Tensions rise following faculty and staff convocation
By Amethyst Martinez and Kaitlyn McCormick
Rider’s annual faculty and staff convocation, an event that largely emphasized the financial improvements Rider has made over the past year, ended with a heated Q&A segment.
Dressed in cranberry shirts which read, “Invest in Rider’s future, invest in Rider’s faculty,” the AAUP shuffled into the Sept. 1 convocation in the Yvonne Theater as President Gregory Dell’Omo took center stage to explain a wide variety of topics in regards to the university, including admission rates, annual budgets and updates on the looming cash deficit impacting Rider’s finances.
Following the presentation, AAUP member and film and television professor Barry Janes took to the mic as the floor was opened up for questions.
Janes mentioned that one thing bothering him was the amount of sacrifices that members at the university are being asked to make.
“We’ve made tremendous cuts. I don’t even know who works here anymore. … I really wonder what kind of changes are being made at the cabinet level.”
He also expressed concern for the attempted selling of and litigation surrounding the Westminster Choir College’s Princeton Campus.
Janes’s questioning garnered extensive applause from AAUP faculty.
Dell’Omo’s response included mention that the university was losing $2-3 million a year due to Westminster and that the ongoing legal issues surrounding selling the campus is what prevents it from being talked about and factored into current fiscal conversations.
Dell’Omo reiterated that 90 staff positions were lost following the Voluntary Separation Program last semester, which resulted in applause from many non-AAUP members of the audience.
In an interview with the Rider News, Janes did disclose that he and Dell’Omo met privately to further the conversation started during the question and answer forum.
The first topic Dell’Omo covered in his presentation was fall enrollment and financial updates. The freshmen class is larger this year with 823 students, in comparison to last year with 677. Transfer numbers have held steady, but returning students are below last year’s mark, according to Dell’Omo. The university has continuously tried to raise enrollment numbers in hopes of bringing in more revenue. He also stated that the university is nowhere near full capacity of students living on campus.
One of the most prominent topics in the president’s speech was the new deregistration policy, which Dell’Omo referred to as a “call to change.” 459 students have faced deregistration from classes for the Fall 2022 semester, mostly due to financial issues.
“Essentially, while we have always had good intentions in looking out for the best interest of students, trying to be kind to them, to help them with financially difficult situations, ultimately, we are not retaining them,” said Dell’Omo.
According to Dell’Omo, over half of the students who were deregistered have completed obligations for re-registration.
Updating university finances
Dell’Omo also discussed the $16.6 million deficit the school faced last year. The 2023 budget for the deficit is $10.7 million.
Inflation has had its effects on campus this year in all sectors, more specifically dining, and is expected to affect the budget.
In light of financial issues, Dell’Omo described the plan for an institutional transformation. The university hopes to strengthen its non-tuition revenue by utilizing the Westminster Conservatory, energy saving initiatives, entrepreneurial endeavors, camps and conferences, and consumer banking partnerships among other avenues.
The success of campaigning in 2022 was also mentioned, with a little over $15 million raised in cash, which Dell’Omo touted as the highest total in a single year.
Rider’s Day of Giving, a 24-hour fundraising campaign, raised over $100,000 from 651 donors, and the Raise Your Game Challenge, another fundraising event, raised more than $340,000 from almost 1,500 donors.
Dell’Omo ended his speech with a look ahead to the 2026 fiscal year, hoping for a multitude of initiatives to be added onto Rider’s repertoire until then, including women’s lacrosse and new academic programs.
Faculty advisor Jackie Incollingo had no participation in the editing of this story due to a conflict of interest.