State of the College Addresses Sensitive Issues

Photo by Hope Patti

President Mercer delivered his State of the College address on Wednesday in Friends Hall, discussing everything from campus safety to sanctuary campuses to labor concerns.

Present at the address were members of the American Federation of Teachers who raised concerns about inequality being perpetuated between administration and faculty members throughout the college.

Mercer opened up his speech by assuring that the College will continue to ensure campus safety in all of its forms. Mercer went on to address various subjects, both concerning the future of the College and recent achievements of the College staff and student body. The first topic he brought up was the subject of sanctuary campuses.

“I want to reassure our students that before the College can release personally identifiable information connected to education records, there would have to be a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena,” Mercer said. “Colleges and universities are already considered sensitive locations under federal immigration policy.”

Federal immigration officials, he added, have “generally not taken action on campus.” He established that Ramapo would continue to press for that to be the status quo.

When addressing whether or not Ramapo would declare itself a sanctuary college, Mercer stated that declaring ourselves as such would place the college at risk. He added though that he would never close the door entirely to the discussion.

“If we were at risk of losing federal funding, our endowment would by no means be sufficient to offset the resources that our students would otherwise receive,” stated Mercer.

Mercer added that there are other actions the College can take to reassure students, explaining that Public Safety will not inquire or record the immigration status of students. He also explained that immigration statuses of students would never be a factor in student housing enrollment decisions.  

Mercer highlighted Ramapo’s commitment to sustainability as an achievement, the revenue-generating summer programs for high school and younger students and acknowledged how well Ramapo’s graduation rates are.

“We need to continue focusing on what we do, but do it even better,” said Mercer while briefly mentioning the peer facilitation programs, athletic teams and the achievements of many faculty and students.

Mercer also touched upon the ongoing renovations to Potter Library and construction in the student parking lots.

After his speech, Mercer opened the floor to questions and comments from the audience. Members of the AFT raised concerns about staff members being asked to donate from their own pockets to the library renovation. They were also concerned about severe redactions in the annual Thornton report that was given to full- and part- time staff members. Mercer responded to the latter issue by explaining that he understands it is frustrating, but administration has a different job than the faculty.

“I would not tread on their jobs, and I would hope they would not tread on mine,” Mercer stated.

The audience had mixed reactions to Mercer’s responses and many felt that he did not directly answer or address many of the concerns directed towards him.

“I understand that he was put in the hot-seat, but he didn’t need to completely avoid answering the questions," commented junior Randy Casall. "He danced around all of them so he didn’t make the administration look bad."