensive and inconvenient detour route.  A map of the detour route is available at ramapo.edu/about/visitors/drivingdirections/.

Once you arrive on campus, you may notice some recent enhancements. Among them are new outdoor seating areas in the Grove and along the Student Center corridor, a temporary home in H-Wing for the Salameno Spiritual Center which is undergoing repairs, the presence of the recently approved Mission and Values plaques across campus, and the ongoing installation of solar panels in our parking lots.

This summer also brought accolades to the College from external entities such as:

  • The encore designation of Ramapo as a College of Distinction for its “student engagement, faculty competencies, vibrant campus and community activities, and successful outcomes.”
  • A National Science Foundation Grant award of $999,999 for “Priming Computer Science Students for Success!” to serve students who demonstrate academic talent and have strong financial need.
  • Excellence Award recognition by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators of Ramapo’s Peer Facilitation Program as a “transformative, innovative, and data-driven program.”
  • The College’s designation by Money Magazine as a “Best College for Your Money.”

These feathers in our cap are rounded out by the recent publication of George Anders’ “You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Education.” Anders, a Pulitzer Prize recipient, chronicles the essential economic and social value of the liberal arts in today’s society, advising students to “Come at your career with a pioneering spirit, and you gain the confidence of steadily building up your strengths. Just as important, when unexpected change happens, you have the experience and the temperament to make the most of whatever comes next” (p. 16).

I, along with the faculty, staff, and your peers, look forward to your imminent contributions to Ramapo College of New Jersey and we applaud the “pioneering spirit” that brought you to us.

Peter P. Mercer, President

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President's Post #112: Students, Faculty, and Staff Excel

Dear Friends,

It was my pleasure to participate in the Monday, June 26 meeting of the Board of Trustees. The Board approved the FY18 Budget which is the product of cross-divisional collaboration, innovation, and strategic management of resources. The FY18 Budget also demonstrates the value we place on remaining a liberal arts college with a consistent and preeminent focus on teaching and learning.

On Monday night we also recognized achievements by the Class of 2017, outgoing Student Trustee Stephen Geerlof, and immediate past president of the Student Government Association Erin McKenna. We also enjoyed an enrollment report describing the incoming class of 2021, and welcomed Karen Aguirre to the Board as alternate student trustee and Stephan Lally as president of the Student Government Association. The remarkable contributions of our students are made possible, in large part, by the many faculty and staff who serve them as mentors and advocates.

The excellence of our faculty and staff was also recognized on Monday night when the Board approved promotions to full Professor for Michael Bitz and Aaron Lorenz in the School of Social Science & Human
Services, and Gladys Torres-Baumgarten in the Anisfield School of Business. In addition, promotions to Associate Professor were approved for Roark Atkinson in the Salameno School of Humanities & Global Studies, Sarah Carberry and Julie Fitzgerald in the School of Theoretical & Applied Science,
Eileen Klein and Stephanie Sarabia in the School of Social Science & Human Services, David Oh in the School of Contemporary Arts, and Kathryn Zeno in the Anisfield School of Business.

The Board also recognized the recipients of the 2017 President’s Staff Recognition Awards. Rajesh Adhikari, Ray Fallon, Beth Foster, Deirdre Lynch, Paul Pittman, and the Wellness Coalition were commended for their leadership, service, and advancement of the Ramapo College values and mission.

Congratulations to all.

Peter P. Mercer

President

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President's Post #111: Our Values and Our Experiences

Dear Colleagues,

Today is the annual College picnic. In recent years, many of us have come together at the Trustees Pavilion for the tug of war tournament and the staff recognition awards, and to enjoy the general conviviality that comes with good food, fun activities, and the camaraderie of our colleagues. In addition, we also gather today to consider the challenges we confronted and the successes we shared this past year.

Earlier this academic year, the President’s Advisory Council, a body comprised of students, faculty, staff, and others endorsed the College’s Values Statement. Values statements formally and informally guide the members of an organization by elucidating the enduring beliefs that an organization holds in common.
The College’s Values Statement is:

Ramapo College is the Public Liberal Arts College of the state of New Jersey. The work of the College and its members is conducted with integrity. Our values are:
– Teaching, learning, and mentoring–we are actively engaged in and out of the classroom.
– Developing the whole person–we are scholars, we are creators, we are local and global citizens, and we are individuals.
– Respecting each other and our environment–we are an open, inclusive, supportive, and sustainable community.

Later this summer, you will see us replacing our old mission statement boards around campus with the College’s newer mission statement and our values statement. The importance of publicly stating our mission and values is more than just a symbolic reminder of that which unites us in our efforts to educate the whole student, but also a reminder of the commitment we make to our students and to each other and to which we can hold each other accountable. At the picnic, we will have mock-ups of these new posters on display.

Robert Frost described college as “a refuge from hasty judgment.” I enthusiastically accept that our values may mean something different to each of us, and that range of interpretation is, in part, what enables them to be so widely shared. For example, for some of us, teaching and learning occur through the delivery and absorption of a thoughtful curriculum, for others it may transpire in the privacy of a 1:1 counseling or advisement session, and for others it can manifest as constructive feedback from a colleague.

