By Kaitlyn McCormick
As the details of Rider’s partnership with educational consulting firm Credo continue to unfold, a heightening concern is how this affiliation may impact students, and, of equal importance, how much information students are receiving about Rider’s work with Credo.
The administration’s partnership with Credo has already caused concern for faculty, primarily the fear of potential program cuts, including elimination of some majors, minors and laying off professors, in the liberal arts and social sciences.
Barbara Franz, professor of political science and president of Rider’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors spoke to The Rider News about these concerns.
“Because they’re getting paid by the administration, I’m assuming that Credo’s going to be very careful suggesting that we should maybe cut some high-paid administrators,” Franz said. “So then what’s left? What’s left is the faculty.”
Franz loosely explained the prioritization method that Credo uses, which relies on placing programs in five tiers with significant cuts being made to the bottom placements.
A statement from Vice President for Student Affairs Leanna Fenneberg, relayed by a Rider spokesman, explained that while the first phase of the administrations partnership focuses on the student experience, the second phase focuses on efficiency.
“This work will provide an opportunity to assess what services and programs we provide for students to promote their learning, engagement and student success,” Fenneberg said. “It is our hope that both phases of the partnership elevate and strengthen the overall student experience, including vital out-of-class experiences and academic support.”
Professors like Franz, however, are worried that these changes may be detrimental to student life and success.
Franz said, “If you come to a private college, a private institution of higher learning, with that kind of approach, you might cut out the most interesting programs, you might cut out the programs that are the most innovative, that allow students to do the most interesting things in their careers. Just because they are not making profit does not mean these programs should be cut.”
As alarming as these cuts sound, what is even more concerning is the lack of communication between Rider’s administration and the student body regarding the Credo partnership.
On Oct. 11, President Gregory Dell’Omo sent out an email to the Rider community regarding the partnership, however, the information seemed surface-level. The message included vague details of Credo’s first phase launch, the “Student Experience Assessment,” which was already underway. Involved in this phase, which Dell’Omo wrote was “designed to help us build upon our strengths when serving students from the first interaction with the Admissions office through graduation, with particular emphasis on the first 18 months of a student’s experience,” was several interviews within the Rider community.
Some students that participated, however, are now anxious about their involvement.
Senior technical theater major Christianah Akinsanmi as well as senior sociology major Nida Bajwa were among those pulled to participate in a series of interviews taking place virtually on Sept. 17 and in-person on Oct. 6 with Credo representatives as part of a multicultural students focus group.
Akinsanmi explained that after the initial virtual focus group, the interviewees were then invited back for a supplementary meeting.
“What they had said to us was that our group was the only one that was chosen to have another meeting. I don’t know if they had had other groups with non-multicultural students, but they specifically chose our group to bring in again,” Akinsanmi said.
Akinsanmi explained that the group was led through questions by a consultant affiliated with Credo to form a better understanding of student life to influence potential recommendations made by Credo to the administration.
“She just led us through a bunch of questions about how we felt about campus, the bad good and the ugly things that we’ve experienced with professors or administration or just in general and our outlook on going there. … The questions weren’t unbiased,” Akinsanmi said.
Akinsanmi went on to explain that the questions being revisited tended to consist of students speaking about the attractive financial aid packages at Rider as well as student experiences with professors that “weren’t necessarily the most positive.”
“It wasn’t that they didn’t ask us a well-rounded amount of questions, it was the questions they held on to,” Akinsanmi said.
Bajwa recounted the same perspective throughout the interview process.
“From what I remember, it was just they asked about certain experiences that we’ve had, like how we felt at Rider, if we’ve experienced microaggressions, racism, anything of that nature … they said they were going to collect information, give it to the university and try and better it, but that was about it,” Bajwa said.
As more information about Credo’s partnership has come to light, both students admit to feeling a certain level of uneasiness to their participation, more specifically how Credo may utilize their input.
“I felt kind of used… like they had kind of operated under the guise of wanting to hear how minority students at Rider feel, but then they might use our words and twist them to fit the narrative that they want to push,” Bajwa said.
Akinsanmi said, “It was really easy to feel taken advantage of because of the lack of clarity.”
As Rider continues to partner with Credo and collect information for various recommendations at the administrative level, it is imperative to both students and faculty that the university be transparent about what its plans are.
Also vital is the union between students and faculty to ensure that any changes made in the future will be in a collective best interest.
“The students seemed to really support the faculty against the administration,” Akinsanmi said.
Franz shared a sense of urgency in the unification between faculty and students.
“Line up behind your faculty. Students and faculty need to become one force. That’s the only way we can change the system,” Franz said.
Student Government Association (SGA) Vice President for University Affairs Andrew Bernstein said via phone call that the association would try to do whatever it can to stay up-to-date with this partnership and reflect the best interest of the student body moving forward.
Where student representation is concerned, the SGA is going to play a crucial role in uplifting the best interest of the student body, and therefore must stay knowledgeable about Credo’s presence in the Rider community and be transparent with that knowledge. Though there will be a town hall meeting discussing this issue further on Nov. 4, the SGA has yet to make any public statement regarding the administration’s partnership with Credo and the probable negative impact it could have on the student body. It is imperative that as student representatives the SGA prioritize a high level of transparency with the campus community — transparency that isn’t coming from the administration.
This editorial expresses the unanimous opinion of The Rider News Editorial Board. This week’s editorial was written by Opinion Editor Kaitlyn McCormick.
Originally printed in the 10/27/21 issue.