By Sarah Siock
The effect Rider’s partnership with the consulting firm Credo will have on students and mental health services on campus was the focus of the Student Government Association (SGA) town hall on Nov. 4.
Administrators speaking at the event included President Gregory Dell’Omo, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs DonnaJean Fredeen and Vice President for Facilities and University Operations Michael Reca. Students had over an hour to participate in the Q&A event held in the Science and Technology Center that revolved around five topics: Credo, health services on campus, dining services, the transitions back to in-person learning and Public Safety.
The portion of the event that focused on Rider’s counseling services involved students directing questions to the counseling staff. Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Cindy Threatt, who works closely with the counseling center, spoke about the outcome of an external review of the counseling center that took place over the summer.
Threatt said, “Some of the things that they recommended were in terms of outreach. In establishing relationships and identifying your highest-need students, figuring out where those students actually have their resources and safety connections and connecting with those spaces as well … Rider University is no different than all the universities that are really interested in making sure we have the services and support that you all need to be able to be healthy, to have really strong esteem and to know that you have resources that you can wrap around all the time.”
Dell’Omo was the first to speak at the event and addressed Rider’s partnership with Credo that launched in June. The partnership has been criticized by Rider’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), with leadership claiming, “Credo has a disturbing pattern of deep cuts of programs and departments and reduction in student services.”
Dell’Omo explained what led the university to partner with Credo.
He said, “Since we’re looking at the future and how we’re going to position the university to continue to be as competitive as possible, we then looked at using outside organizations to help do an assessment. In our case, we chose a firm called Credo, which is a consulting firm of higher education that specializes in institutions like Rider.”
The first phase of the partnership began with a Student Assessment Experience where Credo representatives engaged in interviews with students at Rider over the past few months. Dell’Omo said the assessment looks at components that affect the student experience including academics, residence life and orientation.
“We’ve asked [Credo] to help kind of look at all those different points that we have with you … to figure out how we can do things better,” Dell’Omo said.
Dell’Omo also spoke on the controversial second phase of Credo’s partnership,which involves academic prioritization process. In 2015, Rider also completed an academic prioritization process that resulted in the elimination of three programs: fine arts, German and business education. Dell’Omo said the goal is to have data collected by the end of the year and then begin to make decisions in the spring.
“It’s fair to say that we are going to have some cutting at this university, given the deficits we are running, and realizing that we’re not going to be able to raise that much new revenue in a relatively short time. So we realize you’re going to have to do some cutting and reallocation of resources to make the university even more effective. I can venture to say that it’s going to be across the university in different areas. The administrative side is not going to be exempt from that process,” Dell’Omo said.
A task force, where university employees will assess Rider’s programs, was assembled for the academic prioritization process. Currently, no members of the AAUP have volunteered to assist in the process.
Several students raised concerns about the lack of transparency from the administration regarding the Credo partnership.
When asked why students were not included on any task force Fredeen said, “This is a well thought out process and has been around for many years. We’re talking about making decisions that involve resources where it has truly just been faculty and the administrators who have been part of it. To be quite honest, it was not something that was brought to our attention that we should consider or not.”
Senior computer science major and SGA President Elizabeth O’Hara said the student government will continue to provide a platform for students to get answers to their questions and provide timely updates on the projections of Credo’s recommendations.
O’Hara said, “We encourage our peers to continue communicating their concerns and fears surrounding the partnership as we move forward with the semester. We never want students to feel like they are being given no information or no chance to speak up about decisions that impact them directly. … In every conversation we have with the administration, we are intentional about voicing what is best for the student body, and discussions about the partnership are no different. Above all, the student body should not be caught in the crosshairs of the reviews, and concerns over the Credo partnership shouldn’t distract from the current academic experience.”