Home Homepage Feature Story President Jonathan Koppell and Vice President Dawn Soufleris Talk About Changes Being Made at Montclair State

President Jonathan Koppell and Vice President Dawn Soufleris Talk About Changes Being Made at Montclair State

by Erin Lawlor

Montclair State University President Jonathan Koppell and Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life Dawn Soufleris sat down with student media organizations to discuss pressing campus issues.

On Friday, Nov. 18, the two met with The Montclarion, Montclair News Lab, 90.3 WMSC and Red Hawk Sports Network to address students’ concerns and discuss some of the many changes they would like to make.

The buzz on campus lately has been about the merger between Montclair State and Bloomfield College. Koppell explained that merging is a part of the university’s mission.

“We have a mission to serve the community and to serve students,” Koppell said. “In particular, serve students who are poorly served by many other institutions of higher education.”

Being the only predominately Black institution in New Jersey, Koppell does not want to see Bloomfield go down.

“Frankly when you have an institution like [Bloomfield], that is the only predominately Black institution in the state of New Jersey, that’s reaching out to students in communities and pockets of communities that many higher education institutions don’t try to reach or fail to reach,” Koppell said. “And I see such an institution in danger of collapsing. It seems inconstant with what we’ve taken as our mission to simply say ‘oh, that’s a shame.’”

His first obligation is to his students, staff and faculty here at Montclair State. He made it clear that students’ tuition will not be used to keep Bloomfield open. He also said he believes it could solve some issues on campus.

“I think we will be able to do things there that don’t necessarily work here and in fact might even offer part of the answer to the traffic challenge,” Koppell said. “There are certain things that you do there maybe in the evening because it’s got more access to transit and stuff like that.”

Koppell also touched on campus safety and gave his opinion on the recent robbery that occurred at Bohn Hall.

“The goal is to create a safe campus environment,” Koppell said. “We don’t want a gated campus where you have to show your ID to get on, where you have to swipe to get into every room and every facility.”

When it comes to safety, Koppell doesn’t think the campus has much to worry about.

“We were obviously concerned about the incident that happened and are investigating that to see what happened,” Koppell said. “I don’t think that that one incident is an indicator that the campus is unsafe and we have to dramatically change security protocols.”

One of the issues addressed by Soufleris was the work schedule that resident assistants have to follow. Some shifts start at 3 a.m. and last until 6 a.m.

“We’re in a bunch of conversations with Residence Life and [University Police] about what’s the best method for that 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. time and should it be students there,” Soufleris said. “We’re worried about students not sleeping and needing to be on their game in the morning [after working] that overnight shift.”

Montclair State Vice President for Student Life and Development, Dawn Meza Soufleris, answers students concerns. 
Lynise Olivacce | The Montclarion

Dawn Soufleris, Montclair State Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life, answers students concerns.
Lynise Olivacce | The Montclarion

According to Soufleris, the possibility of getting security guards to take the overnight shift for student assistants is still in the air.

Another issue brought up by student media was the challenges that students with disabilities face day to day on campus. These include elevators not working, sinks not being low enough to wash their hands in the bathroom and not being able to get into buildings through the front doors due to the handicapped buttons not functioning.

Koppell shared his thoughts on the situation and some possible solutions.

“Right now we are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Koppell said. “But that’s the lowest bar. I would like to set the bar substantially higher than just compliance with the law.”

Koppell further explained that the university is looking to make changes but not everything is as feasible as they would like.

“We’ve looked at where it’s possible for us to make changes that are raising the bar in terms of accessibility,” Koppell said. “A lot of those things are expensive. A lot are construction related, whether you’re talking about ramps or other modifications. It doesn’t mean we don’t do them but [they] require pretty significant capital planning and capital investments.”

Koppell is aware of elevator issues and according to him, substantial plans are in the works for fixing some of these issues.

Similarly, Soufleris shared some of the solutions that will help improve accommodations for students with disabilities.

“It is [a] very, very high priority for us to make sure all of our students have as much access as possible,” Soufleris said. “We are trying to make sure at larger events there are sign language interpreters. We [want to] make sure that our websites are accessible to all and have options to change the font and not have too many pictures that can’t be enlarged.”

Many changes will be taking place, but Soufleris explained that they do take some time.

“It is something that is in the front of our minds,” Soufleris said. “It is something very expensive but it is a priority for the institution.”

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