Rider’s name flashed on television screens, footage of our campus gracing the nightly news. The same words echoed from the speakers for days — “program cuts,” “layoffs,” and “deficit.” Now, the footage has ended and Rider’s name is slowly fading from media attention. The administration and the AAUP have agreed to negate the cuts to programs and faculty, with the union giving up raises for two years and ceding courses to adjuncts. The university community can finally breathe again. However, one of those words has not left the forefront of this issue, even as the others fade away — “deficit.”
The real issue bubbling out from this situation is that the problem is not clear. The administration is crying out that Rider’s deficits are “real.” The AAUP members are shaking their heads, saying that the numbers don’t add up and that, although the university has challenges, it’s not in crisis. This has divided faculty and the administration more than the program cuts themselves. How can anyone find a satisfying conclusion among this haze of uncertainty?
An agreement has been reached, but that doesn’t eliminate the tension on campus. Faculty members have accepted that their wages are frozen and their colleagues are being gently prodded to consider retirement without guarantee of replacement. The administration and President Dell’Omo faced the overturning of their plans, after a media circus that dragged our reputation through the mud.
The satisfaction stemming from this conclusion rests along a thin line that doesn’t even extend to everyone. This satisfaction cannot be stronger or more widespread since there’s still no consensus about the underlying problem or the ultimate solution.
And this division doesn’t just plague the faculty or the administration. Their opinions trickle down to Rider students who now don’t even know what to believe. Some trust their professors and advisers, demanding to know why money is being wasted on events like Cranberry Fest and curious as to where all their tuition money is going.
Others place their faith in the administration, claiming the numbers reflect high retention rates and low dorm occupancy. Students are arguing with administrators, their professors and each other.
The problem here traces back to Rider’s issue of miscommunication. The university has made improved strides to try and communicate incidents within the Rider community, especially recent sexual assaults.
However, students never got a clear statement of the financial problem, equipped with numbers and statistics, that all can agree with. All we heard was the word “deficit,” coupled with various competing numbers, a situation that easily triggers disagreement. It’s not exclusively the administration or the AAUP’s fault for this — there is no problem articulated that all share.
A Rider administrator offered a solution that could work: Lock President Dell’Omo and Dr. Halpern in a room with a team of economists and accountants, and let them fight it out until they both agree on the problem and the solution. (We can suggest the room!)
In all seriousness, there needs to be a way to determine what the real state of the financial situation is. Is it bad enough to warrant the word “crisis,” or is the AAUP correct in the claim that, while there is a problem, the cuts were unnecessary?
It’s been nearly three weeks since the announcement, and we’re still trying to answer those questions. The entire Rider community should be working together to build strategies on how to improve the financial state of the school we all love. But we cannot band together to solve a problem that we can’t even agree on.
The weekly editorials express the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Samantha Sawh.
Printed in the 11/18/15 issue.