Administrators grilled on cuts

Students question college choice

Protest signs sprout at the SGA open forum on Nov. 3, including the one above, held by Katelyn Kelly of Wolcott, Connecticut.
Protest signs sprout at the SGA open forum on Nov. 3, including the one above, held by Katelyn Kelly of Wolcott, Connecticut.

By Gianluca D’Elia and Thomas Albano

Sophomore Jenna Raisley came to Rider as an advertising major and web design minor, and hoped to leave with a career in one of those fields. Well, not anymore.

She felt lost and hurt, and she made it known to President Gregory Dell’Omo, Provost DonnaJean Fredeen and Dean of Students Anthony Campbell at an open forum hosted by the Student Government Association (SGA) on Nov. 3.

“It destroyed me. I chose Rider for this major and now what I want to do in life is no longer available to me or to others,” Raisley said. “If you were in my shoes and you just found out that both your major and minor were cut, and you had to pick classes at 7 a.m. the next morning, you’d feel lost, too.”

Raisley was one of many students who voiced their opinions at the SGA open forum. The forum’s purpose was to address students who were affected by or opposed to the recent cuts, which saw 14 academic programs eliminated and the transition of three programs from majors to minors.

The 442-seat theater was filled to near-capacity, and by no means quiet. At least one-fourth of the crowd brought decorated signs with messages such as “My major bled cranberry when you cut it,” “Do the math, we can’t afford to cut business,” and “It’s not a great day to be a Bronc.”

While many in the crowd were displeased with the situation, Dell’Omo said Rider has had financial problems that go back to about 2009 — they just became more urgent this year.

“At the convocation in September, I made remarks to the faculty and staff that even though we were proud of celebrating our 150th anniversary and the university had accomplished a great deal, so much so it attracted me to come to the university, we did face some real tough realities.

“When you look at our numbers over the last six years, we have declining enrollments. We lost 360 students in the last six years, and that’s just undergraduate students at this university. This year gets even more magnified when we saw a shortfall of the freshman class — at a time we had a record number of applications and the largest amount of financial aid we gave to our admittants.”

The president addressed rumors about himself when someone asked him about his salary — claiming it was around $800,000 per year. This question earned a thunderous applause from the crowd.

“It’s a ridiculous statement,” Dell’Omo said. “It’s the way conspiracies develop, where people manipulate the truth for their own gratification. I make $475,000 a year here with the potential for a 30 percent bonus. When you look at my total package, it’s probably below the market here and I knew that coming in.”

Senior arts administration major Will Gallagher asked how the public relations team was handling the situation and feared that the value of a Rider degree would decrease.

“As a graduating senior, I’m going to be looking for jobs in May with a sociology minor,” Gallagher explained. “I want to know what the university will do to assure that my degree and the rest of the graduating seniors’ degrees are not devalued.”

Fredeen stressed that the value of students’ degrees would not be jeopardized and a Rider education is still worthwhile.

“We are not the first institution to cut programs,” Fredeen said. “Your degree is not devalued. It’s still a Rider degree and it still carries the Rider name. And you have earned that degree, whether or not that program is going to be here 5 years or 10 years down the road.”

Dell’Omo reassured all students that decisions have been made not just to fight the deficit, but also to keep the university in a position where it can stay competitive and healthy against other schools.

“These moves are being done to strengthen the university and strengthen the degrees that we have, so when you do go out into the marketplace, you are seen as coming from a university that is vibrant, successful and exciting and progressive,” Dell’Omo said. “We’re under fire for being more practical and relevant for students. In the long term, people in the marketplace and prospective students will recognize that we’re probably doing the right thing for the university.”

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