We are kicking off a particularly exciting academic year that marks Rider’s 150th anniversary and the start of a new era with the search for a new president. However, above the celebrations there is a dark storm looming over Rider that many students are unaware of.
Negotiations between Rider’s administration and union faculty began this summer, and are far from simple. While the situation may be difficult for students to wrap their heads around, they should make a conscious effort to understand the issues because the decisions made this fall will impact Rider’s future and the value of the degrees students work so hard for.
After months of discussion, the two sides have yet to make much progress. Negotiations will continue into the school year, with both sides hoping to reach a compromise before a strike occurs.
The administration’s most controversial proposal is to replace the current system of academic policymaking — which the contract calls “governance” — with a faculty senate that could only recommend policies. The administration also wants to start a new class of full-time, non-tenured faculty — “clinical faculty” — that will cut costs and, in the union’s eyes, serve as “super adjuncts.”
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) faculty looks to keep most of the current contract in place. They see it as proven effective in running the university smoothly and attracting quality faculty.
The administration seeks to reconstruct the current contract in order to cut costs. They have proposed substantial cuts for new categories of faculty. But money matters have not yet begun to be debated.
Administrators have expressed confidence that the hard bargaining will not mean a strike. However, given that they posted an ad on a leading national website for higher education to fill “possible part-time openings in all disciplines in all departments” this fall, that confidence may be wavering.
Some faculty members are singing a less hopeful tune. They say that if the negotiations continue in the same manner, the AAUP will see no other option but to strike.
Students may be excited about the idea of a strike; no teachers, no classes, right? Not necessarily. While Rider might try to survive a strike by placing hundreds of substitute teachers in the classrooms or online, this short-term solution would break momentum, change expectations, cause hard feelings and damage the university’s academic reputation.
In this scenario, the academic year will begin as expected with students forming or strengthening bonds with current professors, only to have replacements take over in the middle of the semester. This will not only disrupt the lessons and flow of the semester, but will also cause students stress over their final grades. Who will grade us?
While some may try their best despite the confusion, other students may see the conflict as an opportunity for a break. In high school, substitute teachers were rarely treated with respect and students would often skip class, assuming that there would be no major consequences. Given a strike, this may become a widespread epidemic.
After all, Rider’s full-time faculty is the backbone of this institution — and there can be no true structure without them. It must be understood that these faculty members provide students with much more than just a body at the front of the classroom. These people are the mentors and advisors of students at Rider. Without these professors, students may lose motivation.
Regardless of how students handle this upheaval, exposing them to such stress and confusion is far from fair. Students are undeniably in the middle of this situation. Given the massive amount of funds that has been invested in Rider by its students this semester alone, they should not be forced to drown in the waves created by this conflict. If we wanted cheap degrees, we would’ve gone to a cheaper university.
In the eyes of The Rider News staff, there is one famous saying that can provide a solution to this conflict: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We feel that Rider is already an amazing institution that produces well-rounded students because they are educated by well-rounded professors.
The weekly editorial expresses the
majority opinion of The Rider News.
This week’s editorial was written by the Managing Editor, Sarah Bergen.
Printed in the 09/03/14 issue.