When a group of Rider students walked into Trenton Town Hall on a news writing class assignment last week, they weren’t expecting to be identified. The two police officers sitting at the front door pointed at them, smiling before saying the dreaded words:
“Oh, you all go to Rider? Yeah, we saw you guys on the news!”
The image Rider is projecting on TV screens right now is one of academic suffering and student pain. Our reputation is wounded, hurting at the hands of those who simply did not handle this situation well. And there’s a single cherry atop this crumbling cake — these programs may no longer be cut and jobs may not be lost.
What was all of this pain for? Students cried as they thought they lost their majors and their places here at Rider. Professors were looking at lost jobs. You can undo what was said, but you cannot undo the way the trust was broken across this university. You cannot undo the words of hatred spewed by sad students. And you cannot undo the monetary losses the faculty had to suffer just to protect students and colleagues.
At the end of this long, painful two weeks, the administration still won. Instead of taking from both students and faculty, now the faculty and the union have sacrificed the most. The AAUP deserves thanks for banding together to help students and save the jobs of professors. While the administration still stands at the top of this hill, what was lost beneath them? Not much — except the emotions of the university, the finances of the faculty and the reputation of Rider.
Was any of this truly necessary? Reading Dr. Halpern’s letter (see page 7) really calls that into question. We have to remember that we’ve damaged not just our relationship within this community, but our relations with the broader community. There is no pride in being recognized as the university that was on the news for making students want to transfer.
To an extent, we should be grateful that our programs may be reinstated and our professors may not be losing their jobs, at least in the short term. Academically, not much may change. However, the damage done to the emotions across Rider can never be undone. If the agreement is ratified, you can say that everything is OK, but among students and faculty, that sentiment is up to interpretation.
Printed in the 11/11/15 issue.