Faculty call for resignation of Rider University president

LÉA KAHN/STAFF

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LÉA KAHN/STAFF

The removal of Rider University President Gregory Dell’Omo was called for by the Rider University chapter of the American Association of University Teachers in a union-approved resolution Feb. 2.

The resolution outlines several reasons for seeking Dell’Omo’s removal, beginning with the strategic policies he adopted that allegedly contributed to declining student enrollment, increasing university debt, and eroding confidence in the university.

But Rider University’s board of trustees voted Feb. 8 to endorse Dell’Omo and reaffirmed their support for Dell’Omo and its leadership team.

The AAUP resolution said Dell’Omo’s strategic policies led to several years of cash shortfalls. These decisions resulted in a reduction in net income of $6 million, as well as an increase of $8 million in non-teaching expenses between 2015 and 2019.

The policies “significantly increased Rider’s debt at a time when Rider’s market peer institutions experienced increased enrollment and net income,” the resolution states. The policies have led to “excessive and unsustainable debt that costs about $10 million a year to service,” he said.

The resolution also highlighted the decision to move Westminster Choir College from its Princeton campus to the Lawrence Township campus, which it said resulted in the loss of alumni support, as well as legal and consultancy fees resulting from lawsuits that challenged the move.

Dell’Omo’s strategic decision to duplicate Westminster Choir College’s existing facilities on the Lawrence Township campus added additional debt to the university, the resolution says.

Princeton’s move to Lawrence Township, which was completed in time for the 2020-21 academic year, produced inadequate facilities that further alienated students, alumni, faculty and arts partners, according to the resolution. It also resulted in lost enrollment revenue of more than $10 million a year for the university, he said.

Overall, Dell’Omo’s policies resulted in a 19% drop in full-time enrollment, reducing Rider’s enrollment to its lowest point in 20 years, according to the AAUP resolution. It failed to meet the criteria of the university’s strategic plan as approved by the Rider University board of trustees, he said.

Dell’Omo’s “mismanagement” has cost Rider University millions of dollars, said Rider University AAUP chapter president Barbara Franz.

“To remedy this, it provides for layoffs and buyouts. The only person who should receive a pink slip is Greg Dell’Omo. If Rider wants to survive, Dell’Omo has to go,” Franz said.

Dell’Omo and the administration have also come under fire from Westminster Choir College students, who circulated a petition in December 2021 seeking to bring the choir college back to the Princeton campus. He cited inadequate performance and practice facilities on the Lawrence Township campus.

Westminster Choir College was an independent conservatory music school until its merger with Rider University in 1992. They maintained separate campuses until Rider decided to sell the Princeton campus in 2016 for financial reasons .

After failing to find a buyer, Rider University consolidated the two campuses and moved Westminster Choir College to the Lawrence Township campus in time for the 2020-21 academic year.

Meanwhile, John Guarino, who chairs the Rider University board of trustees, said while the voices of all members of the Rider community are important, the board is “deeply disappointed” with the resolution. ‘AAUP.

The board supports Dell’Omo, Guarino said.

Guarino said Dell’Omo is committed to moving Rider University forward and ensuring it has a stable future. Some of the decisions Dell’Omo made to secure Rider’s future may be unpopular, but the university needs to make changes, he said.

“The directors have full confidence in President Dell’Omo and the steps he continues to take to achieve meaningful progress for Rider so that it can overcome its current challenges and endure for years to come,” Guarino said. .

Dell’Omo said Rider University — like many private colleges that rely on tuition fees — continues to struggle with affordability, enrollment, competition, reduced state and federal funding, student retention and a projected decline in the number of high school graduates.

The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the challenges already faced by Rider University, Dell’Omo said.

To achieve financial stability, Dell’Omo said, a voluntary employee severance program was announced last month. Some employees are offered a buyout, which is a voluntary resignation in exchange for financial and other incentives. The objective is to reduce salary and social charges in the operating budget of the university.

The voluntary departure program does not include AAUP members because the terms of their employment are governed by a collective agreement between the union and the administration.

To make Rider University more attractive and competitive, several new initiatives have been introduced, officials said.

One such initiative requires students to complete at least two engaged learning experiences: internship, co-op, study abroad, guided service and community service, officials said. Activities are documented and provide a more complete picture of the student.

Rider has also reduced its tuition for new full-time students who enroll for the 2021-22 academic year in its Lifting Barriers program. The tuition for these students is $35,000 per year, while the tuition for already enrolled students is $46,270 per year. This does not include room and board or additional costs.

The Lifting Barriers program provides support for students in preparing for their careers and academic success. It helps them overcome obstacles they face in obtaining a college education and embarking on a career, such as learning to adapt — socially and academically — to college and beyond, officials said.

The “Cranberry Investment” guarantees that students who fulfill their responsibilities will be hired for entry-level employment in their field of study, or for acceptance to graduate school within six months of graduation, have officials said.

Earnest L. Veasey