Correction: This article was originally published with the headline ‘Former AAUP leader calls for trustees to remove ‘a man who admits no failure’ but was changed to more accurately represent the letter.
By Arthur Taylor
On Jan. 17, John Guarino, the current chairman of Rider’s board of trustees, announced the extension of Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo’s contract as president of the university.
As with the two previous announcements of Dell’Omo’s reappointments, the chair’s message did not specifically identify any ‘accomplishments’ to explain the board’s decision,though he states there are ‘many’, but instead provided hollow business rhetoric which claimed, without irony, that Dell’Omo was ‘transform[ing] Rider into a financially viable institution.’
Unfortunately, the reality is the opposite. Anyone bothering to monitor Rider’s financial performance during Dell’Omo’s tenure would know that he has ravaged Rider’s finances while pursuing a series of failed ‘strategic initiatives.’
While Dell’Omo constantly deflects any responsibility for these failures as the result of ‘the environment’ or, ‘these are challenging times,’ Rider’s peer institutions have presidents who have increased enrollment and provided prudent financial management for their institutions, and they have managed this in an ‘environment’ of moderately fluctuating student demographics and a pandemic.
Perhaps it is time to shift focus from Dell’Omo, a man who admits no failures and is determined to stay, and appeal to those who hired him and who have, to the detriment of the university, continued to extend his contract in the face of these failures: Rider’s board of trustees.
Rider’s self-appointed, self-perpetuating board is composed of 25-30 members. No current members have had experience as full-time members of a university faculty.
The operation of the board is opaque. They do not hold public meetings and they do not publish minutes of their meetings. They operate based on bylaws that are not published, and they operate with little oversight from the state.
But what is most troubling is that they suffer from information asymmetry. All of the information they receive concerning Rider’s operation is fed to them by the very people they are tasked with supervising.
Given the questionable decisions made by this board, it is reasonable to assume that this information asymmetry, coupled with their limited knowledge of higher education administration and academic work, has distorted their decision making.
So if Rider is being ‘transformed’ as we are being told by Rider’s board chairman, then we should also expect Rider’s board to transform.
They should be willing to hear from other stakeholders, and they should be willing to have those stakeholders participate in key decisions on the future of the university. Faculty, students and alumni from all of the colleges should have representation on Rider’s board since, unlike the current members of Rider’s board of trustees, they all have a significant stake in whether or not Rider survives the next three years.