June 27, 2022
Dear William Paterson Faculty and Staff,
This Thursday, July 1st, marks the start of a new fiscal year, but a new State budget has yet to be finalized. So, while I am still hopeful that it will include additional funding for higher education overall and William Paterson, in particular, the fate of our request for additional support still remains uncertain.
It is important to remember that as helpful as any added State funding would be, it will almost certainly be one-time relief. I will continue to advocate in Trenton for reliable increased state aid because it is both the fair thing to do for our students and the right thing to do for New Jersey’s long-term health and prosperity. However, no amount of additional funding would absolve us from the responsibility to operate in a structurally sound manner. Toward that end, we are in the process of developing a five-year plan to deal with our structural imbalance, which is the result of the simultaneous growth in expenditures and decline in our student population and related revenues over several years.
This plan will, of course, take into account any additional aid from Trenton, but it will need to go further to include other options the University might pursue, such as securing a more favorable WP Online revenue sharing arrangement with Academic Partners, bringing WP Online in-house, or working with another partner. It will also have to include clear-eyed enrollment projections, as well as all possible outcomes – good and bad – depending on whether or not we achieve our goals. Undergraduate, full-time enrollment continues to be our biggest challenge. In this, we are not alone.
Earlier this month, I attended a gathering of LGBTQ Presidents in Higher Education, where I serve as Co-chair. It gave me the opportunity to sit with college and university presidents from around the country, most of whom reported enrollment declines of between 12-18%, with some at the community college level as high as 30%. When I reported that William Paterson is down 7.6% overall, some of my fellow presidents were amazed. While hardly good news, it does provide some useful perspective to know that we are not struggling as badly as many other institutions. Regardless of what others are going through, the future of William Paterson depends on dealing as quickly as reasonably possible with serious fiscal issues that have been developing over a period of many years and were accelerated by the pandemic.
I am pleased to announce that I have approved both an Indigenous People’s Day resolution and a Land Acknowledgement Statement. The former designates the second Monday of October as “Indigenous People’s Day” at William Paterson, which will be marked by the appropriate honoring and celebration of native peoples and culture. The latter is a statement that acknowledges William Paterson’s location on the traditional lands of the Lenape people. I encourage faculty and staff to find meaningful ways to incorporate the statement into your teaching and work, such as including it in syllabi and reading it at the first class of the semester and at the start of campus gatherings. Both of these documents are fundamental to William Paterson’s ongoing efforts to decolonize the University, which is also one of the pillars of the 2022-2025 Strategic Plan now being developed. I want to thank our Chief Diversity Officer Dr. David Jones and members of the Council for Equity and Justice for their leadership, advocacy, and good work in helping to create these important documents.
And while we are making strides in these areas, I would be remiss if I did not mention the recent decision by the Supreme Court to overturn the settled law known as Roe vs. Wade. This decision certainly in my mind does not embrace one of our nation's founding principles of “created equal.” A woman’s right to choose should be a fundamental right and freedom that is between a woman and her partner, her spiritual leader, medical provider, or whomever she chooses to discuss it with. It is my hope that, as a community, we continue to respect the beliefs of those who think or believe differently from us, but also that we can agree that we should all advocate and defend the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Americans. I think this decision fell short in that respect. While some of us view this as a setback, we do have the power to amend the Constitution; we do have the power to pass state laws to enshrine this right; and we do have the power to elect pro-choice candidates.