July 6, 2021

Dear William Paterson Students,

I hope everyone had an enjoyable July Fourth holiday weekend. I know the themes of freedom and independence have an extra special resonance for many this year, as New Jersey’s vaccination success has allowed us to again gather and celebrate safely. I am pleased to report that the William Paterson community has been a part of that success, with approximately 73% of faculty and staff and 55% of students having received at least one dose of Covid vaccine. 

As you know, last week, I announced that all students and non-union employees returning to campus this fall will be required to be fully vaccinated before doing so. We are undertaking negotiations with the various unions with the aim of extending the requirement to all community members. Last week, Dr. Jill Guzman, Director of the Counseling Health and Wellness Center, provided more details on the requirement and how to verify compliance, including an FAQ page, which will be updated regularly, and a new Covid Vaccination Portal at WPConnect, where you can check and update your vaccination status, as well as apply for medical or religious exemptions. 

If you would still like to participate in today’s vaccination clinic here on campus from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in UC 171A and B, which Dr. Guzman mentioned in her message, please click here to schedule an appointment and, when prompted, use the verification code WPUPfizer (case sensitive), if you would like the two-dose Pfizer vaccine or code WPUJ&J (case sensitive) for the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. We will share details of additional on-campus vaccine clinics when they are scheduled.

Also on the subject of creating a healthier campus environment, a reminder that we are six months away from becoming a fully smoke-free campus. As of January 1, 2022, the use of all tobacco and smoke products will be prohibited on all University property including smoking, vaping, or aerosolizing, and any cannabis item available for lawful consumption. Please click here for additional information.

I recognize that I’ve had to share a lot of difficult news with you in recent weeks, but I’m happy to say that there continues to be plenty of great things happening at William Paterson. Thanks to many of our elected representatives and other public officials, WP secured $2 million in State funding to support our new Child Development Center at 1800 Valley Road. This is an important investment in both William Paterson and our region. It will help meet the well-documented need for childcare in our region, while also providing our students and faculty with an important environment for learning, teaching, and research in the field of child development. We are very excited to launch this long-planned project, and we will celebrate with a ribbon-cutting ceremony sometime in the fall. 

Another great reminder of our return to in-person events and of the wonderful artistic offerings available at William Paterson was this week’s announcement of the schedule for the 28th season of the Summer Jazz Room series. Shea Center staff did a great job over the past year-plus hosting virtual events, but there is nothing like live music, and I encourage everyone to check out a summer show or one of the many performances to come in the fall.

In other good news, I am pleased to announce the inaugural membership of the Council for Equity and Justice (CEJ). Chaired by Dr. David E. Jones, Chief Diversity Officer and Director of Talent Management, CEJ will strive to increase the actual and perceived levels of equity and justice at William Paterson. CEJ will also serve as an advisory group to the University President to review, address, and respond to equity and inclusion matters at WP, especially those matters that impact the University experience for historically marginalized populations across identities such as race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, and accessibility. CEJ will begin meeting monthly in August for the academic year and work in partnership with various campus and community stakeholders to create and sustain a just, inclusive, and equitable campus environment. 

Please join me in congratulating the following faculty and staff, in addition to Dr. Jones, who will serve on the council (four undergraduate students will be selected and join the council in September): Balmurli Natrajan, Professor, Community and Social Justice; Danielle Wallace, Professor, Community and Social Justice, and Faculty Senate Chair; James Alford, Associate Professor, Higher Education Administration; Jason Ambroise, Professor of History; Jet Mboga, Adjunct Professor of Management; Kwasi Asare-Bediako, Graduate Student, College of Science and Health; Maribel Rodriguez, Associate Director of Campus Activities, Service and Leadership; Naa-Solo Tettey, Associate Professor of Public Health; Pamela Harris, Executive Assistant to the VP of Enrollment Management; Priya Nagaraj, Professor of Economics, Finance and Global Business; Regina Tindall, Director of Compliance & Employee Relations, Title IX Coordinator, and Ethics Liaison Officer; Satasha Williams, Access Services Librarian; Wendy Christensen, Professor, Sociology and Criminal Justice; and Yolany Gonell, Director, Center for Diversity and Inclusion. I thank them all for volunteering to undertake this important work.

This week’s WPWe are Proud – Congratulations to incoming Chief of Staff, Loretta McLaughlin Vignier and everyone who was involved in producing the University’s 88 Keys Campaign video to raise funds for a new Steinway grand piano, which has been awarded a 2021 Silver Award in the Non-Broadcast, General Fundraising Category of the 42nd Annual Telly Awards. As interim dean of the College of the Arts and Communication, Loretta produced and wrote the video, which features Bill Charlap, professor of music and director of jazz studies and an internationally known jazz pianist, as spokesman. The video was filmed at the Steinway & Sons facility in New York City and edited by Communication Department alumna Colleen Lubisco ’07, MA ’09. Other faculty and staff who contributed to the project include Tim Newman, professor and chair of music; David Demsey, professor of music and coordinator of jazz studies; Mary Beth Zeman, senior director of public relations; Bob Verbeek, senior graphic designer; Maureen O’Connor, director of development; and Henry Heinitsch, IRT. The 88 Keys Campaign was launched in fall 2020 to raise funds for the purchase of a new Steinway grand piano to support the Department of Music and the Shea Center for Performing Arts. The new instrument will replace the University’s current Steinway, now more than 40 years old.

Have a great week. 

Richard J. Helldobler, Ph.D.