By Gerald D. Klein
Recent stories in The Rider News report how rolling cuts purported to be required by university finances, like others before, are hurting and stressing students and staff. Students quite rightly point out that they’re paying a lot of money to be on the receiving end of diminished opportunities and hollowed-out academic programs. A different Rider was marketed to students, raising a profound ethical issue.
Honor students in liberal arts should not find it difficult to complete their capstone requirements. Students should not be mourning diminished opportunities in the fine and performing arts — always a target of Rider’s current business-obsessed administration. There was also the end of an opportunity to acquire a career-enhancing credential through the Leadership Development Program. This administration has a history of, and knack for, trashing Rider’s assets.
With a my-way-or-the-highway approach, Rider President Gregory Dell‘Omo, unlike truly collaborative leaders, has failed to seek and utilize the ideas and energy of Rider faculty and staff to build enrollment and preserve Rider excellence. His administration continually seeks to increase the number of the less qualified to teach in Rider’s classrooms. Very significant for students and the university’s reputation, Rider is no longer a coveted place of employment for outstanding faculty prospects.
In seven years, the president and his team, who are generously compensated and who were rewarded when others were not, have been unable to establish financial stability for Rider. They’ve demonstrated an inability to turn things around. It is well known that decisions made and actions taken prior to the pandemic, proposed by the president and accepted by the Board of Trustees, significantly worsened Rider’s financial situation. These have led to tens of millions in lost university revenue and many millions in costs. Rider students, faculty and staff are absolutely living with the effects of those decisions today, including the cuts reported by The Rider News.
After eight long years – abundant time – it’s clear that the strategy and efforts of the president and current team are not working. A telling statistic: 73% of Rider’s first-year students this year are from New Jersey. The continued reliance on New Jersey for students is, and has been for years, astonishing and a recipe for disaster. Is this the best we can do? It certainly is not.
Institutions similar to Rider would have sought replacements at the top long before now, and I can tell you that business organizations would have intervened long before now to stop this downward spiral. Rider’s business-trained president knows this; examples of this abound. It is well-established that you cannot cut your way to restoring excellence, and Rider had excellence in my time there. This administration has no confident view of the way forward.
Time is of the essence, and it’s time for Rider’s board to take action and bring to Rider individuals who believe in collaboration and can turn things around. The top team has been extended too much rope – that horse has been ridden too long – and it’s time for that to end. The long-overdue and recently announced capital campaign can easily be transitioned to new campus leadership.