Montclair State University’s Board of Trustees gathered in their usual place of meeting in the conference center on the 7th floor of University Hall on Jan. 27. Although it was the first meeting of the semester, much was covered in the span of 45 minutes.
A resolution has come for December’s flooding in Williams Hall, a residence hall in The Village. The Board of Trustees’ Audit, Finance and Development committee read a resolution for $1.5 million toward the reconstruction of Williams Hall, which was approved.
The board also honored former President Irvin D. Reid. At the meeting, psychology professor Saundra Collins read an honorary resolution declaring Science Hall be renamed Irvin D. Reid Hall.
“President Reid set forth his vision for the institution designing and implementing a strategic plan to improve all facets of the student experience,” Collins said. “And whereas President Reid undertook the institution’s first capital campaign, which raised $8 million, he also created the Global Education Center [in] an effort to internationalize the campus, both in terms of its students, profile and the academic issues at rest.”
The resolution was approved.
Under Reid’s leadership, the institution was given university status in April 1994. The board thanked Reid’s “visionary thinking and leadership” for the advancement of the university in many aspects.
University President Jonathan Koppell was in attendance and reported on the last few months on campus. He addressed the flooding in Williams Hall, thanking all involved in managing the situation and the initiation of reconstruction.
“Nobody planned on dealing with a flood in Williams Hall on Christmas Day that saw the fire suppression system gushing thousands of gallons of water onto a residential facility,” Koppell said. “It’s a great tribute to our facilities teams and our student life team, particularly the residential team, that literally on Christmas Day, our folks were here trying to mitigate the damage, immediately setting about limiting the number of students who would be displaced by the destruction of the rooms and very quickly starting the work of restoration and relocation for students who were displaced because their rooms were destroyed.”
Koppell was proud of his team for their hard work.
“A lot of universities had similar problems, pipes breaking in unusually cold weather,” Koppell said. “From what we understand, nobody responded quite like the Montclair [State] team.”
The university had the damage covered by insurance and the contracts to pay for it are in the process of approval.
“All I will say is, thank goodness for insurance,” Koppell said. “Yes, there will be eye-popping millions of dollars that are [going to] be spent to get this back in place, but we are covered so that’s very good.”
He also reported that the retention rate between semesters and recorded enrollment has increased, a trend that began last fall.
“We have spring enrollment in excess of 20,000 students, which is a little more than we projected, and it’s important to understand why,” Koppell said. “The answer is because our focus on retention of full-time students from fall to spring yielded a result of nearly 92%.”
Koppell also gave an update on the Bloomfield College merger.
“I know people are interested in seeing how [the Bloomfield College merger] unfolds,” Koppell said. “We are [working] on that transaction. As you can imagine, there are quite a few questions that have to get answered about how you take a private independent college and integrate it into Montclair [State].”
Koppell wants this to be a smooth transition.
“We are trying to do so without disrupting the academic success of Bloomfield College students,” Koppell said. “That is our highest priority and we are trying to the extent possible to do so in a way that maintains opportunities for Bloomfield College faculty and staff. As I said many times, and talking about this, that will not be a painless exercise, and we are enormously focused on doing that in the most positive, responsive way possible.”
There were numerous personnel actions including four faculty appointments, 10 staff appointments, 134 professional staff reappointments, 43 faculty reappointments, 18 faculty promotions and 20 granting of tenure.
Richard Wolfson, the president of the faculty union, spoke on behalf of the faculty, raising and addressing some concerns. He explained that he feels the Montclair State ice rink and stadium are not serving the institution financially.
“I know the arena is very popular, almost running 24 hours a day but I don’t have a lot of confidence that our deals for it and the stadium have been as financially lucrative as we might have thought,” Wolfson said.
In response to the Williams Hall flooding, according to Wolfson, students are requesting financial assistance in order to replace items they lost as a result of the incident.
“I see we’re spending $1.5 million to repair the water leak in Williams Hall and the damage it created,” Wolfson said. “We, the Local, have gotten a number of students asking us for fast funds assistance to replace damaged personal items. We are referring them back to the administration with the hopes your insurance carrier will cover those losses as well as the university’s. Our fast fund gets grants to our students quickly for unexpected emergencies but this is something that the university should carefully be monitoring, and I implore you to hold the administration to that responsibility.”
Some Montclair State students reacted to Friday’s meeting’s topics.
Toryn Pulling, a freshman English major, thinks that along with the money to restore the dorms of Williams Hall, they should compensate students.
“I think it would be very good to give back because of what people lost,” Pulling said. “[It would] help them replace some things.”
Frank Mayes Jr., a freshman justice studies major, was shocked at how much money is going into Williams Hall.
“I did not see it coming,” Mayes Jr. said. “I definitely think that in The Village, considering the number of students there it’s a fairly good amount and I hope it includes helping them recover what they lost.”
Vanessa Kern, a senior accounting major, knew a few of the students who were displaced by the damage to Williams Hall.
“A lot of them were moved to Bohn [Hall],” Kern said. “It’s like they went back to their freshman year. As a senior, it sucks they lose out on their time there.”
Kern also expressed her opinions on merging with Bloomfield College.
“It’s interesting,” Kern said. “It’s weird to see we’re merging with them, but for the students it’s good they get another option while it might be out of the blue.”
The next Board of Trustees meeting will be on March 31 and is open for the public to attend.