The cutbacks in academic majors and faculty positions announced by Rider University in Lawrenceville in October were canceled last week when students, parents, alumni, and faculty fought back by forming the Save My Majors coalition. Students first learned that 13 majors and one minor course of study, along with 14 full time faculty members and 2 clerical staff positions were being cut in an email communication from Rider University president, Gregory Dell’Omo in late October. Additionally, three majors – business economics, entrepreneurial studies, and sociology – were slated to be relegated to minors. The university gave a $7.6 million deficit as justification for the changes.
The modifications, which were to take effect in the fall of 2016, had close to 300 students, mostly freshman and sophomores, wondering if they would be able to finish their education at Rider. Of particular concern was the Piano Department of Westminster Choir College, a music conservatory college whose very existence was threatened by the proposed cuts.
In response to the email sent by Dell’Omo, 150 supporters mobilized into the Save My Majors Coalition in an effort to understand why the cutbacks were necessary. Led by student Kenny Dillon, the group looked for an explanation for the recently announced cuts as well as the nearly $16 million worth of cuts which had been made at the university over the past six years. In the end, both the academics and the 16 positions were restored after the AAUP stepped in and offered two years of faculty concessions in return for the restorations.
The agreement between the Rider administration and the AAUP expires in 2017, while the Save My Majors Coalition has evolved into the Rider Student Union (RSU), a separate entity whose purpose is, according to their blog, to advocate student interest to the administration, to the Rider community, and to the national higher education community. RSU plans to begin work now to ensure the university’s integrity is maintained after the agreement expires. In addition, RSU will convene a panel discussion when college resumes after winter break to study what happened at Rider this fall and the motivations behind the announced cutbacks. Also to be discussed are how the bad publicity and need for faculty concessions have damaged the university’s reputation.
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