Getting down to business: Departments to merge

Junior Mark Wetherbee, Jr. helps freshman Victoria Halenda fill out a form in Sweigart Hall, the home of the business school.

By Jess Hoogendoorn

The merging of eight departments into four in the College of Business Administration has left some faculty members concerned that the college might lose prestige.

Effective for the fall semester, economics will be merged with finance; management sciences with computer information systems; management and leadership with entrepreneurial studies and strategy; and marketing with legal studies and business ethics. Accounting will remain a separate department.

“The indirect effects are mainly the diminishment of the Rider College of Business brand, or reputation,” said Dr. Anne Carroll, associate professor of business and MBA program director.

However, Dean Larry Newman disagrees.

“I can say this change in organizational structure is not going to impact our image in the marketplace,” he said. “And as long as we have quality faculty, which we do, and as long as we have the finest accreditation possible, which we do, our brand is secure. I’m not worried about our brand.”

According to Carroll, however, other colleges that have a similar departmental structure as Rider’s new plan for the business school typically have lower-quality programs. But according to Newman, most schools have five departments. He said schools as large as the University of Texas and Ohio State have five, as do smaller schools.

“If you look at our business school in line with other business schools around the country, we do have more departments than those schools,” Newman said. “We have nine currently.”

Don Steven, provost and vice president for academic affairs, agreed.

“At the heart of Dean Newman’s reorganization plan, which I fully support, is his recognition that we have an unusually large number of departments in the College of Business Administration,” he wrote in an e-mail, citing Rutgers, Richmond, Hofstra, Quinnipiac and Babson as examples to follow.

Dr. Ron Cook, a professor in the Entrepreneurial Studies (ES) Department, is very concerned about what will happen to his department’s identity after the merger. He explained that the Entrepreneurial Studies Department has been growing and flourishing since its creation in 2008.

“The implications for this consolidation for the faculty in my existing department are huge,” Cook wrote in an e-mail. “The focus and emphasis on ES will be diluted, we have made the situation less attractive for any new faculty hires (including the person coming in the fall), and for almost no cost savings.”

Newman does not foresee the consolidation impacting the recruitment of faculty or students.

“When you go and look at a Web site for an institution, you don’t look to see what the departmental structure is, you look to see what your majors are and what your programs are,” Newman said.

The consolidation was proposed as a way to save money by eliminating the number of department chairs. The money saved is intended to help the university cut costs and remain fiscally responsible, according to Newman.

By eliminating four chairs, the college will be saving about $60,000 per year.

“Chairs get additional compensation for their work as chair, and the approximate value of that compensation each year is $15,000,” Carroll said.

The chairs for the consolidated departments will ultimately be chosen by the dean, but faculty members will be consulted, in order to pick the best person for the job, Newman said.

The downsizing of the business department has left some concerned about the effects the change will have on faculty and students. A direct effect that could impact students is that they will have fewer “points of access,” according to Carroll.

Department chairs are faculty members that students often go to for advice about internships, co-ops or curriculum issues and, with fewer chairs, students have fewer people to go to for these needs, she explained.

Newman said he believes students will not encounter any noticeable effects.

“Our students enroll in majors and programs and are advised by people who teach in those majors and programs,” he said. “And that’s not going to be changing.”

Steven agreed.

“We will free up some of our finest faculty to return to a full-time teaching load and have more time to be in the classroom, instead of being burdened with administrative duties,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Beyond the modest savings in chairperson stipends, this is a major benefit for our students, one which goes to the heart of our commitment to student-centeredness.”

Sophomore John Vassos, a marketing major, said he doesn’t see the joining of the Marketing Department with the Legal Studies and Business Ethics department as having much impact on him.

“It doesn’t sound like it will cause much of a change,” he said. “As long as my major’s still offered, I’m OK with it.”

Carroll and Cook believe that the consolidation could cause some problems for faculty members. Cook stated that the faculty in his department would have to “fight to retain their identity and focus.” Carroll added that some faculty are concerned about the promotion and tenure process.

“In the promotion and tenure process, your colleagues have to evaluate you, your teaching, your research, your service,” she said. “So naturally, faculty are worried about the ability of someone outside their discipline to do a good review of their research.”

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