By Shanna O’Mara and Gianluca D’Elia
Rider’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) voted Sept. 14 to ratify a tentative agreement for a contract that was made earlier this month.
During negotiations for a new three-year contract, AAUP members considered going on strike and taking job actions if an agreement was not reached by Aug. 31. Though negotiations have finally ended, faculty members still have concerns about the new contract and what it means for the university’s future.
“It preserved our continued existence as a union, and it preserved being able to come to work and teach our students — that’s our number one focus,” said Jeffrey Halpern, AAUP contract administrator and professor of sociology. “But in the long run, this agreement does not bode well for the institution.”
University spokeswoman Kristine Brown agreed that the students remained a priority throughout this process and that protection of Rider’s future was valued on both sides of the table.
“During these negotiations, we addressed a range of issues that directly relate to the university’s short- and long-term ability to provide a quality Rider education to our students,” Brown said.
However, Halpern said he is concerned that the quality of Rider’s faculty contract will make Rider less competitive when recruiting new professors.
“As we go out to hire, it’s going to be harder to hire good people,” he said. “We might be using more and more contingent faculty who are here temporarily. This is not promising for students.”
Halpern explained that in the search to hire professors, universities compete for who they consider the top three applicants for positions.
“Everyone wants to hire the top three,” Halpern said. “We’ve been hiring one of our top three consistently, typically our number one choice. There are lots of reasons for that — strong support for the connection between scholarship and teaching. Secondly, we were competitive in our starting salaries.”
Starting salaries for lecturers with a four course load will be $62,000, and existing professors will not have received a raise in six years by the time this contract expires. Dell’Omo’s status has been static since he came here in 2015.
Brown said the administration has been working hard with the faculty union to reach an agreement that benefits the university going forward.
“We recognize that change is never easy, and we appreciate the AAUP’s cooperation as we make the necessary adjustments for the university to strengthen its finances. We look forward to continue working together with the AAUP to build a future in which Rider is sustainable for the long term and offers our students a well-rounded, vibrant experience.”