By Joel Phillips
In Trustee Guarino’s response to the overwhelming call to remove President Dell’Omo by 86% of Rider’s faculty, he lauds Dell’Omo’s “integrity, fairness, authenticity and especially his equanimity as he confronts circumstances beyond his control.”
Let me address just two of these — “integrity” and “circumstances beyond his control.”
Integrity requires ethical principles. Dell’Omo demonstrates he lacks such principles.
When he asked faculty to participate in the 2015 prioritization process, they agreed. Before they had done their work, President Dell’Omo unilaterally canceled 14 student programs and issued layoff notices to 14 faculty. The lessons? To this president, faculty input on academic matters doesn’t matter. Nor does trust. Why should a faculty betrayed participate in another dishonest endeavor?
In the wake of his cancellations, Dell’Omo instructed faculty to advise the now-homeless majors and minors to transfer into other majors or to simply leave Rider. Yes, faculty were ordered to pick up Dell’Omo’s pieces and make things right with students. Rider may be student-centered, but Dell’Omo’s actions were not.
Then, Dell’Omo announced he planned to move Westminster, sell the campus and use the proceeds to build an engineering program in Lawrenceville. He did this without the authorization of the Board of Trustees. A responsible board would have fired him for insubordination.
But Rider’s board did not.
Rider faculty voted no confidence in Dell’Omo’s leadership in 2017, sending their clear message to the Board that Dell’Omo’s actions were harming the university.
The Board of Trustees rewarded Dell’Omo by giving him more money and a contract extension. Perhaps they figured when a university’s core employees are unhappy, its president must be doing a swell job.
When Westminster and Rider merged, Rider made a formal agreement in which it promised to “(1) preserve, promote and enhance the existing mission, purposes, programs and traditions of Westminster … ; (2) ensure that the separate identity of WCC … will be recognized …; and (3) utilize WCC’s resources in support of WCC’s programs.”
As Rider’s president, Dell’Omo was required to uphold that agreement. Instead, he tried to sell WCC and planned to spend that cash on other things in Lawrenceville.
What is the ethical distinction between liquidating a charitable trust and using the proceeds outside of the trust’s restrictions and money laundering? If only we had a philosophy department to answer this question. But Dell’Omo eliminated the philosophy department, the academic discipline to which ethics belongs.
In their recent petition, WCC students complain they can no longer buy anything with Westminster’s name on it. Rider Promise broken.
Dell’Omo spent $2 million to move WCC to Lawrenceville where no adequate facility exists for the performance and rehearsal of choral music. Rider Promise broken.
A campus built for choral music earns Rider $2,000 per month as a parking lot. The avalanche of Dell’Omo’s poor decisions has resulted in the loss of tens of millions of dollars and hundreds of students in enrollment. Rider Broken.
And THEN, the pandemic hit. Finally, a circumstance beyond Dell’Omo’s control.
Mr. Guarino, blind loyalty to this president has placed Rider in an existential crisis. Please save the laudatory remarks for the announcement that Greg plans to spend more time with his family.
Joel Phillips, professor of music theory and composition
Westminster Choir College
Originally printed in the 3/2/22 issue.