The Spring 2024 Semester

To the Campus Community:

My two messages in December — the first sharing the “big ideas” that frame our future budgetary and operational goals, the second announcing a change in Academic Affairs leadership — gave the semester something of a “cliffhanger” ending. As we begin the new term, I am consequently eager to provide updates on the work before us this spring. I also want to reassure you our path forward will be collaborative and transparent — and it will be successful.

In the wake of my call for nominations for the interim provost position, I received expressions of interest from several accomplished candidates.  I expect to announce the appointment of an interim provost very soon. To ensure a smooth transition in the Office of Academic Affairs, Vice Provost Tim Clydesdale will oversee the work of the division until this appointment is made. The entire administrative team is also fully engaged in sustaining the work of the office.

Our priority for the spring will be the implementation of the key elements of the financial plan I outlined in my December presentations on campus. Shared governance leaders have asked that their constituencies be appropriately represented in the efforts of various “working groups” being created for this purpose. I earnestly welcome these recommendations and look forward to the engagement of these colleagues. The groups I have mentioned will meet in earnest over the coming weeks to develop blueprints and clear timelines and metrics for the achievement of our budgetary and operational targets. This work needs to be completed by the end of April to ensure the sustainability of our FY25 budget planning.

I note all our initiatives align with the priorities mapped out in the College’s strategic plan, TCNJ 2027: Extending Our Excellence. Since the plan’s adoption in the middle of 2022, the college has pursued the many initiatives in that document. Going forward, the work on which we will focus this spring will further refine the plan, adjust (as appropriate) previously articulated goals, and focus us on the prospects for FY25 and beyond.

We will also this spring continue our work on our reaccreditation. I am profoundly grateful to the dedicated members of our Middle States committee who are busily preparing our “self-study” documents. Thanks to their efforts, we are on track to have a full draft of the materials to our Middle States review chair before the end of this semester. Our final submission is due late in the summer, and our Evaluation Team is scheduled to visit campus next fall.

I also expect, during this new term, we will continue our dialogue that began following the October terrorist attacks in Israel and the ensuing outbreak of war in Gaza — events that were (and are) felt deeply by all members of our community. The “Israel and Palestine in Context: A Discussion with TCNJ Faculty” event was an excellent opportunity that helped us better understand the deep-seated complexities of the conflicts in the Middle East. Our college will continue to provide the setting for programming this spring that will promote understanding and good will, and help to combat antisemitism and Islamophobia.

Also, in the months ahead, the U.S. presidential election cycle will proceed. Here too, strong opinions and emotions will be widely experienced. I have no doubt TCNJ will provide the venues, the activities, and the opportunities for all of us to share our views, learn from one another, and more effectively communicate about the many issues and challenges that will frame the elections to come.

The months ahead will thus, in myriad ways, be consequential for our college. Quite understandably, the uncertainty of this moment is uncomfortable and disconcerting. To be sure, we must act quickly and decisively; yet we should never forget we are entirely in control of our own destiny.  

The processes by which our future will be designed will be transparent and collaborative. This I pledge to you. And, while there may be disagreement over the best paths forward, I sincerely hope the common bond we share — an abiding love and respect for our college and for all the members of its community — will unite and sustain us as we position TCNJ for enduring success.

To each and every one of you, I send my best wishes for the success of the semester ahead.

With my warmest regards . . . .

Michael Bernstein