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State of the College Address: Spring '15

Welcome everybody to today’s State of the College Address. I am particularly pleased to acknowledge our Board of Trustees Chair, George Ruotolo, and one of our four new trustees, Chuck Shotmeyer. Gentlemen, please stand and be recognized. Thank you.

Now before I begin, it is time for this semester’s word from The Dictionary of Newfoundland English. The word is “jonick,” meaning (1) fair, equitable and honest; and (2) ready, fit, in proper condition.

The state of the college could well be described as not entirely jonick. A number of events have contributed to this: (1) The laying of serious charges against five of our students at the end of last year, and the circumstances surrounding those charges, which raised fundamental questions and concerns about our values as a College; (2) the continuing serious violations of our housing and alcohol polices remain a significant distraction; (3) necessary scheduling changes are causing some consternation, as change inevitably does; and (4) in the near background we have looming the five year review by the Middle States Commission.

These are all, in their own way, disquieting but they are more than matched by an impressive range of achievement and accomplishment. I will begin with the more somber items before reviewing a number of high points from the last six months.

Student Safety
The prominence of issues surrounding complaints of sexual assault on college campuses cannot have escaped anyone’s attention. On the one hand, there is the concern that complaints may not be brought forward because the aggrieved party does not wish to be put through the ordeal of an investigation and judicial proceedings. On the other hand, there is concern that any proceeding must follow the relevant principles of due process for those being investigated. Controversies abound, both in our midst at William Paterson University or Princeton, and further afield at such institutions as the University of Virginia and Vanderbilt.

It is important to note that Ramapo College does not have a police force; we have a Department of Public Safety which means that any criminal charges are laid not by College personnel but by the Mahwah Police who, in serious cases will consult with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office. They have highly trained and experienced officers and officials and they work closely with out Department of Public Safety.

The College does not defer to an outside agency, however, when it comes to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibiting discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities that receive federal funding. A thorough Title IX investigation was begun following the incident last November and continues.

As most of you are aware, we have also taken active steps to ensure that our programs and policies dealing with sexual assault, bystander intervention, and alcohol awareness are substantively comprehensive and appropriate. An external review is being conducted by Stafford and Associates and I expect to receive their report in March.
In addition, to ensure that our policies for receiving and dealing with complaints are appropriate, we are also consulting with the former Attorney General of New Jersey Anne Milgram who will also be reporting towards the end of March.

I emphasize that our goal is to enhance student safety by making sure that sexual assault complaints are properly lodged, investigated, and adjudicated.

An important part of my responsibility as president is discerning what is in the best interest of our students and the College. It seems just about every morning lately I am conferring with Public Safety over the weather conditions affecting not only the campus but our commuters as well.

Canceling classes for all or part of the day causes inconvenience and some will feel that I should be less cautious. On any given day, they may be right but I try to err on the side of safety. College alcohol and residence policy decisions are no different. The paramount concern is student safety and the potential liability of the College if the safety is not adequately protected. It is my job to see that risks are managed and I’m called to answer if the College fails to do so.

As I emphasized in the last issue of Ramapo News, I would very much prefer that the student body work with administration and finding solutions and the SGA President Lauren Fuhring, and the Student Trustee Kevin Ng have accepted my invitation to meet more often.

One agenda item for meetings will focus on building a climate where student activities are encouraged and promoted. I had a very productive talk with Professor Ed Shannon recently in which he made the point that our public space posting policies encourage tidiness but at the expense of communication. I am also planning to sponsor a series of public on-campus performances by student musicians and poets starting the spring. More details to follow.

Schedule Changes and Middle States
Let me give you just one statistic that highlights the problem with our academic schedule. Because we have had to close on successive Mondays, there were, as of this week, 62 classes which still have not met. This is the sort of risk posed by scheduling classes on only one or even two days per week.

Scheduling is a complicated exercise and we are constantly reviewing it in order to try and take into account all relevant considerations. I want to thank the faculty for working closely and productively with the Provost on the scheduling reorganization.

Currently, the faculty receives 3.6 credits for teaching a 4 credit course. The remaining .4 credits covers the CEC. As the CEC is eliminated, faculty will receive 4 credits for teaching the 4 credit course but it must meet a minimum of 200 minutes per week. Our classes are not in compliance with federal law and Middle State requirements at just 180 minutes per week.

