Montclair State University’s Board of Trustees held their last meeting of the year on Dec. 23, where a variety of issues were addressed. The meeting focused on new faculty promotions and reappointments, as well as the successes and challenges of the fall academic term.
President Jonathan Koppell began his report by emphasizing how Montclair State has managed to maintain a low rate of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases.
“We maintained remarkably low levels of infections on the campus because we operated as a community, adhering to masking protocols with very high levels of vaccination,” Koppell said. “People are adhering to testing requirements when they [need] to, and all of that community-driven behavior turned out to have created a very robust learning environment where the students, in particular, articulated an appreciation for being on campus, in-person face to face.”
Koppell also shared some of the donations the university received and said that people are excited about investing in Montclair State, investing in students and building a brighter future together.
The Future College Graduates Academy received a $1 million plan gift commitment on top of a $100,000 cash donation. The College of Education and Human Services also obtained a similar $1 million commitment. The last donation is another $100,000 from the Volcker Alliance to establish the next campus service corps, including other fundings that support key initiatives.
Rich Wolfson, a teaching and learning professor and president of the union, spoke on behalf of the local and campus labor regarding several issues, including faculty members being concerned about being laid off.
“If you are not aware, William Paterson [University] is laying off 100 tenured faculty members, picking and choosing in departments and programs, and not respecting seniority or departmental needs,” Wolfson said. “It’s also a plan to decimate the professional staff. This has all been widely reported in the statewide press, and naturally, most of our people who contact you are concerned about whether it can happen here at Montclair [State].”
Koppell said Montclair State is not in this position.
“There is a tendency to see an adversarial relationship between the administration, the staff and the faculty,” Koppell said. “But, what that incident shows is [that] the interests are in fact aligned and that the institution is thriving benefits everybody. So, our goal together is to ensure that Montclair State University thrives so that we will never — and I agree with you — we will never end up in that position.”
Eric Jacobson, a teaching and learning professor and university senate president, discussed the possibility of operating remotely next semester due to the latest surge in the ongoing pandemic, emphasizing the university’s ability to communicate with the students should they make the decision to go remote.
“Students and instructors have made the switch in the past, and they’re capable of doing so again in the future,” Jacobson said. “However, the earlier we get [the] word out, the easier the transition will be.”
Francis M. Cuss, the board of trustees chair, highlighted the importance of celebrating the successes and how far the Montclair State community has come.
“I think it’s a real opportunity to celebrate what we’ve just managed to get through,” Cuss said. “It’s surprising we find ourselves in a very familiar situation to where we were a year ago. But, I think there’s a lot to feel good about. I particularly like to thank the university community for the successes they’ve had and for the resilience they’ve shown in coming through the challenges of a year, which quite honestly has been unprecedented.”