Press Releases

NJ Colleges and Universities Tackle Bias, Bigotry and Move from Words to Action

Rev. Dr. Forrest M. Pritchett poses thought-provoking questions to panelist (left to right): Yvette Donado, Michael Gabriele, and Elizabeth Williams-Riley. Credits: Courtesy of American Conference on Diversity

Every year, more than one half million college students are targets of bias-driven slurs or physical assaults. Every day, at least one hate crime occurs on a college campus. Every minute, a college student sees or hears racist remarks or images. The American Conference on Diversity (ACOD) President & CEO Elizabeth Williams-Riley shared these sobering statistics during the opening remarks of Diversity Issues in Higher Education conference in early November.

“What we want to do here today is interrupt these patterns of hate to create more inclusive campuses for all of us, not just some of us,” she said, before a filled room that included New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks.

As the nation watches the race-related events unfold at the University of Missouri, the lessons learned during the 15th annual event – drawing attendees from academia, government, corporate America, and the nonprofit sector to Ramapo College of New Jersey – reinforces their importance and immediacy. The challenge placed on the conference participants was to make head, heart, and hand connect. American Conference on Diversity knows that it is simply not enough to have knowledge without compassion and action. “We have committed significant resources to many programs with the specific aim of fostering diversity and equity here,” said Ramapo President Peter P. Mercer.

Sign Up for E-News

Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs at Southern Connecticut State University Dr. Christopher Catching kicked off the full-day event with an inspirational keynote. By sharing his personal journey to success, he drove home the need for educational access and equity for underrepresented students, including first-generation, low-income, and immigrants, gained through a combination of mentoring, peer support, and financial aid.

“Opening pathways to success is critical for underrepresented students,” said Dr. Catching. A Newark native whose father “cleaned toilets at a hospital for a living,” Dr. Catching credits the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) at Montclair State University for providing “cultural navigators” that eventually led to his Doctorate of Education from Rutgers University.

A response panel discussion moderated by Kean University’s Director of Affirmative Action Programs Dr. Charlie Williams followed. Panelists included Barbra “Babs” Siperstein, Democratic National Committee Executive Committee Member, Vice President of the Women’s Political Caucus of New Jersey, and Political Director of the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey; Middlesex County College President Dr. Joann La Perla-Morales; Beyond the Tenure Track CEO Fatimah Williams Castro, Ph.D.; and ADP Chief Diversity & Social Responsibility Officer Rita Mitjans.

“I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t have access and parents who pushed me,” explained Mitjans, a first-generation student whose parents emigrated from Cuba with few funds or possessions. “Don’t accept your lot in life, set goals, and hold yourself accountable for achieving them.”

Breakout sessions provided specific solutions:

“Law Enforcement and Race Relations” – Facilitated by College of Saint Elizabeth Career Services and Student Employment Director Teri Corso, this workshop explored issues around policing, the courts, and the community and included immediate Past President of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives Jiles Ship; Kean University Professor Yvonne Smith Segars, Esq.; and former Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi, Esq., who shared first-hand accounts of institutionalized racism and injustice within the legal system. “What we have to remember is that law enforcement isn’t always bad – it’s bad leadership,” he said, adding “the greatest power we have is mercy and forgiveness.”

“While We Are Changing: An Exploration of Transgender Identity” – Throughout this heartfelt discussion, led by Executive Director of the Women’s Rights Information Center Dr. Esmilda Abreu-Hornbostel, panelists told personal stories intersecting their own or family members’ navigation through the educational system. Panelists included: Teachers College Columbia University Instructor and National Speaker on Gender Diversity Amy Fabrikant; Aaron Potenza of Garden State Equality; and Licensed Professional Counselor Jennifer Whitlock.

Student Perspectives on Diversity in Action Session, a student-led roundtable represented by Kean, Ramapo, Rutgers, and Seton Hall Universities, validated the challenges underrepresented students face. Leo Ricketts, a Seton Hall student who works two jobs to support a mom living with a disability, said it’s often difficult to connect with his peers who are not aware of their societal privilege. Another suggested that schools implement a mandatory diversity class for students and bias training for staff and faculty. The students reflected on numerous encounters they have had with implicit bias. One student shared the consistent assumption that Black students only get to college to play athletics. This is in the wake of the University of Missouri athletes becoming the game changers on campus.

Crowning the event was a robust conversation, moderated by Rev. Dr. Forrest M. Pritchett (shown left), Faculty Mentor of the Freshman Studies Program and Program Director of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Program at Seton Hall. Panelists included: ACOD’s Ms. Williams-Riley (shown right), Educational Testing Services Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Yvette Donado, and Peace Islands Institute New Jersey Branch Media Advisor Michael Gabriele (center). Dr. Pritchett posed a series of stimulating questions to lay a foundation for the examination of rigorous models for action.

“What is needed for educational success?” he asked. Resources at the K-12 level, said Donado: “For poor communities, that requires that schools become community hubs where children eat a proper breakfast, are exposed to arts, music, yoga and excellent teaching methods. It also means kids need to have a safe place to do homework and play until parents return from work.”

What, if you could, would you ask the governor of New Jersey? “When was the last time you had a conversation about privilege,” replied Ms. Williams-Riley. Ms. Williams-Riley emphasized the importance of talking about unconscious privilege just as much as we talk about implicit and unconscious bias.

