Coping with the crash

by Julia Ernst

President Mordechai Rozanski offered reassurance in an e-mail to faculty and staff this week that Rider will not be severely affected by recent economic turmoil.

“The university is in sound financial health,” Rozanski explained. “Our operating needs have been met through the summer.”

He acknowledged, however, that some future facilities upgrades and hiring of new faculty and staff may be deferred.

Rozanski said that the current-year revenue and other investments have provided sufficient funding for the 2008-2009 school year. In addition, the university is “working with several interested banks to establish a significant
line of credit to provide a ‘safety net’ for those times we may need it until we can withdraw our remaining, longer-maturing Commonfund funds.”

The Commonfund is a Connecticut nonprofit organization that holds approximately $9.3 billion, which universities invest for short-term periods to cover operating costs. After some of the more serious events on Wall Street, Wachovia Bank limited universities’ access to these funds, which are now being distributed on a periodic basis.

“The current economic turmoil has accelerated our need to rethink our priorities to include a focus on conserving our economic resources,” Rozanski explained in his e-mail. The university is acting on this by “postponing major expenditures where feasible, and, particularly, to focus on position vacancies,” he continued.

Projects that are already under way will continue on schedule. These include the addition onto Daly’s Dining Hall, which should be open by next week, according to Dean of Students Anthony Campbell. Also, the construction of the new dorms by Maurer Gym will continue as originally scheduled.

“We are going to complete all of the projects we have started,” Rozanski said. “The West Village will be completed for students to move in the fall of 2009.”

Projects that are still in the planning stages, however, will be impacted by these precautionary measures. In his e-mail, Rozanski explained that any undertakings that are still being discussed will be re-evaluated, in terms of when they are to begin.

“We’re going to look at when we’re doing any future projects,” Rozanski said. “We will review the timing and pace” of projects.

New ideas include the traditional upgrades to the residence halls that take place over the summer, as well as a new proposal of air-conditioning and heating in the residence halls, Rozanski said.

These new systems would allow students to regulate the temperature of their rooms with easy-access controls. Rozanski also emphasized that this is only a proposed idea and that much discussion must be had on whether or not it
will actually happen.

The precautionary measures may also have an impact on the hiring of new faculty and staff members. Campbell explained that discussion is ongoing about how to bring in new hires for the fall of 2009.

“We are assessing the faculty positions,” he said. “There will be some faculty hires for next year. However, each position will be assessed by the dean of the college, the chair of the department and the provost before a final decision is made.”

Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Don Steven added that although some hires may be postponed, current faculty vacancies will eventually be filled.

“Any authorized position that we defer, we will re-authorize,” Steven said.

Dr. Jonathan Mendilow, chair of the Political Science Department, explained that the changes to university spending will impact his department, but only in a small way.

“This is not a freeze — this is a deferment,” Mendilow said. “The freeze really means that we shall not hire this year.”

Mendilow said that even though there is a position open in his department, the new precautions that make hiring policies more strict for this school year will not adversely impact his professors or the students.

For students who are concerned about what professors they may end up having or how their class schedules might change, they have nothing to be concerned about, Steven emphasized. Students will not be adversely affected by these changes.

“We want to make sure that students have everything they need,” he said. “Current students will have all of the courses they need for their academic requirements.”

Larry Newman, dean of the College of Business Administration, felt that Rozanski made an intelligent decision to update Rider faculty members on the university’s plans.

“I thought Dr. Rozanski’s memo was an excellent communication,” Newman said. “It’s very sound for an organization to say, ‘This is where we stand, and we’re committed to meeting the needs of our customers, in this case our students. Let’s continue as we are, but with caution.’”

Rozanski echoed Newman’s thoughts in saying that his primary message to the Rider community is that the university has prepared well for current expenses and has also developed precautionary measures to deal with unexpected costs or bigger fluxes in the national economy.

“What we’re really doing is contingency planning,” Rozanski said. “If there are any other financial costs, we’re covered.”

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