A Summary of the Inaugural Campus Conversations

August 11, 2022
Jason Kroll with Students Orientation_7-22-9652

Dear Members of the NJCU Community, 

Thank you to everyone who attended our inaugural Campus Conversations session on Tuesday, August 2. It was an excellent opportunity to give our faculty, staff and students a platform for open and transparent communications. I look forward to continuing these conversations during our next session in September.

What was originally scheduled for two hours became a three-hour session because of the robust questions and comments that came from our community. Should you have a question that was not answered or an additional new question, I encourage you to reach out to NJCUPresident@njcu.edu and I’ll make sure that your question is addressed.

We plan on launching a transparency webpage where frequently asked questions — including those that were asked in-person or virtually — will be answered.

In the meantime, I would like to highlight some of the important questions that were raised and provide a summary of the answers that came from members of our senior team, for anyone who may have missed it. The full three-hour archived video is also available by logging on with your NJCU email credentials.

Jason Kroll 
Acting President 
New Jersey City University

Please provide information on Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 enrollments, including projections of new students. 

We were budgeting for an 8 percent decline in undergraduate enrollment for this fall. Half of that was related to last year's enrollment declines, where we saw a significant drop in our freshman and new transfer class last fall. At the moment, our new undergraduate student enrollment is holding steady, so we're expecting to be level or slightly up in terms of new students coming into the institution in the fall. As of the first week of August, we currently have 796 new freshmen and 403 new transfers among our enrollment gains. Our total undergraduate population is down 7.5%. We've been looking very carefully at addressing the issues that are keeping students from returning, and focusing intentionally on our retention and student success efforts.

In the spirit of shared governance would it be possible to have an elected faculty representative as a member of the Board of Trustees to serve in a capacity similar to the current student representative on the Board? 

The composition of the board is dictated by State law, which requires the board to have no less than seven members and no more than 15. We do have student appointees. Some of our sister institutions do have ex officio non-voting faculty and staff representatives. It’s within the prerogative of the Board but certainly something we would encourage consideration of. We also need to overhaul how we engage one another, including the way the administration works closely with the University Senate, in particular. At the core of who we are, we need to be an institution that requires every voice to be heard to move it forward.

Is the university considering another Voluntary Severance Program?

In successive years we have offered a voluntary separation option. While one is not currently planned for this fiscal year, everything is on the table. Exploring a voluntary separation program has to be gauged — principally we need to look at the level of interest, the actual cost savings, when it would take effect, and ensure that it doesn’t impact the student experience.

What impact will there be on the tenure process? Will those nearing tenure submission be deferred? Will promotions to Associate Professor be considered? 

The University and the AFT Local have been actively working together to overhaul and modernize our tenure and promotion process and invest in the future of this institution. The retention of talent, in particular, is something that's going to inform a lot of strategic decisions. As of today, there haven't been decisions made about deferrals.

What are the guidelines and procedures regarding future furlough days and layoffs for support staff? How much advance notice will be given to employees?

There will be ample notice to professional staff and faculty and other constituencies, if and when there are furloughs or potential retrenchment. All layoffs that started amongst the managerial ranks were financially driven layoffs and good, hard-working people — longtime servants of this institution — lost their jobs. Furloughs (and pay cuts) will be endured by people in management that don't have a bargaining representative. Leading with empathy and dignity has to prevail in our conversations. Any furloughs or layoffs are the subjects of ongoing, good-faith and collaborative negotiations with our union partners and being negotiated through a lens of equity.

How does this financial problem impact the West Side development?

We are actively looking at how we can leverage the West Side in a positive manner that flips our net financial position.

Please address the current plans for the future of our location at Fort Monmouth.

At this moment, nothing has changed with our plans for Fort Monmouth. We are investigating how we might augment the offerings there. We could go in multiple different directions, including finding academic or strategic partners. It’s something that we're talking through with the Secretary of Higher Education and the Governor's office but there's nothing definitive or even preliminary to offer right now.

Would A. Harry Moore Laboratory School be affected in this complex situation financially?

It will not be affected and we continue to value that relationship. 

What concrete steps are being taken to earn back the confidence of the University community?

That’s what we are hoping to do by having these conversations. We will continue to hold these meetings on a monthly basis and always promote transparency, on the website, in any emails and other forums. We will tell you what is really happening. Sometimes it will sound good and other times it won’t. There has to be accountability, and there will be. But all these words won't do service; it’s action that will speak volumes. Beyond the public forums like this, it's the private engagement that is going to matter. It’s also shared accountability. 

In the past, we’ve all heard about shared governance and sometimes this wasn’t fully realized when decision-making historically has been from the top down. To really reinvigorate that spirit, we have to talk about shared responsibility — whether you're a faculty member with senior tenure status or a new professional staff member that's putting the hope and promise of their future and of their careers and sticking with us through this.

Will the school be looking at possible closure? 

NJCU is not closing its doors. We stand alone in who we serve. None of our sister institutions serve the same population. A lot of the things that plague us can be addressed and remedied by doubling down on our mission of who we serve and why.

What specific, organized efforts would senior leadership like Union members to undertake in order to contribute to the resolution of NJCU's financial problems: by everyone in the area of recruitment, by professional staff in reorganizing student services, and, before any action is taken and decision is made, by faculty in departments that rpk has identified as vulnerable for merger or dissolution? 

In short, it goes back to what we said previously: it's about being a united campus; it's about beating the drum of why this place exists, why it matters, why it needs to continue to exist. We need to recognize that we have a retention problem on our campus as well, so the engagement with our students is critical. Again, we're all ambassadors of this institution; how we carry ourselves, how we treat one another, and how we engage with each other matters. Let’s be constructive. It’s far easier to burn things down than to build things up. We’re trying to rebuild this institution in a way that is anchored in its mission and its purpose. We can amplify the good work that has happened on this campus with decades-long, historic underinvestment; imagine what we could do with the appropriate investment.

Will you discuss with the State ways the Board can operate in ways that are healthier for the University’s future? 

We are inviting a broader conversation about higher education governance in New Jersey. 

We should welcome an environment where NJCU and our sister institutions are not forced to compete against one another to get students in the door. That sets up our institutions, and our peers, to not be competitors, but to drive and focus on specific demographics and specific academic profiles, so that we can have one of the greatest and most equitable higher education systems in the country. New Jersey appropriately boasts about having the number one public K-12 system in the country, but we export tens of thousands of high school seniors every year to other states. Challenges invite opportunities. 

We are a little more than 30 days into the 90-day emergency period. Keeping in mind negotiations, etc., can you share a timeline as to how the next 60 days might proceed? 

Soon we will be sending out communications regarding the formation of our seven Critical Priority Teams. We will be able to highlight what the priority focus of these teams will be before the end of September.