I want to emphasize that the decision of bringing the required CEC experiment to a close does not signal a reduction in our commitment to hands-on learning. Our internship programs, for example, will continue to expand.
Compared to other institutions of similar sizes, missions and quality, we are also highly unusual in offering most of our classes two days per week. On average, students learn more when classes are, individually, not much more than an hour long and are spread over the teaching week. We appear to be unique among comparator institutions in experiencing a significant spike in alcohol incidents on Tuesday nights. I look forward to losing that distinction as classroom hours are spread more evenly across the week.

Good News
There is also a great deal of good news to share.

Our enrollment is strong. Undergraduate spring 2015 enrollment closed at 100% of goal. Graduate spring 2015 enrollment closed at 122% of goal. And, we exceeded the spring 2015 housing goal by 64 students.

Overall, Ramapo again is experiencing an increase in applications, we are currently 6% ahead in applications for fall 2015 (we finished last year 7% ahead of previous years) and we are on pace to break 7,000 applications.

To date, we have experienced 13% growth in our second year of Early Decision applications.

In December, we hosted our largest guidance counselor lunch event with 168 guidance counselors spending the day at Ramapo from all over the state of New Jersey and 3 additional states.

Recruitment for the MSW is off to a great start. We already have 31 applications for the program. I want to pay tribute to Dean Sam Rosenberg for his visionary effort in establishing the MSW. Although he has decided not to seek reappointment as Dean, the MSW will, in many respects, be his legacy.

The College was recognized this past fall and had three presentations accepted to the national Strategic Enrollment Management Conference. Presenters included Chris Romano, Peter Rice, Joe Connell, and Jordana Maziarz.

Connect’s second-year rollout has been successful with 60% of faculty completing course surveys across the fall semester and 90% of students indicating they spoke with a professor or sought tutoring or had increased motivation based on feedback generated through Connect messages and professional advisor outreach.

Our academics remain strong. In partnership with Professor Huiping Li in ASB, Ramapo College has signed two new partnerships for summer programs with Chinese universities. This summer, approximately 25 – 30 students from Suzhou University will attend Ramapo for one month, taking an interdisciplinary modular program with topics taught from both ASB and SSHGS as well as a US career development component. This program will be coordinated through CIPL. Additionally, Wengzhen University will join Shanghai Normal University for a two week immersion program at the end of July focused on US career development and preparation.

The Ramapo Theater program, in collaboration with the theater program at Bergen Community College is hosting Fulbright Fellow Raphael Bionciotto, a theater artist from Paris. He is directing our main stage production of Candide using mask and movement techniques based in the classic Italian form of Commedia del Arte.

Another Ramapo/Bergen Community College collaboration has resulted in an articulation agreement between our Music programs with a formal agreement signing schedule for February 25th.

John Pfeffer, Associate Professor of Art History, has been awarded a Fulbright teaching/research award to complete his research on family photography in South Africa and teach two courses at the University of Johannesberg.

The Diversity Action Committee and the Krame Center hosted Mr. Arun Gandhi on February 4th as the keynote speaker for the ninth annual diversity convocation. As part of the day’s activity, Mr. Gandhi had lunch with the faculty, staff, and students. Six students competed in the DAC media contest with co-winners being poet Kevin Hurtado, and filmmakers Paul Ianneli and Alex Baran.

The Center for Student Involvement sponsored training for CSI student staff, SGA remembers and fraternity/sorority members that included a viewing of the movie Selma. An ensuing student-led discussion took place on MLK day regarding the legacy of Dr. King and civil rights in the US today. As an outgrowth of this event, a bi-weekly and semester-long discussion series launched on “Race in America.”

The Center for Health and Counseling Services has coordinated an event for February 27th to discuss the best practices in sexual assault prevents. This event is being led by EverFi- the College’s organization that administers on-line sexual violence and alcohol education training programs for first year students. The event is open to faculty staff and students. Additional information about this evening is available by contacting the Counseling Center.

Student Success
Our students continue to push boundaries. Peer Intern and Orientation Coordinator, Uma Joshi, was accepted as a NASPA undergraduate Fellow. NASPA’s undergraduate fellow program provides mentoring for students from traditionally underrepresented populations. This program aims to diversify and broaden the channel of future higher education administrators. Through the program, Uma participates in mentorship and professional development both on campus and at national conferences.

In January, 18 Ramapo theater students participated in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Regionals in Cleveland and senior Justin Propper won the highest award for Sound Design for his work on the production of Miss Julie. He will compete at the nationals in Washington, D.C. in April, and was awarded a summer apprenticeship with the sound designer of Cirque de Soleil in Las Vegas, all expenses paid.

