New conduct code to deal with off-campus partying; Tuition increases up from last year

This fall semester’s 4.5 percent tuition increase and a new code of student conduct — reflecting the Ewing mayor’s recent push for a “no tolerance policy” for off-campus partying — were topics of particular focus at the Board of Trustees meeting on July 12.

Ewing township mayor Bert Steinmann and six of his staff members attended the open session of the meeting, which took place from 4 to 5 P.M. in the Business Lounge. The rest of those present were primarily faculty members and Student Government representatives.

President R. Barbara Gitenstein gave an opening commentary on the incoming class and cited several positive developments for the school, such as a diverse incoming freshman class, slightly smaller than the 2010-2011 year, with higher percentages of Education Opportunity Fund (EOF) and out-of-state students. She also noted that the College received its largest applicant pool since 1996 — up 41 percent from the previous year.

Gitenstein then turned conversation to business of a less positive nature, like the conduct code.

Ewing mayor: Off-campus partying is a ‘blemish’ on the College

According to Gitenstein, Ewing mayor Steinmann said in a previous discussion with her that he doubted the College’s past presidents have supported the use of municipal police intervention with off-campus students. “You haven’t met this president,” was Gitenstein’s response during that discussion, suggesting she did support such measures.

At an earlier July meeting, trustees and Ewing officials agreed to form a committee to address off-campus student issues, Gitenstein said. This collaboration will be aimed toward strengthening the “gown-town alliance” and educating students about good citizenship.

Steinmann stood up and explained that the students living off campus have long been a concern for the community. He cited a summer party that took place on Pennington Road the previous Friday night that had led to police intervention and a personal complaint to the mayor from the students’ neighbor. According to Steinmann, the neighbor walked up to his front lawn and displayed a garbage bag containing “about 10 wine bottles, about 100 plastic cups and assorted cans and bottles.” He did not, however, specify where or how the neighbor came by the trash. Steinmann then presented a police report to Gitenstein with the students’ names and the charges against them.

“We’re looking at ABC (alcoholic beverage control) laws. They’re going to be charged with state violations … They need to know that they’re no longer going to get that free skate,” he said. “If they behave badly off campus they’re going to be punished on campus … My administration has adopted a no-tolerance policy.”

According to Steinmann it hasn’t just been students from off campus who are doing the partying.

“It’s actually 4,000 to 5,000 (students) on a weekend because youngsters from your campus are going to these parties and then it becomes a real problem,” he said. “We love The College of New Jersey. You have done a tremendous amount of good in your society … We realize it’s a small section of your community that is putting a blemish on your school.”

“This is a problem that is long and deep,” Gitenstein said after Steinmann spoke. “We have expectations of our students.”

Gitenstein explained that the new student code would be presented for review to Vice President for Student Affairs Jim Norfleet, who is scheduled to meet with the board at the October 2011 meeting to report any revision recommendations.

Gitenstein: Budget reductions won’t cut it

The majority of the meeting focused primarily on the most recent budget constraints.

“Rather than a 4 percent increase in tuition and mandatory fees, we will be increasing the budget by 4.5 percent,” she said.

The increase will amount to $210 for full-time, in-state undergraduates and $421.50 for full-time, out-of-state undergraduates.

“You spend an awful lot of time working on the budget and then at the last minute you find out $700,000 has been carved out of it,” said visibly aggravated trustee Christopher Gibson. “We tried to keep tuition increases at an absolute minimum. These are very frustrating times for us all.”

Gitenstein explained that in past years, the College dealt with a budget cut “half through an increase in revenue, half though an increase in cuts.” However, “because of more than a decade of disinvestment by the state,” she said, the College couldn’t afford to cut back as much, explaining the need for a greater increase in revenue.

Attention was called to the recent discontinuation of both the Edward J. Bloustein Distinguished Scholar and Outstanding Scholar Recruitment Program (OSRP) scholarships, which gave money to exceptional students who choose in-state education.

“As a public institution, it’s difficult to raise money, because everyone assumes that your tax money pays for it. But everything special to a college, like scholarships … comes from donors,” noted trustee Eleanor Horne, as she presented signs of the College’s improved public relations.

This year, the College received $4.6 million in donations, a 48 percent increase over last year, according to Horne. An increased percentage of this money came from wealthy individuals unaffiliated with the College, she said, in addition to the usual donations from alumni, parents and grandparents.

However, Horne added that there was a “dark cloud in corporate and financial giving” that she hoped would ease in coming years as the College is increasingly acknowledged on a national level.

“(The College) received more benefits from the state in 1995 than it will now,” Gitenstein said. “Yet even as support was dropped, (the College’s) enrollment has grown. … Our retention and graduation rates have made (the College) a less costly option, because if you graduate in fewer years the cost is less, and parents know this.”

The president then sighed: “It will not be an easy path,” she said, “but the exceptional path is a righteous one.”

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