By Kaitlyn McCormick
Senior year for college students is synonymous with the stress of checking off those last class requirements; this year’s seniors, however, are jumping through additional hoops for capstones and supervised studies after a new contractual pay cut has resulted in some faculty members taking a step back from overload work.
Though an agreement was reached between Rider’s administration and the university’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) following an intense negotiation process that almost resulted in a faculty strike, the affects of where certain issues landed on the bargaining table are continuing to trickle into the semester: namely a 20% pay cut to full-time faculty overload pay.
AAUP president and communication professor David Dewberry explained that an overload is considered to be any additional class that a faculty member teaches outside of the contractual course load, and, while these can be any classes, supervised and independent studies are most well recognized as overload classes.
“Unfortunately, the university has to make those types of cuts,” Dewberry said. He also mentioned that the AAUP is putting out the message to faculty that “until the university recognizes and pays us our fair wage, which [is] what we had before, that people should not be teaching overloads … unless they’re in a financial situation … if they can’t pay their bills.”
Senior graphic design major Danielle Pereira is just one of the students who have had to pivot their supervised study plans this year.
After already beginning to work on an independent study with professor Jessi Oliano, Pereira had to change plans after the pay cut resulted in Oliano canceling the project.
Oliano opted to provide The Rider News with a written statement rather than partaking in an interview.
“It’s unfortunate that the university decided to do this and pay us less; it’s a real disincentive to teach overloads, and now we have to go out and find qualified adjuncts which is getting hard to do,” Oliano said.
Pereira expressed that she empathizes with the professors who have had to reject independent and supervised studies.
“When I first heard of it, I was really disappointed for the professors,” Pereira said.
She also expressed grievances with the university’s direction from a student perspective, mentioning that Rider seems like a very “money minded” institution, but that the student experience seems to be taking a hit as a result.
“Rider is a private university and you’re paying so much more money to get a better education here, but it doesn’t feel like it’s better,” Pereira said. She explained that she came to Rider in the first place because of the classes and the “in-depth learning” opportunities to do one-on-one studies with professors, but “I don’t feel like that’s going to happen anymore,” she said.
Cara DiYanni, a psychology professor and director of the Baccalaureate Honors Program (BHP) explained how the overload pay cuts have impacted students looking for faculty to fulfill their BHP capstone requirements.
“I’ve had professors who would normally supervise projects tell me they won’t, so I’ve been sort of cautioning [students]…and just saying that we’re going to do our best, ‘’ DiYanni said.
While she mentioned that so far 24 out of the 26 BHP students that need to complete capstones this spring have been able to find willing professors, DiYanni said she can “foresee this being a problem” for her 57 rising juniors if cuts continue.
“You know, these are my colleagues and these are my peers, so I totally get where they’re coming from.” DiYanni said, explaining the balance between empathizing with her fellow faculty while also managing the stress of navigating this change and feeling responsible for her BHP students.
Associate Vice President for University Marketing and Communications Kristine Brown delivered the following statement to The Rider News:
“The University Administration and AAUP bargaining teams worked through many very challenging issues this summer and, ultimately, reached a mutual agreement that was acceptable to both sides and entered into in good faith. This agreement was then ratified by the full membership of the union. The Administration has every expectation that the parties will live up to the terms of the agreement and that the union leadership will not work to subvert it, through a concerted action, with the hope of changing the agreement made just last month. We are confident that our faculty will continue to fully support student needs as they always have.”
Dewberry stressed heavily that the AAUP wants to see students at Rider succeed, and that neither he nor the union intend to stand in the way of graduation requirements for students, and condone faculty taking an overload if necessary.
“We’re not here to keep students from graduating,” Dewberry said. “We are all in this business to teach people and get them educated and [to] graduate in a timely process.”
Originally printed in the 10/26/22 issue.
A previous version of this story misspelled Pereira in one attribution. The Rider News regrets this error.