Seven Communication Arts students have been selected to present research papers at the Eastern Communication Arts Conference in Philadelphia in April.

Student Richard Suarez and Adjunct Professor Neriko Doerr co-hosted a session at the Annual Conference of the American Anthropological Association.

Over the winter break, the first two Alternative Break trips were held through the Civic and Community Engagement Center. Eleven students and two staff members went to Costa Rica to work at El Manantial Macaw Sanctuary.

Fifteen sorority and fraternity members and four staff members went to Atlanta and performed several service projects, as well as visited the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center.

Ramapo’s team of four students: Ashley Orlando, Megan Ixim , Greg Flohs, and Sam Santos, placed third out of ten at the Alpha Kappa Psi Business Fraternity case competition. The team beat out competitors from SUNY Binghamton, UCONN, James Madison, NYU, Slippery Rock, and others.

Grants and Philanthropy
The College was awarded a $668,200 grant for a Middle School University at two Paterson schools. This three-year grant was awarded only to Ramapo based on a competitive RFP. It will provide $74,200 in overhead to the College and it will allow us to award 17 fellowships to our Masters level students, and our adjuncts or faculty to teach after school STEAM classes (STEM with art added).

CIPL was officially notified by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development that it will be the educational training provider for two Skills4Jersey training grants. The training grants are available to New Jersey employers to upgrade the skills of their current employees and/or train new employees with the goal of retaining highly skilled and high wage jobs in NJ. Two more applications are in the works with VitaminShoppe and Net-A-Porter.

We are pleased to share that gifts, pledges, and grants for the Comprehensive Capital Campaign have surpassed the $54 million mark. When we celebrate victory we will recognize gift from almost 15,000 alumni, parents, friends, corporations and foundations. New recent gifts include $250,000 from a member of the board of Governor, $150,000 from BD Corporation, $100,000 from the Birch foundation, and many new named scholarships endowment.

The honor of serving as the voice of our campus camping goes to Ker Saint Fleur. I want to thank Kathy Burke , Sue Gluchanicz, Kathy Finnegan, Rob Josic, Ben Levy, Anthony Padovano, Murray Sabrin, Eddie Saiff, Warner Wada and Ker for their willingness to serve on the Campus Campaign Steering Committee. Their assistance and your generosity led to us far surpassing our $2M goal. I am pleased to share that our Campus Campaign, including gifts from retired faculty and staff, raised $2,207,514, of which more than $1.6 million is for endowments. We increased faculty and staff participation by 12%, in just the 45 day blitz effort from Founders Day to the end of the year. 54% of all managers and professional staff gave, 38% of the faculty gave, and 46% of the secretarial and clerical employees donated.

One of the initiatives in the College’s strategic plan is to measurably increase the numbers of faculty applying for major, competitive national grants. To support this objective, the Foundation created a Faculty Fellows Research Challenge. I would like to congratulate the following faculty for being selected for this program:
• School of Contemporary Art : Professor Seth Cluett
• Salameno School of Humanities and Global Studies: Professor James Hoch
• School of Social Science and Human Services: Professor Michael Bitz (who just submitted his proposal, “The Global Learning Space,” on January 19th to the National Science Foundation)
• School of Theoretical and Applied Science: Professor Joost Monen

The Marketing and Communications team has launched the new intranet design at that by now most of you have seen. The College has also launched an interim redesign of the College’s homepage,, to focus more on student success stories and showcase the academic reputation of the College. After working with a faculty/staff advisory board, the College has hired an outside agency that will to redesign the College’s entire websites and the anticipated launch date for the redesign is August 1, 2015.

Also, we welcomed four new trustees: Sharlene Vichness, language and translation professional; Chuck Shotmeyer, area business owner; Susan Vallario, area business professional and former attorney; and Bart Talamini, retired k-12 educator and a former volunteer basketball coach at Ramapo.

Speaking of basketball coaches, Chuck McBreen celebrated his 300th win last week.

We bid a fond farewell to Maria Krupin this winter. The College will work with a national search firm this spring/summer to identify our next Vice President of Administration and Finance.

Alumni Success
This fall, SSHGS launched its Ramapo Alumni Mentoring Program in which SSHGS alumni serve as mentors to current students.

In December, recent Music graduate Lenny Morales and his band Pros and Icons were selected from among 150 competing bands to perform at radio station Z100’s Jingle Ball concert with some of the top recording artists working today.

Contemporary Arts alumnus Grace Helbig, a popular YouTube personality, will host her own talk show called “The Grace Helbig Project” on E! Network, launching in April.


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