The Campus Green was illuminated by a bonfire that danced and sparked through the night as students celebrated the ending of Rider’s presidential inauguration week on April 8.
What wasn’t on the minds of many students who attended Rider Rock Fest were thoughts about a deficit, enrollment, cutbacks or faculty negotiations. What didn’t even dawn on many students was the strict financial reality that the university is facing. But that is how it should have been. Students need to put aside any worries for a while, especially in a climate that has turned gray since mid-fall 2015 when President Gregory Dell’Omo announced the slicing of numerous programs and faculty members.
Students sang along with bands and grazed on food that always tastes better when served from a truck. Many students were heard saying this was the best event Rider ever put on.
Why not extend this positive spirit and hold a Rider Rock Fest every spring and fall? If the university had more events like this, students would enjoy staying on campus during the weekends and not speed off to their respective homes. The student culture would change and it would evoke a certain kind of morale where students would be excited about campus events.
As for the installation ceremony on the same day, the audience observed by Rider News reporters seemed mostly composed of student athletes who wanted, or were asked by coaches, to see the celebration.
Students who didn’t attend just didn’t care about the inauguration or the proposed vision of the president. Many of the faculty who didn’t come still feel scarred from the president’s cost-cutting proposals mid-fall.
But those who did attend seemed to take away a sense that things are looking up. Athletes smiled at the jokes made by administrators, and faculty members were reserved throughout the speech. It was a picture perfect presentation despite the brief passage of protesters right at the start.
Morale still needs to be mended among faculty and staff who chose not to come to the inauguration. Many feel as if the president just wants to move past what he has done without reflection. They feel as if he has forgotten the cuts he made and the impact they would have had, had they not been negotiated away. The “apology” given at the town hall in February was not empathetic enough to have a lasting impact.
Many faculty members remain angry and hurt, not willing to celebrate a president who, so far, has shown he doesn’t support them. They intend to lay low until the next negotiation is over so that they can see where their fate will lie. However, a formal promise to do everything in his power to make sure Rider prospers is a first step in raising morale within the faculty.
Dell’Omo’s inaugural speech was well-thought-out and hit every base needed for the community. He spoke of student highlights, faculty achievements and his thoughts for the future. One particular point he made was about athletics, stating that they are “the front door” to a university.
While I agree that sports can bring in a vast amount of revenue and increase school spirit — just look at what they did for Villanova — I believe ever-deeper focus on academics will be a better prospect for an institution like Rider.
As the university looks forward to marketing campaigns, it would be remiss if it didn’t concentrate on promoting the fine academics, high-caliber faculty and cutting-edge research that characterizes our campus. After all, the high percentage of tenured faculty, the low percentage of adjuncts and the small class sizes are what enhance Rider’s uniqueness.
The inauguration week went smoothly, and students can feel a sense that Rider is moving in the right direction. Students are enjoying the warming weather and relaxing into the final weeks of the semester. For many faculty, I don’t think the same is true. Some faculty are still looking for a statement of intent so that they know what they can expect before the next negotiation phase begins.
But events such as Rider Rock Fest bring the entire community together and make them live in the enjoyable moment.
Morale needs to be fixed, facilities need to be updated and events such as the Rider Rock Fest need to keep the community going.
But the entire community should keep in mind that we are a family, whether divided or joined, and as a family we need to hold together and focus on healing the damage that was done to our culture last fall.
We may lose or we may win,
But we will never be here again,
So open up. I’m climbin’ in,
So take it easy.
The 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 04/13/16 issue.