“I’d like to take a moment to offer some thoughts on my first seven months at Rider. Much of what occurred in the Fall was not how I envisioned my presidency at Rider. Although I knew there would be certain challenges facing the university, some requiring more urgent attention than others, I had hoped that I would have had the luxury of spending more time meeting you as individuals and developing relationships, listening and learning about your experiences at Rider as well as the more intimate details and aspects of this university. And in turn, I would have hoped that many of you would have gotten to know me better personally and professionally.
Given the magnitude of the enrollment and financial challenges the university was confronted with, some of which have been building for years, and then have been more dramatic and have effected this past spring and into the fall, we were thrown into a significant situation that needed immediate and all-consuming attention. It was, and still is, a situation that does not have a quick and easy long-term solution. It is highly complex with many components, some internal and others external, and will take a fair amount of time — years — to fully adjust to and overcome.
Given my leadership style, I would have clearly preferred to have taken more time to have discussed the problems and the potential short term actions needed with the larger university community. But, unfortunately, the situation required difficult and extremely unpleasant decisions to be made quickly within the proper contractual guidelines; otherwise, many of the financial problems that unfolded would have compounded even more so.
Believe me when I say, I believe that as you get to know me better you’ll understand, that the last thing I wanted to do with my first semester as president was to announce a significant program and faculty reduction plan. I know the dramatic impact this would have on the faculty, students, parents, as well as many alumni, donors, not to mention the negative publicity we have received. This was not something any of us enjoyed. I also know that some of you may still question the extent of the problems we face. Thinking a lot of this is just a power play or a ploy to seek more and more concessions from the AAUP, AFSCME employees and all other Rider employees.
All I can say is that the situation is very real. We are not exaggerating the extent of the challenges we face. We respect the relationships and roles each and every employee and employee organization serves at Rider. And we’re in this together as a community. As such, we need to work together not only to work on the challenges that we face, which I’m sure we will, but also position the university for even greater success in the future. To me, the glass is always half full, and a way to fill that glass up even more so as we go forward.
We have all sacrificed to meet this challenge. As president, I know this is not easy for anyone, but it is greatly appreciated, and we are all thankful for everyone’s support and it is something that speaks volumes of the strong sense of community and pride everyone has for Rider.
Now I know what everyone is thinking: Okay, what’s going to happen next? What’s going to happen with employee’s wages, benefits, positions? What’s going to happen from the program prioritization process? What’s going to happen to our operating budgets? What’s going to happen to certain academic programs and faculty positions when the AAUP contract expires etc., etc., etc.? There are a whole bunch of questions running through my mind, and they’re all very, very important questions. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know. And I can’t make any promises at this point in time; it’s all a work in progress.
What I do know is that it is critically important that we all work together to do everything we can to strengthen the position of the university across all areas, which includes such important initiatives such as program prioritization, the university strategic planning process, which feeds right into our middle states accreditation process, and many other initiatives, some of which are day-to-day initiatives as well as some more strategic ones.
It is important to note that even with this level of inclusion, communication and commitment to working together, there will always be certain decisions made or directions taken that not everyone is going to agree with or even like. And it’s okay for us to have honest disagreements and debates, as long as we all act in the best interest of the institution. This is how healthy organizations operate.
Under my leadership, we will provide as much transparency, timed communications and discussions, and the sharing of information with the university community that is reasonably possible. That has always been my approach both here and elsewhere, and I encourage you to let me know if you ever feel that we are not living up to this commitment. That is my duty to you; to make sure we are honest, upfront and involved. Thank you for hearing me out, I look forward to working closely with everyone and getting better acquainted with many more of you as we go forward.