Special thanks to the statewide conference planning committee: American Conference on Diversity, Bergen Community College, Bloomfield College, Brookdale Community College, College of St. Elizabeth, Kean University, Montclair State University, New Jersey City University (NJCU), Ramapo College of New Jersey, Rutgers: The State University of New Jersey, Saint Peter’s University, Seton Hall University, William Paterson University, and Corporate Partners BASF, Enterprise, and L’Oréal USA.

Next year’s Diversity Issues in Higher Education conference will be held at NJCU. If your institution would like to be a part of the Planning Committee for next year’s event, please contact us at

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


TapInto Welcomes Letters to the Editor, Guidelines for Submission Listed

PISCATAWAY, NJ - Letters to the Editor are a time-honored tradition in the newspaper industry and now that so much of news has moved online, the letters explaining a personal point of view have moved with it.

While many of our letters come during election time, TapInto invites letters year round. The main rules are to include a full name, phone number, email and snail mail address. TapInto ...

To Our Current and Future Representatives

July 17, 2018

To Our Current and Future Representatives - Wherever They May Be:

We can never forget we are a nation of immigrants. 

We cannot fall prey to fear, ignorance and anger when we  have been historically driven by freedom and justice. 

We must have the courage and will to fight hate, bigotry and prejudice. 

We must not wake up to what we hoped was a bad dream and ...

New Brunswick Battles Hunger with Largest Food Pantry Network in County

July 17, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The Rev. Douglas Shepler became pastor of New Brunswick's Second Reformed in April 2008 and by October had a food pantry running that quickly attracted people in need, including Rutgers University students.

“We had graduate students coming to us and they had a choice of paying their rent or paying for food,” Shepler said. However, those students ...


Hillsborough, NJ - Gina (Francoisa) Salamon, 90, died Monday, July 9, 2018 at Bridgeway Care Center ...
Read more
Piscataway – Michael John Doherty, 73, passed away Saturday June 16, 2018 in Las Vegas, ...
Read more

New Outlook Pioneers hosts 18th Music in the Park at Milt Campbell Field

July 15, 2018

Plainfield, NJ - On Thursday, August 2, 2018 at 5PM Sponsored by: The City of Plainfield (including the Cultural & Heritage and Human Relations Commissions), Mayor Adrian Mapp and the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders; along with CO-SPONSORS: New Outlook Pioneers, Mr. Plainfield (Robert Graham),TD+Partners -A Community Impact Development Firm, and Re/Max Select, Sandra L.

Cruising with Autism on the Seas

This is a event that includes the partnership and collaboration of Cruise Planners, Autism Friendly Escapes and WallynZavy's Autistic Kids Can Do!. WallynZavy's Autistic Kids Can Do is a non-profit 5013c, organization that supports families that have autistic and special needs children through advocacy, social play dates, resources, workshops, community support, seminars and family ...

Piscataway Library Accepting Diaper Donations Now Through July 31st

The Piscataway Public Library is helping the Central Jersey Diaper Bank collect diaper donations through the month of July. 

New or open packs of disposable baby diapers (all sizes) and wipes are needed.

Look for the blue bins at either Kennedy or Westergard to donate!

Rutgers Hikes Tuition, Student Fees for 2018-2019 Academic Year

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Rutgers University Board of Governors today approved a 2.3 percent hike in tuition and fees, as well as increases for dorm rooms and meals, for the 2018-2019 academic year.

The increase now brings the annual cost for undergraduate students to $14,975, which is $337 more than this past school year.

Student housing will increase 1.9 percent, and ...

Upcoming Events

Wed, July 18, 7:30 PM

Chatham United Methodist Church, Chatham

Masterwork’s Summer Sing Four to Feature Brahms

Arts & Entertainment

Sat, July 21, 10:00 AM

NJ Convention and Exposition Center, Edison

82nd Annual Garden State Cat Show & Expo

Giving Back Other

Sun, July 22, 10:00 AM

NJ Convention and Exposition Center, Edison

82nd Annual Garden State Cat Show & Expo

Giving Back Other

Sun, July 22, 11:00 AM

Columbia Park Senior Center, Dunellen

Bus Trip to SOPAC's Hunchback of Notre Dame ...

Arts & Entertainment

Mon, July 23, 10:00 AM

NJ Convention and Exposition Center, Edison

82nd Annual Garden State Cat Show & Expo

Giving Back Other

Residents Taking Action Against White Supremacist Fliers Found Around Bridgewater, Bedminster, Other Local Areas

July 17, 2018

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Residents of Bridgewater, Somerville, Morristown and surrounding communities are mobilizing for action after they found posters around town promoting Identity Evropa, which the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has labeled a white supremacist group.

According to Bridgewater resident Stacey Friedlander, a member of the “Not In Our Town – Bridgewater/Raritan” ...

Big Changes in Store for New Jersey’s Employers and Employees

July 15, 2018

Big changes are in store for New Jersey’s workplaces, with dramatic legislation aimed at improving conditions for New Jersey’s workers. These changes include the enactment of New Jersey’s Equal Pay Act, a new law to help the unemployed, and passage of New Jersey’s Paid Sick Leave Act. Most likely one or all these laws will impact you or someone in your family.

New ...

Extra Time

It was close to 70 minutes into the match and I had to go to the bathroom.  Badly.

As fans watching the World Cup know too well, bathroom breaks are a serious dilemma, especially for those who don’t have a TV in the loo.  This biological necessity is exasperated by beer, which during World Cup matches also fuels a strong propensity to throw chairs and instigate riots.