By Gerald D. Klein
With Rider University’s current endowment – a source of funds for operations – remaining essentially the same as well before my 2013 retirement and its current level of debt, junk bond rating and liquidity making additional borrowing problematic, the president now hopes to shake some new funds from its academic programs.
These perhaps will fund new academic and certificate programs. New construction is not to be ruled out.
The consulting company, Credo, has been enlisted to forward this objective. As others pointed out well before the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the group’s methodology eventually sorts academic programs into quintiles or fifths, with those in the bottom three subject to reduction or elimination. These outcomes are predetermined by the rubric employed.
The rubric also favors larger programs like accounting and, to its discredit, penalizes smaller promising or successful programs, and those offering enrichment and valuable broadening to students in their college years.
The originator of this rubric and key Credo influence, Robert Dickeson, urged university administrators to sort out the academic program “stars” from the “dogs” – coarse terminology my academic colleagues and I would never use in thinking about or discussing academic programs.
This language and thinking will lead to “good enough” undergraduate and graduate offerings for students. Rider has never been a “good enough” school. Academic program cuts earlier proposed by the president targeted fully enrolled and popular undergrad classes and cutting-edge new programs which, in an about-face, Rider now touts in its news releases.
Market-driven improvements to Rider’s academic programs and course offerings regularly occurred during my career and likely continue today, through the administrator-faculty committees that comprise the university’s well-established governance system. Here, administrators and departments propose additions and subtractions in offerings for students that better prepare them for the future.
This system works well and has regularly approved new programs for students in all Rider colleges over the years. College of Business (CBA) departments, for example, would periodically compare their majors and courses with those at competing regional universities. The CBA’s offerings for students were at least as good as, but more often superior to, the offerings of others.
Professor Eric Howe, from the Department of Economics at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada critiqued the approach in a 2013 article for VOX. “Prioritization,” Howe said, “can be extremely attractive to some in senior administration. By making 20% of programs candidates for elimination, a great deal of power is created and then bestowed on those who decide ultimately whether the trigger should be pulled.”
The Credo effort is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and the AAUP has every right to recommend to its members that they not take part in it. It is also another unwise expenditure of scarce dollars permitted by a compliant Board of Trustees, unwilling to make changes at the top others would have made long before now.
Gerald D. Klein,
Emeritus Professor of organizational behavior and management
College of Business Administration
Originally printed in the 10/20/21 issue.