Student Government Association President Stephan Lally shared with my office that the Values Statement reminds students that they “are advocates, leaders, and innovators that have sought out a liberal arts education to make positive contributions to society,” adding that the Statement “drives home the point that we are a loving, open, stigma-free campus that fosters free thinking.”

In his role as President of the Faculty Assembly, Dr. Tae Kwak noted that the Values Statement “affirms that we are committed to actively promoting and defending diversity in order to enrich learning, foster community, and support meritocracy. It reflects the loftiest American traditions of Liberalism, advancing ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ as the foundation to cultivating successful global citizens.”

Eddie Seavers, President of the Professional Staff Association, expressed to me that “Ramapo College’s Values Statement invokes the commitment of professional staff contributing to the campus, local, and global community as individuals and as part of a team. We are simultaneously reminded of this privilege and responsibility as we develop all aspects of a student so that they may achieve success and positively impact the world around them.”

Indeed, we all have a responsibility to advocate, to defend, and to develop and, to do so, we must conduct ourselves with integrity. For me, reflecting on the past year both personally and professionally, this responsibility means demonstrating respect for one other as contributing peers and colleagues and concomitantly accepting one another as imperfect but well-intentioned members of an esteemed academic community.

As President of the College, I have witnessed how our values and the richness of their diverse interpretations have shaped so many of our achievements. To name a few: student recognition in academic and professional societies, excellence in undergraduate research, exceeding our capital campaign goals, besting many of our peers in retention and graduation rates, maintaining a bucolic campus setting and, year after year, exceeding our enrollment target for first year students. While these achievements are unquestionably worthy of mention here, the paths we have each actually pursued to reach them are the truly essential and largely unsung embodiments of our values. Today, we celebrate them and you!

See you at the picnic!

Peter P. Mercer
President

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President's Post #110: 2017 Commencement

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends:

I look forward to celebrating with you the achievements of the Ramapo College Class of 2017!

The Ceremony on May 11 at Prudential Center will feature the largest graduating class in our history. 1,625 graduates will earn their bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Among the graduates are 92 Educational Opportunity Fund Program participants; 9 veterans representing the Navy, the Marine Corps. and the National Guard; 124 graduates that have affiliated with our Office of Specialized Services; and 30 graduates who earned their degrees through the Adult Degree Completion program. They will all be joined by faculty, staff, friends, and family (all of whom helped contribute to their success).

As part of the Ceremony we will enjoy remarks by Ron Cephas Jones ’78, veteran actor of stage, screen and television. Ron will deliver the keynote address and will also be honored with the President’s Alumni Award of Merit. We will also hear from Michelle Santucci ’17 who will deliver remarks on behalf of the Class of 2017.

If you are unable to attend the Ceremony in person, join us via a live webcast beginning at 8:45AM and tweeting with us throughout the ceremony at #CapsOffRCNJ.

Thank you and congratulations!

Peter P. Mercer, President

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President's Post #109: April 2017 Communications Meetings

Dear Colleagues,

On April 19, 2017 I was joined by members of the Administration to host Communications Meetings designed for employees of the College. The meetings were advertised on the College Calendar and in the Daily Digest. Suggestions of topics and questions were received in advance via email, the Birch Mansion suggestion box, and from attendees.

The meetings addressed the following agenda items:

President’s Staff Recognition program (President Peter Mercer)

Academy for Innovative Higher Education Leadership (President Peter Mercer)

  • The President’s Cabinet is inviting employees interested in leadership development and professional growth to apply to participate in the Academy.
  • The application and details about the 8-month long Academy program/residency are available at Ramapo.edu/president/cabinet. Applications are due by May 30.
  • One employee will be selected by the Cabinet to participate in the program.

Proposed State Budget (President Peter Mercer)

Enrollment Trends (Vice President Christopher Romano)

  • 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 with biggest decrease in the Northeast.
  • The racial/ethnic mix of high school graduates in the United States will continue to shift significantly toward a more diverse population of graduates. The number of Black, non-Hispanic high school graduates projected to gradually decline by 6% after reaching peak b/w 2010 and 2012.
  • This fall community colleges experienced a 2.6 percent decline. Enrollments were down slightly (0.6 percent) at four-year private institutions and up a small amount (0.2 percent) at four-year public institutions.
  • How is Ramapo addressing these shifts?
    • Archway to Ramapo College Program: Signed with Bergen Community College and Sussex County Community College; Students who don’t meet initial admissions requirements are guaranteed acceptance if they complete Associate’s degree at Comm. College (with exceptions and requirements)
    • iPASS grant work: Advisor from Student Success spends 2 days per week at Bergen CC and 1 day per week at CCM (RCNJ’s 2 largest feeder schools); Expanding this partnership to have her spend time at Sussex beginning fall 2017
    • RCNJ is offering Transfer Academic Scholarship this fall for first time in over 15 years.

