By Gerald D. Klein
No university can survive when current faculty cannot recommend it to others as a workplace, when they leave in disgust or retire prematurely.
But this is where we are at this moment at Rider and have been for too long.
Know that at this moment your faculty is fighting to save the university and the people and programs that prepare students for life and careers. Before President Gregory Dell’Omo, Rider had prepared students for life and careers across all its schools and colleges.
The faculty is central to a university’s mission. Its morale, retention and replenishment is a required and central focus for a university’s Board of Trustees and president. At Rider, on the basis of these standards, the president and board have failed.
Over a seven-year period, Rider’s president has been unsuccessful in achieving financial stability and security for the university. He admitted in a note announcing the employment of Credo a year ago that he and his team had been unsuccessful in achieving vital enrollment and student retention targets.
Seven years is time enough. The president continually blames external factors for this, such as the pandemic and the decline in the number of college-aged young adults. However, data gathered and reported by Rider’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors shows that in the five years of his tenure prior to the pandemic, similar area colleges and universities were posting net revenue gains while Rider was posting losses.
Rider has also lost millions and spent millions because of the president’s decisions and actions in relation to Westminster Choir College – fueled by his quest for quick cash, and the losses here go way beyond the dollars and are absolutely tragic.
In organizations, continually blaming others and not owning your mistakes makes you unfit for management and an organizational risk.
Remarkable to me, as a former professor of management, is the continued support for the president by Rider’s board. In class, we drew on research to discuss how leaders and organizations found it difficult to admit to errors and mistakes, and the related phenomena of throwing good money after bad. Rider board members work for organizations where, I assure you, the president’s reputation and the record would have led to his replacement long ago.
Perhaps the president’s retention has to do with the millions the university would have to pay to terminate his current contract, set to expire in 2024. In October 2020, without the president showing significant accomplishment and burdened with the first vote of no-confidence, the board granted the president a contract extension, adding two additional years to the two years remaining. That was a surprise and exceedingly premature to many and to me, and many believed that the contract extension was prompted more by pique – “I’ll show you.” – than reason; pique at the forces that led to the withdrawal of the Chinese company, Kaiwen, as Westminster’s prospective buyer. Today, that company continues to operate at a loss.
Gerald D. Klein
Emeritus Professor of organizational behavior and management
Originally printed in the 3/23/22 issue.