Two town halls were held via Zoom to discuss the current situation at Montclair State University on Wednesday afternoon, April 14, and Thursday evening, April 15.
These meetings featured important staff members for Montclair State, from the departments of Residence Life to Dining Services. Students had an opportunity to ask questions and learn about changes made to student life during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Changes including reducing the number of tour groups for prospective freshmen and their families, grocery pickup and the state of the guest policy were discussed on both nights to build a dialogue with the residential student body in the wake of the petition and social media outrage last Sunday.
For Montclair State Dean of Students Margaree Coleman-Carter, these town halls are a sign of progress to continue building strong relationships between university administration and the student body.
“I hope the students who attended left the event feeling [like] they were heard, received answers to questions and experienced a better understanding of university operations,” Coleman-Carter said. “The other takeaway was the adoption of a student suggestion to have more town hall meetings to discuss student concerns; we are committed to engaging our students in every way possible and we are doing that.”
Coleman-Carter has seen the school change throughout her 40 years of service.
Starting as the director of Webster Hall as a graduate student, she was promoted to dean of students six years ago this July. The notion of students protesting and sending petitions to her office is nothing new because the university encourages students to come forward and share their concerns in order to address them. The Office of the Dean of Students cannot address an issue if they do not know about it.
“There were protests that resulted from situations that have happened in the past with social justice or societal issues that might be going on, students have the right to voice their concerns to acknowledge and show solidarity for important issues,” Coleman-Carter said. “For example, we have seen students show concerns about the rising costs of tuition – an important topic. There have been situations that have occurred, but nothing that has brought media attention and/or that wasn’t resolved by working together as a team.”
Coleman-Carter knows the upcoming semester holds a lot more questions that will most likely cover more COVID-19 related topics and be discussed at the next town hall, such as the rise of vaccine requirements from colleges across the country. Only time will tell if Montclair State joins the ranks of Fairleigh Dickinson University in the COVID-19 vaccine mandate to receive housing on campus.
The one hope Coleman-Carter has for the student body is that students know the university’s administration is doing everything it can to ensure the safety and security of our campus.
“We heard the students voice their concerns through social media and petitions, and I think the university was responsive,” Coleman-Carter said. “We heard you and we are actively working to improve the last few weeks of the semester. We adjusted decisions previously made to support a safe and enjoyable home for you. The bottom line is that everything implemented was to keep our students safe. We want to be able to get through the last five weeks of the semester safely.”