By Shanna O’Mara
A no-confidence resolution against the president and his administrative staff has never been passed at Rider. The executive committee of the faculty union is hoping to change that.
Rider’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) met on April 11 to discuss a revised version of the resolution introduced on March 7. Union leaders are still urging members to support the no-confidence vote against President Gregory Dell’Omo but have taken out half of the original points made.
“This is our time to make a statement against what I believe to be rash decisions [by the president] that will ultimately damage this institution,” said Arthur Taylor, president of Rider’s AAUP chapter.
After the discussion ended, an electronic ballot was made available to the members. The vote will remain open until April 18, according to Taylor.
While the faculty decides its next step, university spokesperson Kristine Brown said the administration will continue business as usual.
“We are aware of the vote being undertaken by the university’s AAUP membership,” Brown said. “Whatever the outcome, the administration remains committed to working with all employees, including the AAUP membership and its leadership, to advance the overriding mission of Rider University.”
Similar steps have been taken at other colleges and universities.
According to Professor of English Mickey Hess, there were 29 votes of no confidence recorded by American faculty bodies in 2015 and 2016. Of those, 17 presidents resigned or announced their retirement.
At Loyola University, one of the 12 institutions where the president remained after the vote, the faculty was awarded a two percent raise, suggesting there was “no retaliation from the trustees or presidents,” according to Hess.
Hess, who drafted the resolution, said he was pleased with the comments offered during the meeting.
“I am amazed at the solid unity of this union,” Hess said. “I think there’s no question that we all have each other’s back and we’re all on the same page here. I feel very good going forward. I feel much better than before we walked into this room today.”
Several members spoke in favor of the resolution. While none offered comments against it during the meeting, opposition was present in the room.
“Regardless of what the few union leaders have to say, the union is divided,” said Aaron Moore, associate professor of journalism. “They are making decisions based on their egos and hubris.”
Moore believes the AAUP is “controlled by the vocal minority,” and executive leaders use intimidation practices to silence those against the resolution.
Pamela Brown, professor of communication, said she is not ready to say she has no faith in Rider’s leadership.
“I think the problems facing our university, and most other private colleges, require great changes in higher education, and such changes are usually painful,” she said. “In my opinion, the resolution, which will probably be passed, brings no benefit to anyone and, I fear, will bring further harm to the university.”
While Pamela Brown said many speakers did not focus on these larger challenges, she admitted they were “well-articulated speeches.”
One of these speeches was delivered by Roberta Clipper, professor of English.
“You have to decide whether you’re willing to accept a faculty contract without faculty input,” Clipper told her fellow professors, coaches and adjuncts.
Her speech was followed by “thunderous applause,” according to Joel Phillips, professor of composition and music theory at Westminster, and introduced a wave of support for the no-confidence vote.
If passed, the motion would “send a Tomahawk missile to administration with the message to negotiate,” said Joseph Gowaskie, emeritus professor of history.
This goal was reiterated by many at the meeting, including Associate Professor of Communication David Dewberry.
“We don’t question everything he does,” Dewberry said. “We question his failure to negotiate with us.”
Not everyone shared this mentality, however.
“There is a cohort of folks that believe Dell’Omo is doing right by the institution,” James Riggs, professor of science, said.
He countered Clipper’s claim that “nobody ever got anything from acting on fear.”
“A response to fear is a survival mechanism in biology,” Riggs said. “Animals that are afraid get away and survive. My fear was exacerbated by the Westminster decision. That’s a very serious decision because Westminster is world-class. That scares me in a sense that it makes me realize how the fiscal challenges are very real.”
Taylor said the results of this vote will be published in a press release on April 19.
A database of faculty no-confidence votes against college and university presidents can be found at seanmckinniss.org/no-confidence-vote-database.