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President's Post #205: Class of 2021

Dear Graduates:

Congratulations and thank you for your participation in our 2021 Commencement Ceremonies! It has been five very full days and it has provided me with a tremendous sense of pride to preside over our nine ceremonies.

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Ramapo College Alumni Association.  You are joining a network of close to 41,000 proud alumni, who have shared many of the same experiences and traditions that you have enjoyed throughout your time at Ramapo.

I hope that you will stay connected with your alma mater and return to see us often. Save the date of Sunday, June 6 from 12 – 4 p.m. for a summer reunion event at the Arch.  For more information, please visit www.ramapo.edu/alumni.

Remeber, Ramapo will always be with you.

Best wishes as you enter this new phase of your life.

Peter P. Mercer,  President

 

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President's Post #204: Vaccinations and our Safety

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends:

My tenure with Ramapo College, after 16 years, will conclude on June 30. What I have enjoyed most throughout that time is being with you. Whether we exchanged greetings in the hallway, convened in the Pavilion, or gathered under the Arch — being with you and being a part of the College’s tangible vibrancy has been a gift, and it is that very gift that I have missed most over the past 15 months. So it should come as no surprise that I remain committed to safely doing all we can to restore vibrancy to collegiate life at Ramapo College.

Facilitating Togetherness. After consultation with the Senior Team and the Pandemic Assessment Team, Ramapo College will require the COVID-19 vaccine for our on-campus students this fall because we must commit to being together and we must take every precaution and leverage every opportunity available to us to safely return the gift of vibrant togetherness to our campus. This means residence halls may reopen with roommates, dining options can expand, athletics and intramurals can reemerge, and student club and organization activities, as well as civic engagement and service programs, can grow.

As reflected in the low transmission rates and low incidence levels on our campus, yes, our COVID-19 testing and contact tracing strategies are working. Yes, our social distancing and de-densification strategies are working. Yes, our sanitization, face covering, and health screening strategies are working. At present, we plan to continue all of these strategies and we will strengthen them through this student vaccination requirement.

Requiring Vaccination. The American College Health Association (ACHA) advised in late April that comprehensive COVID-19 vaccination is the most effective way to foster a safe, robust on-campus experience in Fall 2021 and we have indeed been buoyed by the expanded eligibility and increased availability of vaccines in New Jersey and our neighboring states. Please be advised:

  • Our College’s immunization practices will continue to allow for religious and medical exemptions.
  • Residential and commuter students will need to show proof that they have completed the final dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine (second dose of a 2-dose COVID-19 vaccine or single dose of a 1-dose COVID-19 vaccine) by mid-August.
  • Students participating in fully remote instruction for Fall 2021, while not required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination at this time, will have access to the campus this fall by submitting proof that they have completed their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by mid-August.

In summary, any student who plans to access Ramapo’s physical campus will need to show proof of full vaccination.

Enhancing Access. We recognize that, for some members of our College, access to the vaccine may be a challenge. To mitigate this challenge, Ramapo anticipates serving as a site for vaccine distribution starting in June. We anticipate announcing a series of Vaccine Clinic dates throughout the summer.

Moving Through and Forward. More details and a FAQ about the vaccine requirement (including how and when students can secure and submit proof of vaccination) are available at www.ramapo.edu/health/covid-19-vaccine/. Additional information regarding the College’s service as a vaccination site will be shared at www.ramapo.edu/health. Students, please look for a message from Vice President Christopher Romano later this month with more details on this requirement.

We will continue to move through these very strange times together just as we continue to look forward to being together again.  Please continue to take good care of yourselves and one another.

Peter P. Mercer
President

Ramapo College’s COVID-19 Vaccine Resources:

Other Informative Resources:

Frequently Asked Questions about the COVID-19 Vaccines:

Medical Contraindications to the COVID-19 Vaccines:

The COVID-19 Vaccines and Pregnancy:

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President's Post #203: April is Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends:

I write to encourage us all to participate in and actively support April as Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Ramapo College.