President’s Library Renovation/Learning Commons Task Force (President Peter Mercer)

  • The capital project’s goals include:
    • Focus on program elements that promote academic work and learning;
    • Provide a comfortable, healthy and attractive facility that attracts users; Incorporate increased technology that is available for everyone;
    • Future-proof: design space for current and future needs;
    • Provide both individual and group study environments; and
    • Provide access to books, journals and special collections
  • Activity thus far in Programming Phase:
    • Library and Centers programming discussions àTenant Matrix;
    • Information Technology Services programming review discussions;
    • Student input sessions;
    • Meeting with food services;
    • Tour of Williams College Sawyer Library;
    • Existing building seating quantification and collection assessment;
    • Building envelope assessment;
    • Structural and mechanical building survey;
    • Building and site survey
  • Library/Learning Commons Campaign (Vice President Cathy Davey)
    • Honorary Chairs are Susan and Nick Vallario, Co-chairs are Elizabeth and Ralph Mastrangelo; Executive Committee includes: George C. Ruotolo, Jr., Chair of the Board; Peter Mercer, President; Cathy Davey, Vice President; Charles Shotmeyer, Trustee; Roy Putrino; Michael McCarthy; Eileen Comerford; AJ Sabath, Trustee; Tom Palmer; Emily Mann; Jim and Kathy Kranz; and Audrey Newman
    • The scale of gifts seeks 21+ gifts between $3M and $100K; 76+ gifts between $99K and $10K; and 125 gifts between $1,000 and $9,999.
    • The Campaign has already raised $6.29M of its $15M goal

Strategic Resource Advisory Board (Provost Beth Barnett)

  • The Board’s objective is to align institutional and academic priorities with resource allocations. It does this through formally engaging the campus in connecting strategic priorities with resource allocation.
  • The role of the Advisory Board is to
    • Review Strategic Priority Initiative Fund Requests (SPIF) and Capital requests linking strategic goals and outcomes to determine allocations and/or alternative solutions;
    • Monitor metrics, measures, and progress on various goals; and
    • Share recommendations with Cabinet for action.
  • Outcomes of the Board are expected to include:
    • Establish a financial planning and resource allocation process that will be aligned with the College’s Mission and Goals, and linked to College and unit/school strategic objectives;
    • Enable community participation in review and allocation of funds/supports a greater understanding of planning and resource allocation process;
    • Ensure that capital funding requests are linked to the College’s strategic and resource allocation processes;
    • Ensure that results of allocations are assessed and continuous improvement measured; and
    • Ensure that resource allocation decisions are based on institutional priorities.

School Structure Task Force (Provost Beth Barnett)

  • Draft Charge for Task Force is to review our current school structure and to make recommendations for potential alternative structures.
  • Reasons for Task Force include:
    • To address the declining enrollment in Humanities and Global Studies;
    • To break down curricular barriers that have developed between the schools;
    • To create greater synergies between majors and to use these synergies to create new programs that are attractive to today’s students;
    • To increase cross-disciplinarity; and
    • To keep a liberal education at the core of our programmatic offerings.

Mission of Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Compliance (Chief Equity and Diversity Officer Nicole Morgan Agard)

  • Feedback on the Office’s draft mission statement is being collected across campus and is welcome. Please share your feedback with nmagard@ramapo.edu. The draft statement is:

The mission of the Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, & Compliance is to advance a shared understanding and practice of equity, diversity, inclusion, and compliance as key components of the College’s Mission and Values. To these ends, the Office aims to ensure that at Ramapo College:

Equity strives to eliminate entrenched biases, stereotypes, and discrimination by encouraging the “critical deconstruction of structures, policies, practices, norms, and values” that are assumed to be neutral (AAC&U, p. 4, 2014).

Diversity fosters greater understanding within one’s own groups and with other groups, it engenders significantly more positive views of conflict, it promotes civic engagement (Gurin et al., 2003), and it empowers and legitimizes the lived social realities and standpoints of marginalized peoples.

Inclusion represents deliberate “organizational strategies and practices that promote meaningful social and academic interactions among persons and groups who differ in their experiences, their views, and their traits” (Tienda, p. 467, 2013).

Compliance is established through the timely and transparent discharge of institutional obligations related to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Age Discrimination Act, Title IX of the Education Amendment Act, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Violence Against Women Act.

Capital Projects Update (Vice President Kirsten DaSilva)

  • Padovano College Commons

Following a second round of bidding and the allocation of monies to fully fund the project, the College awarded a construction contract and the work is in progress. The renovated building will be available for occupancy by the end of summer 2017.

  • Photovoltaic System Public/Private Partnership (P3)

Installation of ground-mounted arrays and carports are anticipated to begin after May 2017. Completion of the entire solar project is scheduled for the summer of 2017.

  • Padovano Peace Pavilion Water Infiltration Remediation

Remediation plan reflects reskinning the roof and redesigning the windows to preclude pooling and ponding of water and compromising of the roof. The new waterproofing membrane has been applied, new curtain wall windows installed, and roofing has begun. This structure is schedule to be ready for use by summer 2017.

Q&A

 

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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.

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