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Community-Missive #11

Dear All,

I am operating this week within the metaphor of rivulets flowing into streams, which carry us to new places. The items in today’s missive connect many channels as we direct ourselves toward restarts and transformations.

This Moment, Nationally and Locally. As I write on Juneteenth, there is understandable skepticism from some that protests against police brutality and systemic racism will bring lasting change to society. Yet many sense that something has shifted. National news of recent days included the Supreme Court ruling that LGBTQ workers are protected by the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a murder charge for the officer who killed Rayshard Brooks last week in Atlanta, and the High Court’s ruling that the federal administration may not immediately end DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals) as it sought to do.

Here at home, the college and many of its schools have announced in recent weeks initiatives on anti-racism, curricular change, equity audits, test-optional admissions, and other efforts under development by the College Diversity Council and other groups. Let me mention three efforts underway or on tap.

  • Division of Inclusive Excellence. As of July 1, 2020, we are merging the Division of Human Resources and the Division of Institutional Equity and Inclusion into a single Division of Inclusive Excellence. Core to this new division is a vision and commitment to conduct human resources through the lens of equity and inclusion. Issues of recruitment and hiring, orientation and onboarding, employment conditions, professional development, leadership training, compensation equity, organizational effectiveness, and contracts and benefits are central to achieving an equitable and inclusive campus community. Also central to this model is Student Employment, which will transfer from The Career Center to the new division. Leading the Division of Inclusive Excellence will be Vice President James Felton III. He will be joined in leadership by Kimberly Woods, currently Executive Director of Human Resources, who will be promoted to the new role of Associate Vice President for Strategic Human Resources, and Kerri Thompson Tillett who will continue her role as Associate Vice President for Equity and Inclusion.
  • Slavery in New Jersey. Over the past few years several TCNJ faculty and students have been studying the structure and artifacts of the William Green Plantation, the fenced-in, historic structure and grounds located near the outdoor track at the south end of campus. This past year, a committee of eight TCNJ faculty from diverse fields—George Leader  (Sociology and Anthropology); Craig Hollander, Mekala Audain and Cynthia Paces (History); Winnie Brown-Glaude (African American Studies); Zakiya Adair (African American Studies and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies); Janet Grey (Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies); and David Blake (English)—researched the social and slave history of the William Green family and plantation. From 18th and 19th century documents found in archives in Trenton, Princeton, and Ewing, and informed by the rich capstone project of Kristin Bridges ’20, the group unearthed findings on the William Green family, including direct confirmation of slave ownership on the property. In the coming year, the group plan to co-host with Princeton University a symposium on slavery in the north, develop a spring 2021 course on New Jersey slavery, and pursue grants and other opportunities to expand this work.
  • Allyship. At 6 p.m. on Monday, June 22, the Office of Intercultural Engagement and Inclusion is offering “Amplify: A Community Panel Discussion on Allyship in the Age of Activism.” Please join by Zoom to hear perspectives from TCNJ faculty and staff on how to be an effective ally to Black students, faculty, and staff.

Fall 2020. Another set of rivulets combines voluminous work by Readiness Task Forces at TCNJ, survey results from students and faculty, conversations with higher education leaders and officials, and the significant materials—released yesterday afternoon—of guidance and directives from the State of New Jersey on reopening college and university campuses.

You will see that the guidance puts health and safety front and center, requiring social distancing, de-densified locales on campuses, sanitation standards, and options for students, faculty, and staff to continue their work and studies through remote education. The guidance also aligns with the state’s restart framework, which authorizes most in-person instruction only once the state enters stage three of readiness. There is no date on achieving that level, which will occur based on health indicators and consumer behavior. The state is currently in the early stages of stage two.

You can expect that our determinations on fall 2020, which we will formally announce by June 30, will reflect this state guidance and specific TCNJ considerations. The bottom line is that if we are back on campus this fall it is going to look and feel very different and necessarily so.

FY21 Budget. The final set of rivulets—revenues, expense management, federal funds, state support, enrollment forecasts, debt restructuring—form the turbulent stream of the FY21 budget, which goes into effect July 1, 2020. In the coming week, Treasurer Lloyd Ricketts and I will present preliminary budgets—one for each scenario for the fall—to the Council on Strategic Planning and Priorities, as called for in the adopted FY21 Budget Principles. The TCNJ Board of Trustees will discuss and approve final budgets at its June 30, 2020 public meeting. The time and link to join will be communicated with the Sunshine Agenda in advance of the meeting.

This time of year the days are long both literally and metaphorically, but our purpose has never been clearer. Thank you, TCNJ community, for staying the course through the spring and now into summer. I look forward to reporting major developments in short order and to engaging the many conversations we have in play.

In anticipation,

Kathryn A. Foster