Unity, diversity, the pursuit of knowledge, integrity: These values are what Rider is all about. Or was.
The elimination of 14 academic programs, the curtailment of three others to minors, and the layoff of full-time, tenured faculty members have stirred students and alumni to participate in vocal and written protests, an uproar not seen on this campus in years.
Classrooms echo with student and instructor sentiments of dismay. Professors wait patiently to find out the fate of their colleagues. While some carry on, unaffected by the changes ahead, many wonder what will become of our prized institution as local headlines ring out that Rider just might be in trouble.
President Gregory Dell’Omo professed his regrets, but said at a time when the university is facing a projected $7.6 million deficit, these cuts are necessary. Does doing what is necessary always coincide with what is ethical? And how, when faculty members and staff shed tears of anguish reacting to the news, can a university uphold an inviting reputation?
Throughout my education at Rider, many of the now-dismissed programs have had a profound impact on me. Although philosophy and art history do not seem to be directly beneficial to my career, they shaped my character and overall outlook.
When an art history professor discusses the works of Degas with fervor, a student cannot help but get caught up in what is being taught. This professor said that students should not think of the class by its title, but rather understand the impact it could have on every career. This was a mantra he discussed frequently. Now that he is laid off, students can’t witness the importance of his enthusiasm.
Another professor affected by this decision taught me the value I could obtain from microeconomics. As a communication major, mathematics scared me, but she took my hand and guided me to a place where I actually could use the lessons in my decision-making and in my workplace after college. With a beaming smile and teaching expertise, she soon became one of my favorite professors ever. Now she has been laid off as well.
Faculty not only shape an institution, but they greatly affect student careers and lives. These two professors will have a lasting impact on the students they taught but they will no longer give those benefits to other Rider students.
And what of inclusiveness and rectitude — has the university lost these altogether? Some would argue that if the university had received concessions from the faculty union, such decisions would not have been needed. The administration says that this delay would have caused more turmoil and a more desperate choice down the road. But many say that more communication is needed in decision making and this blow came without warning to students, staff, faculty or alumni.
What the university community has been left with are many unanswered questions. Students are wondering whether to leave Rider, or if they stay, what they should choose to study now that their field of study is gone. Two hundred and seventy-two students are directly affected by this transition, but across campus many are considering transferring simply because the culture has been disrupted.
Even though juniors and seniors will be able to graduate with their majors and minors, freshmen and sophomores will not have that luxury, being forced to choose a new major or transfer to another school. Why couldn’t the administration allow all students to finish their wanted majors and minors and start transitioning out the programs with the incoming freshmen next year? It might not be ideal financially; the university would not reap the hoped-for benefits of this transition for four years rather than two, but it would save heartache and frustration.
There is also a loss of community associated with this decision. For example, art lovers in the region are looking toward Rider with a wary eye, wondering what will become of a community treasure: the art gallery. For many the gallery was a window into Rider, but with the respected director among those laid off, it is hard to imagine anyone else attracting and curating such significant exhibitions.
So much more has been lost, or at least reduced: the serendipity of dipping into certain languages or sciences and finding one’s home; the “aha” moments when friends from diverse fields make connections; the trust we had that the university really would fulfill its promises; and the comfort we took in believing that our academic opinions would count and our voices would be heard before plans would be made for us.
This weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the managing editor, Alexis Schulz.
Printed in the 11/04/15 issue.