Faculty member reacts to Rider University’s tax form 990

By Barbara Franz

President Dell’Omo received a nice raise from the Board of Trustees while the university was told that we are living through dire times and will need to implement austerity measures. Amid the coronavirus crisis, the president made $532,400, plus $87,712 in additional compensation in the fiscal year 2019-2020. That’s a raise of more than $52,000 from his 2018-2019 salary of $480,018 (plus $85,399 in additional compensation). Other administrators also got raises. For example, although the administration laments declining enrollments and smaller freshmen classes, the Vice President for Enrollment Management, Drew Aromando, got a raise of $36,769, bringing his base salary to $239,708.

These salaries compare to an annual baseline salary of $68,210 for a lecturer, $74,000 for an assistant professor, $90,500 for an associate professor and $112,500 for a full professor at Rider University.

All faculty salaries were frozen for nearly a decade. As an institution of higher learning, Rider has increased the number of administrators, many of whom are very well compensated, by almost 20% and cut the number of full-time faculty members by more than 15% from 2016 to 2020.

One could argue that managerial leaders are entitled to much larger compensations because they make the key decisions that should keep institutions like ours solvent and fiscally healthy. This is not the case here; the Dell’Omo administration has engaged in several very poor decisions since its inception in 2015. For example, in July 2021, analysts at Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Rider University’s bond rating to “junk,” signaling that the credit rating agency is increasingly concerned about the institution’s precarious finances. Under Dell’Omo’s reign, Rider’s rating was downgraded once before in 2020. These downgrades are largely the result of the particularly catastrophic and misguided efforts to sell the land in Princeton on which Westminster Choir College, until recently, resided. The resulting lawsuits and consulting fees alone cost many thousands of dollars and, overall, this administrative failure has cost Rider millions of dollars.

More poor management decisions will soon impact our faculty and students: Rider recently hired the consulting firm Credo to help with the current student recruitment and downsizing agenda. This company seems to undervalue the liberal arts curriculum and encourages administrations to promote professional degrees and expensive certificate programs, rather than a well-rounded education, because these programs generate greater tuition revenue. Hiring this company might suggest our highly paid administrators have run out of ideas.

Rider has what renowned New School For Social Research economist Sanjay Reddy describes as a “bloated administration,” with resources increasingly going towards highly compensated administrators rather than towards faculty and education. Yet, this administration does not make wise business decisions; it’s an example of what distinguished Johns Hopkins historian Francois Furstenberg has described as “ineptitude at the top” at institutions of higher education.

Barbara Franz Professor of Political Science and President of Rider’s Chapter of the American Association of University Professors

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