We appreciate the opportunity to provide an update on the negotiation process between the administration and American Association of University Professors (AAUP). We hope to clearly express two sentiments: The administration is working to ensure that a quality Rider education remains within reach for current and future students, and at Rider we have a long history of successfully concluding negotiations. We expect the same for this negotiation process.
We understand that while any negotiations take place behind closed doors, students receive periodic updates on the process that may, at times, seem to be at odds with each other. This is normal and understandable. In labor negotiations, the two sides are accountable to different constituents and each side’s perspective is based mostly on whom they serve.
The administration must consider the needs of all employees, and, most importantly, current and future students. We view these negotiations as an important opportunity to address a series of key academic quality and cost issues that directly impact our students. In other words, these negotiations are largely about you and your experience at Rider.
For example, institutions like Rider, including many highly regarded colleges and universities, typically have at least a quarter of their full-time faculty in non-tenure positions. Non-tenured faculty with workforce experience bring an expertise to the classroom that allows students to tie their theoretical knowledge to practical applications, allow for an increased variety of courses and make the cost of instruction more affordable. Students win both ways. Similarly, bringing the pay of future hires into line with the 150 colleges and universities most like Rider in the tri-state area will also help keep a Rider education within reach of future students. This is important because, through their tuition payments, students and their families pay more than 90 percent of Rider’s costs each year.
Our non-economic proposals are also designed to meet the needs and interests of our students. While our faculty certainly share this student-centered focus, the AAUP bargaining representatives are responsible for AAUP members’ interest as a primary obligation. Two examples help make this point. The parties differ on department chairpersons’ priority for teaching. The Administration’s position is that department chairpersons are among the most senior and talented faculty, and departments should be free to assign classes to chairs that have the best expertise to bring to our students. The AAUP has taken the position that their first obligation is to represent their bargaining unit, giving adjuncts priority over department chairs. The AAUP has also resisted proposals that could produce more consistent mechanisms to solicit student opinions about their classroom experience. The Administration thinks students’ voices should be heard.
Over the past 3-5 years the university has taken steps to reduce costs by over $10 million, primarily from non-instructional areas. This allowed for reallocation of funds to student scholarships, and lowered costs to address lower enrollment. However, more savings are needed and it is not possible to shield the bargaining unit from the realities that Rider and most of higher education must face. We are proud of our faculty and the critical role they play in our students’ success. The proposed changes to compensation and benefits were based on careful consideration of peers, and designed to assure that the university can continue to attract and retain top faculty and athletic staff. We are confident we can accomplish this while also aligning our costs with our resources, without asking our students to bear an increasingly broader burden.
While these negotiations are certainly challenging, the university remains committed to the process and confident that, as in past rounds of bargaining, it will ultimately result in a settlement that allows the university to become a stronger institution for the benefit of all.
Printed in the 09/17/14 issue.