To the Editor:
A Jan. 23 email to the campus from President Gregory Dell’Omo and the chair of Rider’s Board of Trustees was meant to assure faculty, students and staff at Westminster that the institution will continue into the future and that a final agreement will reflect “the best interests of the entire community.”
While willing to be proven wrong, some of us remain skeptical about this outcome. Some of this skepticism arises from the administration’s treatment of faculty for many years now, and some arises because of the nature of the potential partner.
Consistently, the administration has sought to weaken the voice of Rider faculty in institution decision-making, reduce the number of faculty with Ph.D.s or other terminal certification, remove the modest support it provides for faculty scholarship and reduce faculty compensation and benefits. The radical nature of the proposals it has put forward in collective bargaining with Rider faculty in recent years strongly suggests that Westminster’s faculty and staff will not have a strong advocate in Rider’s administration as the administration discusses the college’s future with its partner.
The potential acquirer of Westminster is a Chinese for-profit involved in K-12 education, with no experience in operating a university and likely none in running an institution devoted to music education and leadership or the performing arts. Articles online indicate that the prime motivation of companies like this in the United States is preparing students from China for successful application to U.S. universities, a lucrative business that improves these students’ life chances. Students pursuing this path are typically those unable to gain admission to prestigious Chinese universities.
Also, Chinese state and for-profit organizations are run autocratically, and where unions are permitted to exist, they are expected to be weak and compliant.
Returning from a meeting with this partner in December and meeting with library administrators, faculty and staff, Dell’Omo indicated that Rider might be managing Westminster for four years after a sale of the college. The future after that remains unclear.
What is clear to me is that the long-term survival of that premier, quality institution, sadly, remains in doubt. Managing an institution is not the same as committing to its improvement, growth and future viability. These are different. We have not heard a word from the potential partner that it will be committed to Westminster for the long term. That silence is concerning.
— Gerald D. Klein
Professor of organizational behavior and management emeritus
Printed in the 1/31/18 issue.