Faculty, staff convocation sees growth and grievances 

By Kaitlyn McCormick 

ENROLLMENT as well as faculty and administrative tensions have risen yet again, fresh for the start of the fall semester. 

The staff and faculty convocation on Aug. 31 was the perfect platform for an airing of grievances toward Rider’s financial struggles and the faculty union’s critiques of President Gregory Dell’Omo. 

AAUP Presence 

Many members of Rider’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) sat together wearing cranberry shirts with “Invest in Rider’s FUTURE. Invest in Rider’s FACULTY” in gold letters while Dell’Omo updated the audience of Rider’s financial standing, along with the university’s recent accomplishments. 

AAUP members silently held up “RESIGN” signs throughout the presentation before leaving as soon as the Q&A portion began. 

An email from AAUP President Quinn Cunningham had instructed members to skip the convocation reception as well. 

Enrollment and finances 

Standing at the front of the stark separation of faculty and staff, Dell’Omo updated the audience on key issues like enrollment trends and financial goals for the university. 

Most notably, the fiscal year (FY) operating budget showed calculations indicative of a $7.2 million deficit, over $10 million smaller than that of FY2022 and a value that the university has been attempting to eliminate through means that have become highly controversial. 

According to Dell’Omo, much of the deficit came from the loss of revenue during the COVID- 19 pandemic, especially as the number of resident students shrunk. 

In 2020, the number of residential students faced a tremendous cut, dropping from 1,995 students in the fall of 2019 to 910 the following year. 

The loss of nearly 1,000 residents, equates to almost $15 million of lost revenue, Dell’Omo said, emphasizing just how important housing is to the university’s budget. 

There are 1,665 residential students for the fall of 2023, an increase from 1,607 the previous year. 

According to Vice President for Enrollment Management Drew Aromando, as of Sept. 4 Rider is expecting to see 808 freshmen, just shy of its 825 goal, and 217 transfer students, excelling its goal of 205. 

President Gregory Dell’Omo speaks at the convocation.
President Gregory Dell’Omo speaks at the convocation. Kaitlyn D’Alessio/The Rider News

The Path Forward 

In order to bolster the university’s financial standing and assist in overcoming its lingering cash deficit, Rider has implemented a new three-year initiative, “The Path Forward” plan, with FY2024 serving as the inaugural year for a slew of revenue enhancements. 

Some key revenue streams include a new mandated parking fee of $125 per semester for all students, the optional First Day program for course materials, renovations to reopen the Poyda Residence Hall and the listing to sell West Long Drive House. 

The property was “not fitting our needs,” according to Dell’Omo, and the university is facing a heightened need for upfront capital — like the expected $650,000 revenue. 

Savings were also found through changing employee wages and benefits; the elimination of over 30 positions saved $2.5 million alone.

Additional measures included the faculty early retirement incentive, shifting medical claims projections and decreasing the employer match 403(b) pension plan in half to 2.5%. 

The goal of this new initiative is to not only eliminate the school’s cash deficit, but to turn it into a net positive of $5.3 million by FY2026.

Dell’Omo caveated that that FY2026 goal will come down if the university is able to secure additional borrowing funds. 

Speech in the ‘public arena’ 

In light of the behaviors and actions of the AAUP, Dell’Omo made Rider’s public perception a critical talking point at the end of his presentation.

“It’s okay to have differing opinions, ideas and ways to address our challenges,” Dell’Omo said, before condemning some of the speech he has seen and heard about Rider. 

“It’s so frustrating, not to mention harmful, to see some of the rhetoric that gets put out there in the public arena about Rider,” he said firmly. 

While so much revenue comes through student tuition, fees and housing, it is clear that there is a concern that the “irresponsible” and public nature of gripes, speculation and complaints about Rider being made in various forms will harm the school’s profits and future enrollment counts. 

“Publicly disparaging this institution does nothing,” Dell’Omo said. 

Jackie Incollingo is the faculty advisor of The Rider News. Incollingo had no participation in the writing or editing of this story due to a conflict of interest.

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