By Sarah Siock
Student concerns over how the merger of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) and Westminster College of the Arts (WCA) will affect their course of study were a major focus at a Student Government Association town hall meeting on April 14.
During the one-hour Q&A style event, questions were raised over if the creation of the new College of Arts and Sciences will result in curriculum changes. However, Kelly Bidle, the recently appointed dean of the merged colleges, said the transition will not cause major changes to students’ courses.
“[The merger] is part of this larger university plan of looking at restructures and efficiency. … I know one thing that you guys are all very anxious about is what does it mean for you as students. … For your actual programs, whether you’re a biology major, a music education major or a game and interactive design media major, none of that changes. As far as the core that you follow, your general education curriculum right now, whatever you are following now is what you will continue to follow in the future. If there are ever any changes, that will go through governance and that right now is not on our radar,” Bidle said reassuringly to students at the town hall.
Students also heard from Brooke Hunter, who will be an associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences once the merger becomes official in July. Hunter added that if changes were to be made to general education requirements in the future, it will only impact incoming students and not current students.
Since the announcement of the merger last month, students and faculty have questioned if the majors currently in WCA and CLAS will reorganize properly under the College of Arts and Sciences.
When asked if student needs will be met in a college with a diverse bundle of majors Bidle said, “There shouldn’t be any dramatic changes to anything that you’re currently doing. But as always, we have an open door. If there is something you’re experiencing that is of concern to you, all you need to do is come visit with us.”
While the portion of the town hall that focused on the merger consisted of the most questions, the event also centered around the voluntary separation program and commencement with administrators, including President Gregory Dell’Omo, directly answering students.
The segment of the town hall that centered on the voluntary separation program revolved around questions on how communication about departures from the university will be handled. Specifically, students asked if they will be notified when a person who holds a student-centered position leaves the college due to the separation program.
At the town hall, Vice President of Human Resources Rob Stoto said, “When they’re student-facing positions, we will be really thoughtful about making sure that we communicate, not just who’s leaving, but what the plan is for their replacements. The fact is that these [departures] are happening over about a six-month period. As they are coming to date, we will be communicating with you all what the plan is to transition those services.”
During the discussion of the voluntary separation program, Dell’Omo spoke about the future of the university. He said that once the academic and administrative prioritization, which were launched in the fall, conclude there will be further restructuring within the university. Dell’Omo cited Rider’s dwindling enrollment as one of the reasons for changes.
“It’s making sure we are a type of university given our size, programmatically, student wise and so forth that we have the right structure to make sure that we’re providing the best educational experience for our students. It’s all designed around making sure students can have a wonderful time going through their education here,” said Dell’Omo.
Dell’Omo added that any further reorganization would most likely not be on the same large scale as the WCA and CLAS merger. To conclude the town hall, Dell’Omo told students that he and his senior team are “always available to answer any questions.”
“A lot of these decisions over the next month or so we will be communicating a lot of these changes as we go forward. But it’s all focusing on how do we make sure we enhance the students’ experience,” said Dell’Omo.