The Lawrenceville Student Government Association appreciated the opportunity to attend President Gregory Dell’Omo’s presidential update last Thursday. The presentation left our Executive Board with questions we hope can be answered for the benefit of the student body.
President Dell’Omo indicated that even with projected increases in enrollment, eliminating the university’s deficit would require a combination of savings from PricewaterhouseCoopers, implementation of program prioritization recommendations and concessions from the university faculty. Without any or all of these efforts, the deficit will continue to increase. In a worst-case scenario, by Spring 2019, the university will have no cash to fund its operating expenses, which is equivalent to institutional bankruptcy. “This is not a ploy, not a negotiation strategy,” the president emphasized “This is reality.”
On the other hand, the union’s lead negotiator Professor Jeffrey Halpern told The Rider News last week — “Negotiations between faculty and administrators are ‘very far apart’” — that the AAUP sees other opportunities to remedy Rider’s financial situation. The union’s offer of retirement incentives, however, was not detailed as extensively as President Dell’Omo’s solutions in the forum, nor did their written brief provide an opportunity for dialogue (refer to these solutions in the cover article). So far, the AAUP has not made the student government aware of any plans to openly discuss the greater extent of their solutions with the student body. The little information provided in last weeks’ article leaves us looking for more information about the AAUP’s claims.
We as students deserve more than just trimmings of closed-door conversations. We do not believe an educated stance can be taken on the future of the university until all parties present evidence supporting their solutions. The evidence presented by President Dell’Omo suggested that the administration’s measures may be necessary to ensure the well-being and growth of our university. If the AAUP trusts this is not the case, we ask that a greater breadth of their evidence is presented in a way that encourages conversation with students.
We invite the AAUP leadership to meet with the student government to discuss their perspective on President Dell’Omo’s update and what they believe can eliminate the deficit. A face-to-face exchange gives us an opportunity to pose questions and develop an informed opinion unreliant on a single party’s influence.
Responsible student leadership means protecting the education promised to our peers. It is our duty as the student government to recognize when the university may fail to meet the needs of its students and advocate on their behalf until a solution is found. We feel that surviving, not thriving, does not provide the educational experience expected from a 150-year-old institution. The events of the past year — from October 2015 to last Thursday — demonstrate to us that an informed conversation about Rider’s next steps, separate from negotiations and involving students, must take place.
As these conversations unfold, we ask our peers to consider their role in our university’s future. How will the proposed solutions, in the short and long term, benefit or harm our university? Do you feel informed enough to take an unbiased stance? And once we are informed, how can we unite our voices to guarantee the success of fellow students?
Now is the time for us to come together and answer these questions. We look forward to working with the administration and faculty as the university’s problems are discussed. Rider has always been uniquely defined by the emphasis it places on student-centeredness. As these conversations continue, we believe our university will stand tall when it stands together, and even taller when it stands with its students.
—The Executive Board
LAW Student Government Association
Printed in the 12/7/16 issue.