September 21, 2020

Dear William Paterson Students:

I hope everyone’s semester is going well. Over the past several months, I have talked a lot about the new normal. Now that students and faculty from 2000+-level classes have been on campus for a week, we finally know what that looks like here at William Paterson. It is great to have everyone back on campus who is involved in courses with an in-person component. As always, please remember that our on-campus experience has been possible thus far thanks to our community’s success in following the rules on completing the daily check on WP Online and, if cleared to come to campus, social distancing and wearing a mask over mouth and nose when here. Our continued vigilance will be necessary to ensure that we can remain on campus until Thanksgiving.
If you’ve been reading New Jersey news recently, you know that Gov. Murphy and legislative leaders have agreed on a long-discussed ‘millionaires tax’ to help shore up State finances during this period of tremendous economic challenge. As a public institution, we of course have a direct interest in the State’s financial health. A sound New Jersey budget is fundamental to a sound William Paterson budget. Beyond the fiscal condition of our own University, however, is the importance of the economic status of our most vulnerable communities from which many of our own students come.
It was with these communities in mind that I wrote an opinion piece that was published last week in The Star-Ledger and on, where it ran under the headline “We must spend more – even now – to close N.J.’s racial wealth gap.” If I had written that headline, as well as the piece, I would have made one small change so that it read, “We must spend more – especially now – to close N.J.’s racial wealth gap.” That gap between the net worth of the State’s White families and its Black and Hispanic families is one of the widest in the nation. In my piece, I advocate for raising taxes on our State’s wealthiest, as Gov. Murphy has done, and using the proceeds to invest in our low-income and minority communities. Raising up these communities so they are better able to afford homes and college educations is the right thing to do for them and for the entire State, which will only thrive in the future if it becomes more equitable. 
If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read the piece. I have already received a lot of feedback on it, much of predictably critical. I know raising taxes in a high tax burden state like New Jersey, even if only on the wealthiest, is unlikely to prove popular. But as we know from our own experiences here at William Paterson, sometimes tough, unpopular decisions have to be made, and nothing is solved by avoiding them.
This week’s W.P.: We’re Proud – Two prestigious publications have recognized William Paterson’s success in improving the lives of our students.  U.S. News & World Report’s newly-released 2021 edition of “Best Colleges” includes a list of top performers on social mobility, that is: how well schools graduate students with exceptional financial need. William Paterson ranks no. 38 of 176 regional universities in the northern United States —jumping 27 spots from last year’s report. Also, William Paterson was recently recognized in Washington Monthly’s 2020 Master’s Universities Rankings — a unique ranking based on an institution’s contribution to the public good in three broad categories: social mobility, research, and promoting public service. William Paterson ranks no. 125 out of nearly 400 four-year institutions nationwide that offer master’s degrees. You can read more about both rankings here. These rankings are further validation of the vital role this University plays in educating and improving the lives of our students, our students’ hard work and persistence, and all that our faculty and staff do to advance our mission.
Thank you, and have a great week.
Richard J. Helldobler, PhD