The state of the college is “not entirely jonnick,” according to President Peter Mercer.
Following tradition, Mercer began Wednesday’s State of the College address with a word from the Dictionary of Newfoundland English. The word he chose was jonnick, meaning fit and in proper condition. Citing the recent arrests of five Ramapo students, the frequency of housing and alcohol violations and the scheduling and policy changes, Mercer described the College as not exactly “in proper condition.”
“These are all in their own way disquieting, but they’re more than matched by an impressive range of achievements and accomplishments,” said Mercer.
Mercer began with the bad, bringing up many sensitive topics that have caused much tumult on campus. He mentioned the difficulties posed when making sure sexual assault cases are brought forward, especially when participants are not willing to sit through a trial. However, Mercer assured that the College is taking steps to improve future education on sexual assault.
“As most of you are aware, we’ve 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,” he said.
D. Stafford & Associates, a consultant that specializes in campus security, has been making reports regarding the College’s sexual assault programs and former attorney general Anne Milgram is being consulted. Mercer emphasized enhancing student safety, and has been in talks with Lauren Fuhring, the Student Government Association’s president, and Kevin Ng, student trustee, to further communicate with the student body.
Mercer then talked of the future schedule changes that will be implemented in the fall of 2015. He cited the fact that 62 classes had still not met as of his address, due to snow days, as one of the dangers of having so many classes scheduled on one day. Ramapo, according to Mercer, is unusual in its scheduling compared with other schools. Because of this change, course enrichment components, also known as CEC, will be eliminated from course requirements. Mercer also hopes that the new schedule will decrease the number of alcohol violations issued on Tuesday nights.
The address then turned to more positive prospects facing the College. Ramapo’s undergraduate enrollment reached 100 percent of its goal, and 122 percent of their graduate goals. Housing goals for 2015 have also been exceeded by 64 students.
Mercer cited numerous examples of student and faculty success. Some highlights include Ramapo partnering with two Chinese universities to create enduring relationships with international students, the Civic and Community Engangement Center, or CCEC, hosting their first alternative winter break in Costa Rica to aid a macaw sanctuary and the Diversity Action Committee hosting Arun Gandhi as a keynote speaker this semester.
Ramapo has also undergone a new intranet design and has hired an outside company to completely redesign the College’s website, which should be ready by Aug. 1 of this year. These, among many other accomplishments and future plans, were announced.
Mercer closed the formal portion of his speech by indicating that this is his 20th State of the College address, and informing the audience that his contract as president will be up in the next few months. Mercer hinted that he has received invitations throughout his career to be an administrator at other schools.
“Despite current rumors to the contrary, I have no plans to take up any such invitation,” said Mercer. “Indeed, I intend to ask the Ramapo Board of Trustees for further renewal this June.”
The floor was then opened up for questions. Mercer was asked about everything from how he’s working toward creating a positive on-campus community, to how the College plans on dealing with racial insensitivity on social media.
Mercer responded to the latter saying, “I have every hope that we can combat hateful speech with reasoned argument and education.”
Chair of the Board of Trustees George Ruotolo was also called up to talk briefly about the state of the college.
The address ended on a positive note with Anthony Dovi, associate director of graduate and adult admissions, stepping up to the mic to speak to Mercer. In light of Mercer’s 20th State of the College address, Dovi brought the original petition signed by 3,200 students, started by the SGA in 2005, that advocated for Mercer to be enstated as president of Ramapo. Dovi promised to drop it off at his office personally.