Letter to the Editor: Focus on faculty and image

To the editor,

It has become clear that the administration of Rider University is unable to sustain the quality institution it has created. In particular, it should concern current and future students that the administration shows an aversion towards continuing the tradition of hiring full-time, tenure-track faculty — faculty who have attained the top or terminal certification in their fields.  The faculty union has fought to maintain this tradition to benefit future students and to prevent erosion of the University’s reputation.

Through their training and inclination, full-time, tenure-track faculty are committed to their disciplines and strive to remain fully informed professionals, of obvious value to students. Very uniformly, they seek to have their careers at Rider and, in my experience, become very committed to their students, their academic programs and colleges, and the University. Their level of training, involvement in continuing education, and scholarship – not found among the adjuncts and lower-paid non-tenure track faculty the administration seeks to use much, much more — were and still are essential to Rider’s accreditation by the nation’s premier accrediting organizations, which every Rider graduate today can cite in his or her portfolio.

The administration envies other colleges in New Jersey with lower faculty costs achieved through extensive use of adjunct and non-tenure track faculty. However, it fails to consider the adverse impact of this strategy on instructional quality, university reputation, new course and program development, student mentoring, and student and student group advising. The administration assumes that substituting one faculty member with another — who is paid less, has limited or no benefits, and no job security — will make no difference. I assure you it will.

I am not alone among faculty in believing that the far more critical changes to be made at this juncture are in the activities and strategies employed in Enrollment, University Communications and Marketing, and Institutional Advancement (fundraising). I am also not alone in believing that these changes needed to be made some years ago. Financial issues have been present and brewing for a long time.

Unfortunately, despite excellent academic programs, Rider has not powerfully established its brand or presence in the region. The administration still views its market as New Jersey, according to a recent report it submitted to the faculty union. Other area institutions have done a far better job of establishing their brands and describing what they offer in the multi-state area and beyond. I have never seen Rider’s name prominently displayed like the names of other colleges in the Philadelphia area or its extensive, well-populated suburbs, where prospective students and important influences on them live. Is the administration aware that the two wealthiest counties in Pennsylvania are Chester and Montgomery counties? Chester County is just southwest of Philadelphia and Montgomery County is just west of Bucks County.  Temple, Widener, and even small Rosemont College have regular TV ads. These and many others — Drexel, Penn State, St. Joseph’s and Cabrini to name just a few — are promoted on billboards in the railway stations, on the highways that cross this region and in area print media.

Rider is seldom mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, when area colleges are discussed and compared. Just why is that, and can our university afford this? And why, for example, have Villanova and Drexel for years, and not Rider, been inundated with enrollment applications and acceptances? Each is more expensive than Rider, and our programs in business (the area I know best) are comparable to or better than theirs; the faculty has researched this. Drexel, like Rider, does not have a football team, but it does have a much more professional-looking publication directed at alums and university friends featuring many more stories about faculty and student achievements. On this point, I used to be asked at least annually by University Communications to identify recent accomplishments and areas of expertise for institutional marketing purposes and to link media reporters with subject-matter experts.

This information has not been sought by anybody for more than a decade. Ignored by a previous dean was my idea to provide current students and alums with links to recent and past publications by College of Business faculty, including award-winning publications, in part to build M.B.A. enrollment and lucrative in-company M.B.A. instruction and consulting.  To my knowledge, the university has not asked Rider’s capable Marketing Department in the College of Business for its ideas for decades. Also, in the past, a generous number of Rider’s faculty were asked to accompany Enrollment personnel on their visits to high schools. I thought these visits were effective, especially when faculty could talk about Rider to collections of prospective students and their families.

Other institutions have also been successful in securing large gifts, including gifts associated with naming rights. These gifts can contribute to university operating funds, build revenue-generating endowment, and fund capital improvements. It’s the Fox College of Business at Temple and the LeBow College of Business at Drexel. Even Monmouth University has the Leon Hess School of Business, named after the philanthropist and oil company founder. Because the first endowment was eventually deemed not large enough, Drexel has managed to sell naming rights to its law school twice in the past five years. Though Rider’s College of Business building carries a name, the College itself, remarkably, was never named in my 36-year tenure and remains unnamed today. Rider had and has many other naming opportunities.

Gerald D. Klein, Ph.D.
Professor emeritus, Organizational Behavior and Management


Printed in the 12/09/15 issue.

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