The Montclair State community came together on Wednesday, August 4 for a Town Hall with new President Jonathan Koppell, who, as he takes the reins as the ninth president of the University, displayed a spirit of optimism in taking on the challenges of the global pandemic and the “circumstances in the world on which we gather.”
Koppell addressed a mask-wearing audience of some 400 faculty, staff and students from a stage set in the middle of the University Hall conference center. It was the second Town Hall Koppell hosted since he was appointed president in July, and for some in the audience, it marked the first time they have come together with colleagues since COVID-19 altered such assemblies.
“We gather at a difficult time,” Koppell acknowledged. “The world is fraught. There’s all kinds of things going on that are cause for concern in terms of the environment, in terms of our politics, in terms of our culture. We feel enormously divided as a people.”
But despite the challenges, Koppell says he is optimistic about the future. “I think we as members of communities of higher education, as people who are committed to making universities work, to seeing students succeed, we have the power to be the antidote, or at least part of the antidote to all of those ills.”
“One of the reasons I love to be on campus and one of the reasons I love being with students and people who are associated with universities is that it is a fundamentally optimistic environment,” he said. “I do believe optimism is probably the most important attribute to have in a moment like this … the belief that tomorrow can be, will be, better than today, that a year from now will be better than it is now, that a decade from now will be better. That is fundamental to solving problems.”
The Town Hall was among the events of a busy first week for the new president. Since taking office on August 2, Koppell has met with many members of the University community, and joked that signage for this week’s freshman orientation sessions has been helpful to him as he learns to navigate the campus.
Koppell answered a range of questions, issues that touched on community engagement and partnerships, research, online modalities, diversity, graduate student life and mental health.
In answer to a question on COVID-19 protocols for the University moving forward, the president nodded to the necessity of coming together in community.
“We have lost sight of one of the most critical elements of living collectively, which is that we produce public goods and the public good that I’m committed to preserving is our ability to gather together. That means that we have to do things that allow us to gather together, whether that’s wearing masks, getting vaccinated, taking tests regularly,” he said.
“We all have learned over the last couple of years how much we value the ability to be together and how people pay a price when we cannot. And so we’re going to make decisions based on that premise, that we are a community, communities create public goods together, and that you don’t allow one set of individuals to presume that other individuals should bear the cost of their choices.”
The community can expect to see more of Koppell as he crisscrosses campus. “I like interacting with a lot of people,” he said. “I like engaging with the academic enterprise to hear what people are working on, what projects they’re doing, what their goals are.”
President Koppell’s Town Hall is available on the University’s YouTube channel.
Photos from the Town Hall Meeting
More Photos from Dr. Koppell’s First Few Days
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