I am pleased and proud to share the following proclamation:

Whereas Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month is recognized and celebrated at Ramapo College of New Jersey in the month of April; and 

Whereas Ramapo College acknowledges the rich heritage and contributions of Asian Americans, South Asians, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and honors the history, culture and continuous contributions they have made within our history and culture in the United States; and  

Whereas Ramapo College continues to strive in creating a more diverse and culturally enriched campus and celebrate those of Asian and Pacific Islander descent represented within our student body and our faculty and staff; and

Whereas the theme for this year’s observance is “Unity-Condemning Bias & Hate”, emphasizing community, unity and the celebration of all individuals of Asian and Pacific Islander descent, now therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED, I, Peter P. Mercer, President of Ramapo College of New Jersey, hereby proclaim April 2021 as Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Ramapo College. We invite all members of the College to proudly join in the celebration of Asian and Pacific Islanders and people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and honor their rich culture, heritage, and accomplishments.

In the spirit of “Unity- Condemning Bias and Hate”, we all have an obligation as members of this College to uphold the values that connect us: to actively engage inside and outside of the classroom, to develop the whole person, and to respect each other and our environment.

Several events will take place this month and throughout the samester, a shortlist of them and related resources include:
  • Racism and Violence Against Asian Americans with Professor Rebecca Leung and Active Minds: 4/14 1-2 pm (links on Archway)
  • Colorism and Anti-blackness in the Asian Community with SOCA and Lambda Tau Omega: 4/21 8pm (links on Archway)

I reiterate what I shared with many of you one year ago–that it is essential that our College demonstrate zero tolerance for discriminatory language when defining this pandemic, as such language has led to an alarming increase in acts of violence and hate towards Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and such behavior must be condemned. I also echo the words of Nicole Morgan Agard, Chief Equity and Diversity Officer, who implores us all to reach out and offer support to the members of our Asian American and Pacific Islander community; to  speak up and speak out against violent, biased and racist acts towards others.

Please continue to take good care of yourselves and one another.

Peter P. Mercer

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President's Post #202: April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends:

I write to remind us all that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and, despite our remote operations, we must continue to do all we can to support survivors and prevent sexual assault in our communities and beyond. As in previous years, I am pleased to share with you this proclamation on behalf of our Office of Violence Prevention  (SAAM PROCLAMATION 4.1.21) declaring April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month at Ramapo College this year.

Further, while many resources and services for survivors are being delivered differently during this time, they remain available and accessible. The New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA) has created helpful content on its website featuring relevant resources and guidance for persons during this time that are:

  • in immediate crisis/emergency situations,
  • in need of counseling/therapy,
  • looking to access the legal system, and
  • unable to access hospital/health care provider.

In addition, the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence also has relevant and critical resources available to survivors of domestic violence.

College resources and reporting on Sexual Assault are available at https://www.ramapo.edu/publicsafety/sexual-assault/.

Please continue to take good care of yourselves and one another.

Peter P. Mercer

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President's Post #201: Upcoming Programs and Fall Planning

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends:

I hope you have been enjoying the warmer temperatures this week. It is reassuring to see spring come into bloom and to see more of you gathering safely on campus lately. I am writing to provide you with information on upcoming programs and our ongoing planning for Fall 2021.

Diversity Convocation

This year celebrates the 15th anniversary of Diversity Convocation. On March 31 at noon, please join me and the Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Compliance via WebEx in welcoming keynote speaker Reshma Saujani, CEO of Girls Who Code, and special guest Dr. Brian Bridges, N.J. Secretary of Higher Education.

Remembrance Day

In lieu of the annual in-person Remembrance Day Ceremony, the College will release a memorial video tribute online on March 31, 2021. The video will honor the lives and contributions of 17 members of the Ramapo community who passed away between July 2019 and June 2020.

New Academic Programs

At a special meeting this morning, the Board of Trustees approved two new graduate programs: Master of Science in Applied Mathematics and Master of Science in Computer Science. I extend my appreciation to Interim Provost Susan Gaulden, Professors Amanda Beecher and Scott Frees, and all others who helped contribute to the development of these new STEM programs. Pending State approval, they are expected to launch in Fall 2022.

Fall Planning

On March 26, Governor Murphy announced that higher education faculty and staff will become eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning April 5. This expansion will also cover persons aged 55 and older, and 16 and older with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  For more information about eligibility, statewide vaccination site locations, and to preregister for a vaccination, visit https://covid19.nj.gov/pages/vaccine.

