By Stephen Neukam
Rider’s management and administration have undergone a multi-million dollar salary expansion while faculty numbers dwindle and its pay stagnates, according to the university’s latest tax report and financial information.
While faculty entered its fifth-straight year with no pay or cost-of-living increase, at least two top university officials received raises of over $65,000 in total compensation in 2018, according to Rider’s latest tax documents. It continues a trend of a ballooning management system and a shrinking faculty roster.
Between 2013 and 2018, the number of full-time instructional faculty positions fell from 252 to 219 — a total of 33 fewer faculty, resulting in a loss of $3.86 million in cumulative salary. In that span, management positions increased by 36, with a nearly $3.4 million boost in aggregate pay, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. University President Gregory Dell’Omo joined the university in 2015.
While the school’s tax documents list its highest-earning employees, it does not always list the same individuals and positions each year. Of the seven employees listed in both its 2017 and 2018 reports, five of them received raises in total compensation.
Men’s Basketball Head Coach Kevin Baggett became the university’s second-highest-paid employee with a raise of over $65,000, bringing his total compensation to $316,645. Baggett refused to comment on his salary.
Vice President of Legal Affairs and General Counsel Mark Solomon took home an extra $84,231 in 2018. Dean of the Westminster College of the Arts Marshall Onofrio was listed for the first time as one of the university’s highest earners, with a total compensation of $229,580. University President Gregory Dell’Omo saw his compensation rise by $2,798, to a total of $562,627.
Associate Vice President of University Marketing and Communications Kristine Brown refused to comment on individual salaries but said the process behind determining compensation for the university’s executive team involves an independent consultant undergoing periodic evaluations.
“[The consultant compares] the senior teams’ compensation to comparable positions at peer institutions,” said Brown. “This information serves as a basis for compensation decisions.”
Increases in salary are performance-based or market adjustments, with Brown saying these administrative raises have been “extremely few” in past years. Between 2015 and 2018, there were at least nine raises of over $10,000 given to the university’s reported highest-earning employees.
The raises to top-earners come as pay for faculty has stagnated, with no cost-of-living increase since 2013. The faculty extended its bargaining agreement, which was set to expire in August, an extra year due to the coronavirus pandemic. This secured a guarantee of no layoffs if New Jersey allowed for in-person instruction this semester, with no pay increase.
Now, as the university confronts the difficult realities of a global pandemic on its finances, the budget threatens to tighten even more, leaving in the balance a conflict of priorities at the school.
Rider’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors President Arthur Taylor, an information systems and supply chain management professor, said that the faculty deserves to be a big part of the budget at the university.
“[The administration] wants to look at faculty and say, ‘you are a big expense,’” said Taylor. “Well, we are doing the business of the university — we should be a big expense.”
The administration is projecting an $11.3 million operating deficit for the current fiscal year and has budgeted for an additional $17.5 million shortfall in 2021, according to the administration’s latest budget projection. Attributed to overall reductions in enrollment and a 50% decline in residential students, the budget promises to blow a hole into an already-bleeding account, projecting to leave the university with just $10.6 million cash on hand.
The money woes put both the administration and faculty in a precarious position. Taylor said that it was time for faculty to be “compensated fairly” and blamed the university’s financial position on “poor budgeting and resource management.”
“We can’t negotiate on [the administration’s] pay and benefits — it is not a determination for us to make,” said Taylor. “As advocates, we would look at what the university is doing and say, ‘this is a problem. This is not what the university should be doing.’”
However, as revenues tumble, the university may be even more restricted in negotiations once the bargaining agreement expires in the summer.
A willingness to “sacrifice” by the faculty may be nearing an end, indicated Taylor, who said “I don’t think it is realistic for [the administration] to say, ‘we want you to make more sacrifices.’”
In May, the administration’s senior leadership team, including the president’s cabinet and deans, agreed to salary reduction for six months, starting in May. Brown said that the possibility of this cut being extended is “currently under evaluation.”