President Jebb speaks about Ramapo’s future in State of the College address

Faculty and students packed Friends Hall on Wednesday to hear Ramapo College President Cindy Jebb deliver her annual State of the College address. In her speech, Jebb addressed a wide range of topics, including the ongoing war in Israel and Gaza, the current American Federation of Teachers (AFT) negotiations, the numerous grants Ramapo has received, recent student achievements and how the college compares to other New Jersey schools. 

Jebb began the speech by congratulating the school’s ice hockey and dance teams for their championships from the spring 2023 semester. She invited members of each team to join her at the front of the room to receive applause from the crowd and handed the athletes presidential coins.

The first grant that was highlighted was the McNair Grant. The grant, named after physicist Ronald Irwin McNair, gives the college $1.4 million over the next four years and is renewable. “The goal of the RCNJ McNair program is to support low-income, first generation and under-represented minority students, especially those pursuing STEM careers,” Jebb said.

Other grants that were highlighted include Professor David Colman securing $15,000 for the Englewood Makes History project, Professor Catalin Martin being awarded $192,000 from the National Science Foundation and Counseling Services receiving $340,000 from the state.

“Just look around this room. Through our collaboration, empathy and initiative, we demonstrate daily the simple truth that there is so much more that connects us than divides us.”

– President Cindy Jebb

A large portion of Jebb’s address focused on the ongoing war in the Middle East, and emphasized the importance of doing what is right, even when it invites criticism. “I believe this is in our DNA,” Jebb said. “Doing the right thing even when it means there’s risks, even when it might be unpopular,” she continued. 

Jebb said she joined other faculty members and students on Tuesday night for an interdisciplinary panel to begin a discussion on Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. “Was it difficult? Yes. Was it complicated? Yes. Was it emotional? Yes. Was it the right thing to do at this moment in time? You bet,” she emphasized.

Jebb then read an excerpt from the poem “Nothing is Fixed” by James Baldwin, followed by a moment of silence for all the lives lost, not just in Israel and Gaza, but throughout the world. “It is now during the horrific scale of death, destruction, terror, that we reaffirm who we are, and our purpose, and we allow that to drive our behavior,” she said to conclude the topic.

Next, she spoke at length about the future of the college, the new Boldly Ascending Strategic Plan that was introduced over the summer and the strong results so far from the college’s attempt to diversify its staff and student body.

“The New York Times recently reported on an analysis of college and university efforts on economic diversity… we were the third highest ranked New Jersey Institution on economic diversity,” she said. “We were the 11th highest ranked public institution on the full list of 283 institutions. Ramapo had the second largest [economic diversity] increase of all New Jersey schools, only behind Princeton… [which] has a $36 billion endowment,” she continued.

When highlighting the incoming class of 2027, Jebb pointed to it being the second largest class in college history. It is also the most diverse class in school history, with 46% of the class identifying as first-generation. The freshman class is made up of students from 21 different countries and 10 different states and territories. 

The speech concluded with Jebb thanking the Facilities and ITS teams on campus for some of the many improvements that have been made since the spring semester. These included fulfilling over 1,000 work orders, installing the lights for the athletic field, redesigning the Holocaust Memorial statue on campus, opening the new Esports lab in the Bradley Center and opening the residential component of the Roadrunner Collegiate Recovery Program. 

“Just look around this room. Through our collaboration, empathy and initiative, we demonstrate daily the simple truth that there is so much more that connects us than divides us,” she said. “We are Ramapo.”

Though the address ended there, Jebb proceeded to open the floor for questions. The only attendee to rise to the occasion was Professor of literature and President of Ramapo’s AFT Ed Shannon.

As Shannon stood up and walked to the microphone, other members of Ramapo’s AFT waved posters and signs demanding a contract to be completed. “We’re 110 days in without a contract,” Shannon opened with. “The state knows exactly what they’re going to offer us… they are deliberately wasting our time,” he said.

Jebb responded by saying she is not a part of the negotiations, which Shannon refuted. “But sure you are,” he said while interrupting Jebb. “You want this to end, I want it to end, I’m exhausted.” Shannon went on to explain how a strike was not out of the question, but the goal was to get a contract settled.

Jebb ended the event by playing The Beatles’ song “Come Together,” representing her vision for the campus, students and faculty members.

Featured photo by William Jackson