Students and admin increase ‘transparency and collaboration’

By Gianluca D’Elia

As the university works to address future budget deficits, the administration will begin to work with both faculty and the Student Government Association (SGA) to develop new methods to increase enrollment and revenue.

When a student asked for a “visual budget” from the university at an open forum with SGA following the announcement of program cuts in October, Dean of Students Anthony Campbell told the SGA executive board that Vice President of Finance Julie Karns would meet with them to provide details on the university’s expenses.

Karns spoke to the Senate on Feb. 2, where she told students the university would begin the strategic planning process in regards to the university’s finances.

“Setting goals and strategies for Rider’s future through our strategic planning effort would be a good way to broaden the dialogue on how we can strengthen Rider financially,” Karns said.

“Transparency and collaboration go hand-in-hand,” said SGA Vice President John Modica, a sophomore English major. “Informed conversations between students, faculty and administration are what prepare us to move forward with more trust and clearer vision.”

Karns said a number of committees will be formed that will each include students, faculty and staff. Topics the working committees will focus on include ongoing expense initiatives, new academic programs and prioritization, real estate development, fundraising and use of reserves.

New programs have already begun to appear. This fall, the health sciences major was announced. Future plans include the possibility of graduate programs in arts therapy and homeland security.

Real estate development has not yet begun, but Karns suggested the possibility of a residential retail development near campus, which would increase revenue. It could also lead to more enrollment, which has been an issue for multiple universities in recent years.

“I’d like to see a Chick-fil-A,” she joked.

SGA President Ryan Hopely, a junior public relations major, said the committees will begin to meet within the next few weeks.

“Dean Campbell approached me and asked for student leaders he could nominate for different committees,” Hopely said. “There’s a Lawrenceville and Westminster student on each committee.”

Through developing strategies, the committees hope to address future deficits while maintaining a focus that Karns described as “student-centric.”

Scholarships will continue to remain a priority. Since 2010, the university has saved $16 million without making any cuts to scholarships.

At the end of the 2014-15 academic year, $62.7 million of the university’s expenses went toward scholarships, Karns said. This was followed by $62.9 million on instruction and $21.6 million on institutional support, which includes not only administrators but Public Safety, accounting and other campus-wide services.

“Students’ thoughts and ideas will help shape Rider’s future direction,” Karns said.

Modica shared this sentiment, expressing excitement that conversations on the university’s decision-making process would expand to the student body. Though some students felt blindsided by the decisions made in October on academic programs, Modica said the strategic planning process will help the campus community grow.

“Involving people from all areas of the Rider community ensures that lots of different perspectives are being used to guide Rider’s future,” Modica said. “Decisions haven’t been made; in fact, these decisions are coming straight from the collaboration that we all want so badly to see. And I hope that excitement reverberates through the rest of the student body.

“Rider is going to grow into more of a family through this process. It leaves me with hope.”

More details on Rider’s strategic planning process will be released in an email from President Dell’Omo and a town hall meeting on Thursday, Feb. 11.

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