Rider’s IRS forms reveal legal expenses and faculty salaries

By Stephen Neukam

Rider University’s legal costs increased dramatically in the wake of the battle to sell Westminster Choir College (WCC), and one top administrator received a five-figure raise, according to the school’s latest IRS report.

Former Dean of the College of Business Administration Cynthia Newman, who resigned from the leadership position in March following the university’s decision to eliminate Chick-fil-A as a dining option on campus, received a raise of nearly $68,000 between 2016 and 2017, according to the school’s latest IRS report.

Newman’s raise brought her to $278,762, in annual salary and benefits and made her the fourth highest-paid employee at Rider.

Newman, who is presently on leave from the university, said that her current salary as a professor of marketing is “significantly less” than her earnings as dean.

President Gregory Dell’Omo made $562,627, in annual salary and benefits in 2017, which stood as a $2,463 raise from 2016 and kept him as the highest-paid employee at the university.

The Rider News acquired a copy of Rider’s 2017 IRS 990, which covers July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018 fiscal year.

Men’s Basketball Head Coach Kevin Baggett, who collected a nearly $46,000 raise between 2015 and 2016, lost just under $10,000 in salary and benefits in 2017, which dropped him from the fourth to sixth highest-paid employee at Rider. Baggett made $251,132 in salary and benefits in 2017.

Baggett’s 2017 salary made him the third lowest-paid men’s basketball head coach in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, above his counterparts at St. Peter’s and Niagara. Iona Head Coach Tim Cluess topped the conference and made just under $1.1 million in base salary in 2017.

Former Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Julie Karns, who made $331,855 in salary and benefits, and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs DonnaJean Fredeen, who was paid $291,375 in salary and benefits, were the second and third highest-paid employees at Rider in 2017, according to the filing. Former Vice President for University Advancement Jonathan Meer was the fifth highest-paid employee.

Of the 14 listed individuals who earned over $100,000 in salary and benefits in 2017, only three were professors.

The Rider University Chapter of American Association of University Professors (AAUP) highlighted the economic sacrifices of the school’s faculty have made, including no cost-of-living increases since 2013.

“President Dell’Omo is one of the highest paid college administrators in the state… this is striking considering President Dell’Omo’s signature ‘accomplishment’ has been a misguided attempt to sell Westminster Choir College,” said a statement from the AAUP Executive Committee. “We believe Rider’s administration should make an investment in the primary income-generating component of its operation: the faculty.”

The three year labor contract between the university and the AAUP will expire in 2020.

Associate Vice President for University Marketing & Communications Kristine Brown said that employee salaries will be a part of the negotiations for a new agreement.

“This coming summer of 2020 is when that contract will be renegotiated,” said Brown. “It will be renegotiated for a new term that starts, I believe, September 1, 2020.”

Junior dance and filmmaking major Victoria Grisanzio praised the performance of professors at Rider, and felt that, given how intimately they work with students, educators at the school should be paid more.

“With a small school like Rider, they work very closely with the students, therefore requiring them to not only teach lessons, but to also have strong social skills and an ability to connect with individuals,” said Grisanzio. “The impact a professor can have on a student is often crucial in their career path. So yes, I believe professors should make more than they do now.”

The 2017 filing also shows the significant expense of the university’s then-decision to sell WCC to the chinese company Kaiwen Education.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, a global consulting firm, received over $450,000 from Rider in 2017. $337,000 of that was related directly to the WCC sale, used for marketing the property and completing the sale contract with Kaiwen, according to Brown.

In total, the school spent over $1.15 million on legal fees in 2017. That amount exceeded the previous three years combined.

In July, Rider announced that the sale agreement with Kaiwen had been discontinued, ultimately pulling out of a legal battle that helped increase the school’s legal fees by four times between 2016 and 2017. However, the court battles will continue for the university, with a new complaint filed in the New Jersey Superior Court on Aug. 9 by the Westminster Foundation and faculty and staff that oppose the move.

“There were certainly legal issues that we had to face throughout the entire process and some were expected when we went into the original sale with Kaiwen,” said Brown. “But there were certainly additional legal fees that were incurred because of lawsuits and other things that happened that were beyond our control and they had to be addressed.”

Brown declined to disclose the full amount of money that it spent on legal fees for WCC to date.

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