Presidential candidate finalist Dr. Cindy R. Jebb visited Ramapo on Monday, Feb. 8 for a virtual town hall. Students, faculty and alumni alike were invited to learn more about Jebb as the community searches for Ramapo’s next president. Jebb is currently the Dean of the Academic Board at the U.S. Military Academy.
Dr. Jebb began the town hall with a speech detailing her beliefs about the benefits of liberal arts education, politics and equity as well as wellness on campus, among other topics. Jebb praised Ramapo for cultivating a community which she said is “rounded in values.”
“It is the public sector's purpose to ensure access and equity, to extend the opportunity for social mobility to all,” Jebb said. “To have intentional and deliberate partnership with communities, businesses, industry and government focused on improving the human condition.”
Jebb highlighted the idea of “civic culture,” which says that people should tolerate one another; however, Jebb calls for not only tolerance but embracing others, too. She noted how members of a civic culture are loyal to the democratic system and said “a vibrant democratic society… cannot tolerate the danger of inequality.”
“With the rapid pace of change we are forced to operate and make policy in gray zones,” Jebb said. “Gray zones are areas where science and technology have outpaced laws and norms, where jurisdictions criss-cross, where we lack good, historical analogies already made; where we lack understanding the impact of science and technology and vice versa, the way we prepare is by investing in people now in the liberal arts education.”
Jebb went on to talk about institutions acknowledging their shortcomings through honest data analysis. She supported a report done in the U.S. Military Academy on violent alt-right beliefs, despite how it put her at risk of losing donors.
“As an institution, we can position ourselves on the leading edge of change, if we are brave enough to ask ‘What’s next,’” Jebb said.
Jebb spent the second half of her speech discussing the higher education landscape and her time with experiential learning opportunities. She also spent time speaking on the importance of affordability, and the role of creating pathways from primary education to Ramapo so education is more accessible.
“Our task is to expand and diversify revenue streams,” Jebb said.
Wellness across students and faculty was Jebb’s final topic, and she spoke about the importance of creating a community that has a trusting environment that speaks about topics such as race, gender, religion and sexual assault.
After the conclusion of her speech, the floor was opened for attendees to ask Jebb questions. Due to the time constraints, only 10 questions were addressed. The topics covered included Jebb’s experience with disability accommodation and performing arts, her plans for progressing sustainability on campus, deepening relationships with faculty and alumni and listening to Black and Indigineous voices.
When asked about Jebb’s position on acknowledging the ancestral land of the Ramapough-Lenape nation across the institution, Jebb said it was an opportunity she would like to explore.
“I would want to have that partnership with the leaders of that community, to understand better the best way to go forward,” Jebb said.
Student Government Association Secretary of Diversity and Inclusion Jessica Sanchez asked how Jebb would ensure, as president, that Black and Indigenous voices on campus are always heard and supported, especially in conversations about social injustice and the climate crisis.
“It’s got to be a multidimensional approach that fosters culture,” Jebb said. “It’s got to be a culture of inclusiveness and dignity and respect… It’s providing the space where people are gonna have meaningful conversations, where people are gonna be willing to be vulnerable, and this falls mostly on the faculty, I think, and the administration, and myself, to be vulnerable.”
In many of her responses, Jebb focused on how as president she would like to implement solutions to issues by way of fostering a culture on campus that allows open conversation to be “second nature.” Jebb also repeated how she wishes to include members of the Ramapo community in conversations about solving issues.
In her answer to a closing question from Professor Monica Jacobi, Jebb shared her experience being in only the third class of women to enter West Point, and how that experience helped her prepare for her professional life.
“I will tell you that coming in with the third class of women, I know what it’s like to be uncomfortable, I understand the importance of empathy,” Jebb said. “I know what it feels like when you’re included and when you’re not included… Going forward, that has kept me mindful how important it is that everybody on the team feels valued and included.”
More sessions were open on Tuesday, Feb. 9 for more specific groups to pose questions to Dr. Jebb. A post-visit survey will also be available to all members of the Ramapo community until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 10 to evaluate Dr. Jebb as a candidate.