I truly didn’t know what to expect regarding anything when coming back to school this January. Having started the Save My Major Coalition, which became the Rider Students Union, played a role in the reversal of the proposed program cuts, and influenced the public image of Rider University last semester, I was stepping into uncharted territory.
Something I could never have anticipated was the message I got one night, after moving back in, from a student I had never met from the College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York.
Sarita Farnelli, a sophomore sociology student, reached out to me around 7 p.m. on Jan. 23 via Facebook after finding my name linked to our petitions, news bites and social media presence. She explained to me that the students at Saint Rose had recently become the next to be blindsided and that their new President Carolyn Stefanco had announced a plan on Dec. 11 to cut 28 academic programs and fire 23 tenured or tenure-track professors in order to help alleviate a $9 million deficit. Sound familiar?
It may not come as a surprise that many of the programs to be eliminated are the same as those that were proposed to be cut at Rider:
philosophy, sociology, marine science, economics, entrepreneurship and so on. This got me thinking. How could Saint Rose and Rider be so similar not just in size and atmosphere, but in institutional health and administrative action?
The more we talked about our schools’ situations, the more parallels we drew and the more I began to worry. Save OUR Saint Rose organized protests including a mock funeral, was outspoken on social media and continues to try new ways to get its peers and colleagues involved in the process. So why are those who are outspoken at Saint Rose often antagonized, branded with terrible labels and limited in their abilities by their own classmates?
As our President Greg Dell’Omo said during our open forum, no reaction is a bigger cause for worry than opposition. No one should be antagonized for attempting to better a situation they don’t think best serves their needs and the needs of others, especially students in institutions that ostensibly stand for higher education, mental growth, and preparation.
What I believe all of these elements add up to is a general atmosphere of miscommunication and misunderstanding in our schools. Miscommunication of financial health on part of the schools and the failure to notify students of even the possibility of decisions so life-altering fosters misunderstanding between student and student.
We were often told at Rider that we needed to “take a business class” to understand why such program cuts were necessary, to which we responded that we do understand how budgets work and that education budgets are not managed by cutting product. It doesn’t take an M.B.A. to realize that makes no sense.
Students who want to have a say in how their boatloads of money and educations are handled are met with negative attitudes from both their school administration and some of their fellow students. We are told that we don’t understand what is going on even though we are actively keeping on top of labor relations, budget decisions and national trends. We are told that we should have no voice in what is going on, despite our incredible investments of time and money. We are told to forget about these injustices and move on.
We say that we stand up for our rights as students, for the rights of our teachers, and for the right to have a voice in shaping our futures.
Sophomore political science major
Printed in the 02/10/16 issue.