By The Rider News Editorial Board
Rider faces a time of tremendous change.
A change that brings uncertainty. Right now, our lives are engulfed in anxiety and confusion. Beyond the purview of a global pandemic, students at Rider are faced with so many variables that we will have to address.
As the university goes through a significant transformation, we must ensure that students, and the interests of students, are at the forefront of each and every decision. It is our belief that Rider students should have a dominant seat at the table.
This calls for effective and strong student leadership. Student Government Association (SGA) is the governing body for Rider’s students, and we deserve a leadership team that will fearlessly represent the interests of students.
With that said, after an overwhelming majority vote, The Rider News Editorial Board endorses junior musical theater major Dylan Erdelyi for 2020-2021 SGA president.
Erdelyi boasts three years of experience in SGA and currently serves as the executive vice president. His vision of inclusivity and action presents an opportunity for progress that has been squandered in years past. When gauging what was most important in our community, and the changing landscape of Rider, Erdelyi’s organizational knowledge of SGA, paired with his willingness to utilize student government to push the interests of students to the front of the line at the university, made him the candidate that we think will take effective leadership at a time when it is needed.
Representing student interests
So many things are happening around our students. Indeed, even some of the most fundamental understandings, like what a college education means to students today, are beginning to be challenged.
Particularly at Rider, we see major investments into infrastructure, the consolidation of the Princeton campus into Lawrenceville, the integration of one student body into another, volatile political ideas being represented, and many decisions at the highest levels of the university that affect the quality of the education that our students receive.
More generally, Rider students struggle with the same challenges that college students everywhere must confront — the crippling cost of higher education, more competitive job markets, lousy university housing, the fear of an uncertain future and so many variables that influence the career outcomes that we all work toward.
Because of the high stake that students hold in Rider, our voice should be the dominant one. We must be able to advocate for ourselves.
While Erdelyi has plenty of experience sitting in meetings with the centers of power at the university, this is not the main reason we believe he is the best candidate to represent student interests. It is the dissatisfaction with the outcome of some of the conversations between student leadership and the administration that leads us to endorse him.
While Erdelyi understands the need for a constructive and symbiotic relationship between the administration and SGA, he extends a promise to speak out whenever he feels it is necessary to rebuke the university and to also elevate voices within the student body that may have grievances to air. Specifically, Erdelyi took exception to the lack of student engagement in the working groups that constructed the consolidation plans for Westminster Choir College (WCC).
We have been displeased with prior SGA administrations that have lacked this advocacy in an attempt to avoid controversy and contentiousness. Of course, being assertive is the only way that we will upend a process that gives business students state-of-the-art technology and classrooms and leaves fine arts students with broken desks, half-renovated hallways and no answers.
Westminster Choir College
The consolidation of WCC to the Lawrenceville campus has been a process full of emotion for Westminster students, staff, faculty and alumni. While we recognize the legal battle that continues to challenge the administration’s decisions, we believe it is the job of students and student leadership at Rider to welcome and help integrate WCC students given the facts that we face today.
As we try to make the transition for WCC students as seamless and comfortable as possible, we must make sure that they are integrated fully into our community. Not only should they feel at home and accepted, but they must have the agency and influence that has been largely denied to them to make decisions about their future and campus.
To accomplish this, Westminster students should be given the opportunity to participate in student government and hold leadership positions throughout the campus. WCC is an institution with a rich history and traditions that should be made a valuable and cherished part of Rider’s community.
Erdelyi has developed relationships within the WCC community that have been integral in his previous work to establish legislation that will allow the school’s students to hold influence and positions in SGA on day one. Part of the plan that he helped draft and pass gave WCC students six seats in the Senate and established a temporary committee dedicated to the transition. Additionally, Erdelyi has promised to make it a priority to work closely with WCC students within and without SGA to make sure that the culture that they cherish in Princeton can be established how they want it in Lawrenceville.
Rider’s last freshman class was the most diverse in university history, with 50% of incoming students being traditional minorities. The diversity of our community is one of our biggest strengths, but more needs to be done at the university to make it a safe and productive place for underrepresented students and students who may not have the same resources available to them as their peers.
This means not only making sure that the environment at Rider is a home for these students, but that we have the resources in place to achieve their material needs as well.
Erdelyi has a progressive vision of how to achieve these goals. As part of his campaign, he has promised to create a new Chief Diversity Officer within SGA. Additionally, he has detailed plans to collaborate and work with the university’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion.
Working with various organizations around campus, he also plans to emphasize the need for more diverse speakers around campus and having a more complete representation of students in student leadership. He has also indicated support for putting the power of SGA behind efforts to volunteer for The Rider Pantry and other projects around campus that supply resources to students who need them.
The biggest asset available to Rider students is the faculty who are the backbone of the education and experience they receive at school. Making sure that professors are taken care of fairly and competitively is of the utmost importance.
Professors have not received a cost-of-living raise in six years. As the contract between the professor’s union and the administration expires after this semester, we believe students should push the university to give faculty the raises they deserve in the contract talks this summer.
Erdelyi has promised that he will put the weight of SGA behind this goal. He has committed to publicly supporting a pay increase for professors, as well as supporting fair workloads for faculty and continuing the format of a university policy committee for academic governance.
Erdelyi has also committed to making sure that students’ academic concerns are made a priority of these negotiations. Through meetings with the union leadership, he has presented these concerns, which he notes are subjects such as transparency in course evaluations and student voting rights in academic policy committees.
While we endorse Erdelyi and the platform he is running on, we remain concerned about the effectiveness and prominence of SGA in recent years. When controversy struck campus, SGA seemed to shrink from the moment in the interest of appeasing every party involved.
Instead of affirming our collective values and beliefs, it only supported the right for Rider’s Chapter of Turning Point U.S.A. to hold events such as “White Privilege is a Myth” in April 2018 and “Hate Speech is a Myth” in September 2019.
When WCC students sued the university for its consolidation plan, SGA’s messaging remained ambiguous with no clear idea of whether it supported the students or the administration.
When students wanted answers about delays to renovations in Cranberry’s and the WCC transition, the best SGA could do was hold town halls that were only advertised the day before for students, and where administrators merely talked at students for a majority of the time.
Our students deserve a strong voice. The danger of indifference is huge when it comes to the future of our university. We need student leaders who are working actively and diligently to make sure that the changes going on at our school are to the full benefit of our education and college experience. Sometimes being bold and assertive is what is needed to affect change.
We urge whoever is the next SGA president to not fall into this pattern of complacency.
This editorial expresses the unanimous opinion of The Rider News Editorial Board. This week’s editorial was written by Executive Editor Stephen Neukam.