Many colleges and universities have communicated their plans for the fall semester and many institutions are citing a “return to normal” or “back to the typical college experience” within those plans.  Ramapo is not keen to make such lofty promises without more external guidance. To this end, last week, Interim Provost Gaulden, Vice President Chris Romano, Assistant Vice President Joe Connell, and Dean of Students Melissa Van Der Wall hosted a student-focused virtual Town Hall at which information about the Fall 2021 student experience was shared.

In keeping with previous messages from the College, students and families were advised:

  • the Fall 2021 course schedule includes six course delivery modes and that 50% of all scheduled courses thus far have been organized to have some in-person elements;
  • we plan to safely increase the number of students who live on campus for the fall semester;
  • we are currently engaged in safely increasing on-campus student activities and programming; and
  • we plan to continue the vast majority of safety and prevention measures that are currently in place.

A great deal of interest in and support of these measures was expressed by the Town Hall attendees. Their hope for a “return to normal” was as palpable as our commitment to honestly, safely, and thoughtfully manage their expectations.

Please continue to take care of yourself and one another.

Thank you.

Peter P. Mercer, President

 

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President's Post #200: An Anniversary of Sorts

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends,

This week marks the one year anniversary of Ramapo’s decision to shift to remote operations and virtual learning.

Looking back on that email announcement from March 12, 2020 I can recall the vast ambiguity surrounding the then unknown virus and the strangeness of the moment as terms like “social distancing”, “community spread”, “PPE”, and “unprecedented” were beginning to emerge regularly in our lexicon.

Our reality has been dramatically transformed by this pandemic in so many ways, and so have we. We have been thrust into grappling with very real and very difficult understandings of grief, loss, equity, and change. Further, we learn differently, we work differently, we pray differently, we celebrate differently, we even eat and exercise differently than we did just one year ago.

Worldwide, 118 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported and nearly three million people have lost their lives to the virus. As you read this, I encourage you to take a few moments to absorb the devastating breadth of that number and to personally honor, however you may see fit, the lives of those we have lost.

While the prevalence of testing, the increasing distribution of the vaccine, and the forecasting of herd immunity should give us hope and optimism for the future, we must remain vigilant. Please continue to do all you can to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to take good care of yourself and one another.

Peter P. Mercer
President

State of New Jersey General Resources
If you have questions about COVID-19, you may wish to call the hotlines set up by the NJ Department of Public Health.

Ramapo Specific Resources
The College continues to provide resource information on the Health Services website and Return to Campus website, or you can contact us at:

  • Health Services: 201-684-7536
  • General Questions: 201-684-7265 or communications@ramapo.edu
  • Counseling Services (24/7, including emergencies): 201-684-7522
  • Human Resources: 201-684-7506
  • Public Safety: 201-684-6666

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President's Post #199: It's been nearly a year...

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends:

It is hard to fathom that we are approaching a full 365 days since Ramapo first shifted its operations due to COVID-19.  While the past year has presented challenges unlike any other in our College’s history, your resilience and agility continue to inspire and impress. Reflecting on the past year brings with it a rush of feelings: grief, astonishment, fear, yet also relief, pride, and hope.

As a community, we not only look forward together, we move forward together. All of the challenges that our college, our students, our staff and faculty, and our alumni have overcome in the past year have fortified our institutional spirit and our commitment to a future that must be rich with collaboration, innovation, and agility.  This week, the Board of Trustees will announce my successor and I am comforted in knowing that she will be a part of this future.

At present, we are evaluating plans for Commencement and plan to update the campus within the next two weeks on how we will celebrate the Class of 2021. We are also actively planning for Fall 2021 while grounding ourselves in the reality of the status of this pandemic day to day. I believe there are reasons to be sanguine about the fall semester and the year ahead. With broader access to testing, increasing availability of vaccines, and an incremental loosening of some public health restrictions, the senior team and I are optimistic that we can begin to prepare for a fall semester that safely brings with it an increased number of courses that will hold face-to-face class meetings on campus as well as a broadened range of on-campus student experiences.

The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff will continue to be the number one priority that drives our institutional planning.  Guidance from the CDC, the State, the county and other public health officials, communicated through our Pandemic Assessment Team, will remain essential to our operational plans.  As you may already be aware, we expanded our health and safety measures this semester.  Our surveillance testing of residential students and weekly testing of student athletes, now one month into its operation, is just one example of the additional measures we have taken this past semester to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  The testing program, along with several of our other effective strategies, were recently highlighted by Insider NJ and other media outlets.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Susan Gaulden, has already communicated with faculty regarding the fall semester and efforts are well underway to design a fall course schedule that reflects a balance of optimism for in-person and hybrid courses and the realistic need to continue to make available virtual opportunities, both synchronous and asynchronous.  Over the next few weeks, students can expect communication from Provost Gaulden about the Fall 2021 course schedule and its release, as well as messages from Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, Dr. Chris Romano, about housing selection and other elements of student life for the fall semester.

