On September 29th, I delivered my eleventh State of the College address.
In searching for a title for the address, I recalled a Clint Eastwood film from the 1960’s,
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I’m pleased to provide you with a briefing of my address here. For detail on some of these items, please refer to the full text of my address provided below.
Our people. Ramapo’s faculty, staff, students, trustees, foundation members and alumni are doing great work and our incoming freshman class is the second most highly qualified academically in Ramapo’s 41 year history.
Our Facilities. Our grounds, buildings and mountain view are impressive. On Monday, October 4th, the Board of Trustees approved a plan to refurbish the four floors of G-wing and to construct a 25,000 square foot addition. Once completed, about two years from now, the schools of Theoretical and Applied Sciences and Social Science and Human Services will have facilities whose standards are commensurate with the excellence of their programs.
Our Programs. To use the example of our newest program– the Master’s Program in Sustainability Studies – even though it was almost June before it was approved by the Commission on Higher Education, we attracted 18 registrants, well above the number we needed to break even. At the national level, of the 49 public colleges and universities in the category Regional Universities, North, Ramapo advanced for the fourth year in the U.S. News & World Report ranks to number 4.
Our Foundation Board. The Foundation Board is extraordinarily active in its support of our mission. I am pleased to share that the College’s comprehensive campaign, currently in its quiet phase, is already at 60% of its fund raising goal.
Our Relations with Business and Government. Ramapo enjoys many partnerships with regional businesses and this fall marks the start of my service on the Board of the Meadowlands Chamber of Commerce. Also, I am in my third year of chairing the President’s Council of the NJ Association of State Colleges and Universities and I bring to the College and my peers enthusiasm for Governor Christie’s vision for higher education in New Jersey. The Governor recently stated “New Jersey's institutions of higher learning are critically important to the economic growth of our state and must be afforded the necessary tools to stay competitive.” The Higher Education Task force, led by former Governor Tom Kean, has been charged by Governor Christie to conduct a critical review and assessment that will grow infrastructure, increase accessibility and promote excellence in our institutions. I have met with Governor Kean and have had the opportunity to contribute to this dialogue that I hope will result in changes in the best interest of our students and our fine institutions.
President Peter P. Mercer
State of the College Address
Accreditation. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) reaccredited Ramapo this year. As a regional accreditor, MSCHE examines the entire institution, including its educational programs and curricula, student achievement, faculty, facilities and equipment, student support services, recruiting and admissions practices, the institution’s financial condition, administrative effectiveness, governing boards, and several other aspects of the institution.
Development under the Strategic Plan. This month, the Cabinet and I will review the Institutional Effectiveness Committee’s (IEC) recommendations for allocation of the Strategic Priorities Incentive Fund (SPIF). I thank the IEC members for their work not only in evaluating the requests, but in reviewing anecdotal information that informed their recommendations.
The Financial Climate. The state of NJ is facing a several billion dollar deficit and even as we celebrate our successes, we are facing many challenges. Despite Ramapo’s cost containment measures, we continue to deliver high quality programs and services and we look forward to being part of the solution to the state’s fiscal problems.
Accreditation. Our reaccreditation was an accomplishment, however, Ramapo is committed to improving its programs and services and we will submit a required monitoring report in April 2012 to MSCHE. The report will document our college-wide implementation of assessment measures.
Destructive Forms of Student Engagement. It goes without saying that the health, well being, and safety of students is critical to their success. That is why we take the issues of alcohol abuse, unwanted guests, and public safety so seriously. In recent weeks the actions of a few have eroded the quality of the on-campus environment. In response, some key changes are needed. The Guest Policy, and the Alcohol and Other Drug Policy have been revised to reflect more stringent sanctions and expectations for student conduct. The alcoholic energy drink, Four Loko, and other drinks of its kind have been banned from campus. These revisions are in addition to policies and procedures that already exist, as outlined in the College Code of Conduct and the Guide to Community Living.
Few classes on Wednesdays and Fridays. In light of recent incidents on campus, the question arises of why our students have so much time on their hands. Exploration into class scheduling, academic rigor, and activity programming on campus will ensue this year.
Ultimately, Ramapo College is at a turning point similar to the one that occurred when it transformed from a commuter to a residential campus. In my view, that transition made Ramapo more truly a College. However, I believe there is another transition to be made, having to do with the culture of Ramapo.
The word “culture’ is rooted in the Latin ‘colere” which means, “to cultivate”. What are the norms that we wish to cultivate? Are they the norms, behaviors and activities of an academically serious and challenging college with high aspirations or are we resigned to a mediocre slouching toward the corn-fed life of the non-reflective? That is a question that I will have more to say about throughout the semester.
Peter P. Mercer