By Shaun Chornobroff
After a long period of uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and a school year that nearly began with Rider’s faculty union striking after a summer of futile negotiations, Quinn Cunningham hopes to bring ease to her new role outside of the classroom.
Cunningham, an associate professor who served as the union’s vice president for the past two years, was elected president of Rider’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) on April 4 and will serve in the role for the 2023-24 school year.
“I think faculty are tired too, just generally from the world,” said Cunningham. “I think there are good things going on, so I do want to try and highlight those and hopefully, within our membership … just try and get some of the good things highlighted again.”
Cunningham will succeed David Dewberry, who she said recruited her to be an at-large member of the executive committee in 2019. Not long after, she was promoted to vice president before her ascension into the top office was decided.
Under the cloud of a looming strike, the union hammered out a five-year agreement with the administration on Sept. 11, although the deal had yet to be officially signed as of April 10.
Additionally, Rider’s woes within the Office of Information and Technology (OIT) have resulted in much of Dewberry’s tenure being spent fighting for adequate technology within the classroom. On April 4, Rider’s Senior Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer James Hartman said in an email that the university will begin installation on new technology over the summer for the majority of the classrooms to be outfitted for the fall semester.
Dewberry said he expects these issues, plus Rider’s recent exodus of professors, to remain prevalent during Cunningham’s tenure. In February, The Rider News was informed that 26 full-time professors and 11 long-term adjunct faculty took incentives from the university, agreed as part of the September labor contract to retire from the university.
“I think a lot of those are going to carry over. If a lot of these issues haven’t been resolved by now, I’m not optimistic that they’re going to be resolved in the next week, two weeks, three weeks or over the summer,” said Dewberry. “I hope that’s not the case. But I think it’s just dealing with the continuation of what’s been going on.”
Cunningham arrived at Rider in 2014 and it was not long before a colleague encouraged her to attend union meetings. In 2019 she became an at-large member of the executive committee and over her time in the AAUP, and particularly over the past year she noticed “how great” the membership was, especially in how they galvanized together in the face of negotiations and a potential work stoppage.
It’s a group that Cunningham now looks forward to leading herself.
“I’m excited to play my part in the sense of giving back,” Cunningham said. “I had no idea how helpful a union could be for faculty before coming here, so I feel like this is my piece to give back.”