Again, while there is optimism for the fall, we must continue to be vigilant about the reality of the virus and its continuing effects. We must also continue to adhere to social distancing, wear face coverings, comply with contact tracing activities, and seek support for our own emotional wellness.

Peter P. Mercer
President

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President's Post #198: September 2021 Tenure Recipients

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends,

To be rewarded tenure is a most laudable achievement for any educator. To secure tenure at Ramapo College, a professor or librarian must demonstrate a multi-year commitment to effective teaching/effective librarianship, scholarly achievement, contribution to College and community, and the fulfillment of professional responsibilities.

On January 25, 2021, I had the distinct privilege to recommend to the Board of Trustees the reappointment with tenure of five members of Ramapo College. The Board approved that recommendation and, a few weeks later, my office coordinated a brief virtual meet and greet with the five recipients to extend congratulations on their achievement.

I invite you to please join me now in congratulating the following newly tenured members of our College:

Again, my congratulations on this most significant achievement.

Peter P. Mercer, President

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President's Post #197: Remembering Senator Gerry Cardinale

Dear Students, Colleagues and Friends:

I regret to report the passing of Senator Gerald Cardinale. He was 86.  Senator Cardinale represented the 39th district for 42 years.

A longtime supporter of Ramapo College, Senator Cardinale’s strong advocacy and leadership helped us secure vital state funding for our Library renovation and the addition of the Learning Commons.

On behalf of the members of Ramapo College, past, present and future, I offer our gratitude for Senator Cardinale’s long-standing public service and I extend our condolences to his wife, Carol, and the entire Cardinale family.

Peter P. Mercer
President

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President's Post #196: 2021 is Here, Welcome.

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends:

I trust we are all, in our own ways, preparing for the start of the Spring 2021 semester at Ramapo College.

You may be checking and re-checking your course schedule, refreshing your WebEx skills, reviewing your personal and professional goals, or, like my wife, Jackie, and I, perhaps you are also nervously but excitedly preparing for what awaits you after Ramapo. On this latter point, I have shared many “welcome messages” with the campus over the past 16 years. With the exception of “welcoming” Ramapo’s fifth president later this year, it is most humbling to know that this will be the last welcome message I share with you all.

Author and poet Ama Ata Aidoo wrote, “Humans, not places, make memories.”  I provide this rather indulgent introduction for one reason really and that is to make very clear to you that it has been a unique opportunity for me to be able to address you since 2005 and to have cultivated so many fond memories of my time with you as a member of this great College. Even on the darker days, the sunlight has found a way to peek out over the nearby mountains. The calm has always found places to settle in between the storms.

There is much that we should all take great pride in as members of this College, not the least of which is how, despite historic disruption, we have continued to serve and develop our students with compassion and integrity. And in turn, students, you have continued to fuel our efforts through your persistent inquiry, creative thinking, analytical problem solving, and seemingly bottomless reserves of will and agility.

This mutuality we experience as members of Ramapo College will continue to serve us well as 2021 marches on and brings with it continued change, challenge, and reward. Our residence halls are more occupied this semester. We have more course sections being delivered in hybrid format. We are returning to some intercollegiate athletics. We are preparing for virtual visits by presidential candidates.  We are indeed moving forward and moving ahead together.

Our Spring 2021 Operations Plan describes many of the adjustments we have made to ensure our continued productivity. As we begin this semester, one of the significant adjustments to our operations is the implementation of a robust testing strategy for students. This three part testing strategy, which is detailed in the Plan, includes 1) Entry Testing for All Residential Students and Student Athletes, 2) Weekly Surveillance Testing for Residential Students, and 3) Weekly Student Athlete Testing. I encourage you to review the Plan and to heed yesterday’s message from the Pandemic Assessment Team regarding COVID-19 variants, testing, vaccination, and reporting.

Thank you and best wishes for a healthy and productive spring semester.

Peter P. Mercer
President

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