I, and I am sure others appreciate the support The Rider News staff expressed for faculty in the editorial two weeks ago that concerned negotiations between the faculty union and the university administration.
As your editorial pointed out, the tenure-track and tenured full-time faculty that are central to the University do much more than teach. Before I retired last July, one of my joys was advising students across their entire time at Rider. Those last meetings in the senior year were both joyful and melancholy for them and for me. Current proposals from the administration will lead to the eventual reduction of full-time tenure-track and tenured faculty and the assignment of teaching and advising responsibilities to a new, non-permanent and likely shifting workforce.
Tenure-track and tenured full-time faculty are also a key source of academic program evolution and new program creation. Our immersion in our fields and knowledge of field practice cause us to change our courses, and to propose new courses and new educational programs — such programs of study in the College of Business as entrepreneurship, forensic accounting, healthcare administration, and global supply chain management. When we propose new courses and programs we are required to weigh their resource and economic implications, but paramount in our thinking and driving us is what would benefit students in terms of their preparation and careers. Students are central in our thinking. The current governance structure described in our collective bargaining agreement permits the faculty to have significant influence here, which would be curtailed under the faculty senate structure proposed by the Administration. Under that structure decisions would be made at the upper levels of the Administration, by individuals divorced from particular academic fields and daily student contact, and pressured to achieve a certain financial picture.
There is also the issue of class size. Faculty members and their departments at Rider can influence class size working through their college’s Academic Policy Committee — an important part of our current governance structure. This leads to class sizes that are ideal for particular courses. Under a faculty senate model, faculty advice concerning class sizes can be ignored and class enrollment expanded to meet a classroom’s occupancy limit (established by the fire marshal), in order to reduce the need to hire additional full or part-time faculty.
Finally, the desire by the Administration in these negotiations to align other Rider policies and practices with those at some other New Jersey colleges and universities is wrong – they should be aligning their practices with ours – and will weaken Rider and its educational program. This alignment effort would hurt the University in many ways, including the quality of instruction; faculty recruitment and retention; scholarly productivity, which is required to retain accreditation by premier accrediting organizations; and, as has been mentioned, student and student-group advising.
-Gerald D. Klein, Ph.D.
Professor of Organizational Behavior
and Management Emeritus
Printed in the 09/17/14 issue.