Office of the President
April 12, 2021

Dear William Paterson Faculty and Staff,

I hope everyone found time to get outside and enjoy last week’s weather. With our beautiful campus in bloom, the sense of hope and renewal that Spring offers is especially meaningful this year. As we slowly but steadily emerge from the pandemic and look forward to a full return to campus in the Fall, we will nonetheless continue to confront challenges that will require difficult decisions. I want to address one of those decisions, in particular, that I know from recent conversations is on the minds of many of you. 

As you know, our ongoing efforts to better align resources with needs and create a stronger institution for the future will require both layoffs and targeted program closures. None of these decisions are being made lightly, and all will be based on data and made in the best overall interest of the University. The level of care and analysis that is being taken in making these decisions explains why we haven’t been able to communicate them as quickly as many would like. 

Having said that, I know that our plan to bring to a close the Asian Studies major may raise  even more questions than it otherwise would, coming at a time when the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) community, nationally, is being targeted by rising levels of violence and bigotry. First, I want to point out that, while all signs point toward closure of six programs, we have a few more steps to complete before a final determination. Secondly, our shared governance process has reduced that list from ten programs to six. I want to thank all of the faculty, chairs, and deans who have engaged in those conversations that have led to us finding a productive way forward for those four programs no longer slated for closure. 

Despite the outcome of those remaining six programs, please be assured that our work as a University community to advance social justice and racial equity and to eliminate bigotry and violence must transcend the fate of any single program or position and will continue at every level of the institution. We are as committed as ever to nurturing our community’s core values by recruiting and supporting a diverse student body, faculty, and staff and decolonizing the curriculum, among other efforts. (On a related note, I am pleased to announce that the new Council for Equity and Justice, which strives toward increasing the actual and perceived levels of equity and justice at William Paterson University, has just posted its approved bylaws)

Decolonization has many facets. Where curriculum is concerned, it means reflecting contributions of minority or underrepresented populations within all of our programs of study, beyond offering diversity specific programs – as worthwhile as they may be – which most students may never encounter during their time with us. It is my hope that we get to a point where Asian students, along with other students of color, women and LGTBQIA+ students, see themselves reflected throughout their program of study, regardless of major.  

The programs that are being considered for closure, including Asian Studies, are ones that have seen a long-term trend of low-enrollment, typically 30 or fewer majors for five or more years. There seems to be a misconception on the part of some that certain programs don’t cost the University anything, so there is nothing to gain in closing them. If that were true, than there would be no need to close these programs, but, in fact,everything the University does has costs associated with it (salaries for faculty and staff, space, technology, etc.). This means that for everything we do, resources are either properly aligned or they are not. Where they aren’t, we need to make changes if we are going to put the University on a sustainable path forward. Of course, I understand the disappointment of those who are directly affected by the planned closures. However, I hope that they will take some measure of consolation in the fact that every program was subjected to the same criteria, and that data-based decision-making is one key to our continuing accreditation status and a best-practice for healthy institutions. 

The possible closure of any major is a reflection only of the level of student interest in it as a major area of study weighed against its cost, not of the subject’s inherent worth. While students will no longer be able to major in them, we will continue to offer courses in these areas of study. Additionally, all students currently majoring in them will have teach-out plans that will allow them to complete their degree in their chosen program. I appreciate the passion with which many students, faculty, and staff have rallied to defend these particular programs. The data can tell us what moves make the most sense, but it is these human impacts that make them hard to carry out, but necessary.

Elsewhere on campus:

  • This week is Honors Research Week at William Paterson. As part of the University Explorations celebration of research, each Honors Senior completing an Honors Track will give a short presentation of their research. Topics from all disciplines will be discussed. I encourage everyone to check out this impressive research work that our students, in collaboration with faculty, produce, by clicking here for more information and links to the webinars.  

  • Also this week, community-wide Campus Climate Survey report briefings will take place on Zoom on Tuesday, April 13, from 3:30-4:30 p.m. for faculty and staff. The briefings, which will be facilitated by Dr. David Jones, Chief Diversity Officer and Director of Talent Management, and Annette Baron, Senior HR Generalist, are an important step in sharing the survey results with the University community and ensuring that those results help guide future diversity and inclusion efforts at the University.

  • And a reminder that Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance Steve Bolyai and Vice President for Human Resources Allison Boucher-Jarvis will host a Staff Town Hall on Thursday, April 15 from 12:30-1:30 p.m. to answer questions about the University’s continuing rightsizing efforts. You can submit questions by email until 12 noon on Wednesday, or live during the event.

This week’s WPWe are Proud – Congratulations to the women of the William Paterson Field Hockey team, which earned its fourth New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Field Hockey Tournament title in program history its first in 44 years on Saturday with a 2-1 victory against Ramapo. Go Pioneers! 

Here’s to a week of renewal and growth for all.

Richard J. Helldobler, Ph.D.
Office of the President | 973.720.2222 |