Mercer’s President, Dr. Jianping Wang has been chosen as co-chair of Governor-Elect Phil Murphy’s transition team on Education, Access and Opportunity.
Transitions teams help the incoming administration decide the direction of the new government by recommending candidates for key posts and forming policy platforms. Their help is critical in making sure the new government can start their work right away.
Tasked with leading the rest of the transition team, the co-chairs are to “moderate the discussions and synthesize ideas,” as Dr. Wang explained in an interview with The VOICE.
As for how Dr. Wang got the job, she said, “I have no idea. I got a call from Governor-Elect office and ask if I would serve. I’m always willing and ready to serve for the state of New Jersey, for the college, for the community. So I said yes.”
She later added, “I credit this appointment to the work this college has done. This college has done some very innovative work and probably getting recognized for that.”
Others had their own insight on the matter to offer. Professor Elizabeth Bondurant remarked, “I think she’s certainly active in the community as far as Mercer goes. So I’m sure he [the Governor-Elect] wants to tap into her connections. But all transition teams are political. I believe all transition teams are political.”
Last month, The VOICE reported on the tabling of a vote of no confidence by the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) faculty union. The vote, spurred by increasing discontent with Dr. Wang’s administration by the faculty, was tabled due to the promise of working with the board to fix the problems the union had.
“I feel somewhat betrayed,” one faculty member, who asked to remain anonymous, told The VOICE, “because the union, in good faith, agreed to postpone the vote of no confidence, and then we find out in two days the board most likely knew about this appointment and that’s why they wanted us to hold off.”
Another faculty member, who also asked to remain anonymous, said “We were wondering if the appointment had been made before going to the board and whether that was the reason behind the board being willing to talk to us. I guess overall I have some questions about the timing of it,” they said.
English Professor Dr. Edward Carmien told The VOICE, “I think it’s unfortunate the governor-elect is not more in tune with faculty concerns about college leadership before making this appointment.”
Carol Golden, the chair of Mercer’s Board of Trustees, when asked about the timing of when the Board learned about the appointment and whether it coincided with the tabling of the vote of no confidence, said “I would imagine, just because all these things are pretty new, it was around the same time, but I can’t say before or after, to be honest.”
Another perspective was shared by Business and Technology Professor Andrea Lynch, who said, “She’s a leader in education in the state of New Jersey, and I think having someone from a two-year on the committee is critical” and “I think she values students and works to make sure community college students have everything they need, at least from my perspective.”
One faculty member, who asked to remain anonymous, told The VOICE, “I think this is an opportunity for the president to represent the college and do it with flair. Some of the things that have dogged her here, this could be a redeemable opportunity…. She could be able to use this to right the ship, because she’s brought money to this school, she could bring attention. I think this could be beneficial on all fronts.”
When asked about faculty concerns, Golden said, “I don’t see what the concerns would be…I would think that if I was a faculty member, I would be glad.”
She continued, “Overall, it’s nice that Mercer County Community College is honored in this way, that the opinion of the president is going to be considered in how higher education is going to be treated by this administration.”
When The VOICE asked Dr. Wang about the possibility of a political career, she said, “My devotion is to this college, and all my life I’m in education. As my mother will say, I never left the college once I went. I have never left the campus, you know, so I don’t intend to leave campus at all.”