By Richard Zdan
In the wake of Rider’s implementation of a student parking fee this semester, I have heard significantly more complaints than usual from students about parking on campus – both in regards to its availability and to the safety and condition of several of the lots. Other faculty members have told me about having similar experiences. Of these complaints, the most common one I have heard voiced by students is the feeling of being unheard by the university administration.
Feeling unheard by the administration is not limited to student concerns about parking. Sometimes, due to the recent high levels of staff turnover and frequent reorganization of administrative offices, students don’t know who they should reach out to with questions or concerns. Other times, students feel that the administration is simply not interested in student feedback. Student Government Association President Naa’san Carr expressed this sentiment in reporting by The Rider News earlier this year on the new “First Day” textbook program. From concerns by Westminster students about the quality of facilities and continuation of their traditions on the Lawrenceville campus to the well-publicized recent difficulties paying student workers, students are consistently frustrated that the only responses they get from the administration seem to be empty promises delivered in emails apparently written by lawyers or crisis-management professionals. Or silence.
On Nov. 10, about a dozen students from my Social Movements class peacefully and respectfully picketed the university open house to draw attention to safety concerns related to parking issues on campus; to their belief the university had failed to live up to its promise that the new parking fees would allow for visible parking improvements to be made this semester. Their picket was not answered with an email, nor with echoing silence. After only a little over an hour, they were answered with a visit from both Vice President for Facilities and University Operations Mike Reca and Director of Public Safety James Waldon.
Reca offered to meet with the students in private at their earliest convenience to discuss their issues; that meeting is scheduled to take place this week. This response represents the emergence of a pattern. Reporting by Amethyst Martinez in last week’s edition of The Rider News explicitly states that “The university has averted a student-strike amongst Academic Success Center tutors by prioritizing potential strike participants paychecks over other students across campus.” Despite all their issues with paying student workers, the administration was somehow able to figure out how to pay specific students when it became necessary to avert a work stoppage.
My question then is if the administration was able to pay students threatening to strike, what is preventing them from getting all students paid?
Imagine what might have happened had the student strike leaders not called off the strike until all student workers got paid instead of just some?
There is an old union organizing slogan that states “United we bargain; divided we beg.” The voice of one student complaining – even if that student is the president of the SGA – is easy to ignore, but even a dozen students standing in solidarity withholding work for promised pay or holding signs in the rain for promised parking lot safety upgrades is not. Students have more power than they realize. They just need to stand up.
Managing Editor Jake Tiger and Copy Editor Bridget Hoyt both work for the Academic Success Center and had no part in the writing or editing of this story.