LAWRENCE: Rider faculty agrees to wage freeze that will save jobs, academic programs

By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
LAWRENCE — Rider University faculty members have agreed to a two-year wage freeze that will preserve more than a dozen majors that were slated to be eliminated, as well as saving 14 faculty and staff positions, according to Rider University officials.
Rider University’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors reached an agreement with university officials last week. The union approved the proposal Nov. 13, and the school’s board of trustees ratified it Nov. 14, said Rider University spokeswoman Kristine Brown.
The agreement, which takes effect immediately, includes changes to the current contract that will preserve 14 academic programs and rescind the layoffs of 14 full-time faculty. Five vacant faculty positions and two clerical positions also will be saved.
When Rider University announced the elimination of academic programs and jobs late last month, university officials said they expected the move to save $2 million. The university is running a $7.6 million deficit in its $216 million budget for 2015-16.
It was that announcement to eliminate both academic programs and jobs which led to new discussions with the faculty union, Ms. Brown said. The agreement that was approved last week will provide the university with significant financial savings, she added.
In a joint statement, Rider University President Gregory G. Dell’Omo and union president Bryan Spiegelberg said that in addition to a two-year salary freeze, the agreement offers the university greater flexibility in managing instructional costs.
It also creates a climate in which collaboration on Rider University’s longer-term priorities — strategic planning, development of new program offerings, recruitment and retention initiatives and on-going evaluation of all academic programs — can be achieved, Mr. Dell’Omo and Mr. Spiegelberg said.
“As the result of our strong collaboration, together we were able to reach an agreement that achieves meaningful savings for the university, while preserving the academic majors and associated positions,” Mr. Dell’Omo said.
The academic majors that were slated to be eliminated included art and art history, advertising, American studies, business education, economics-BA, French, geo-sciences, German, Italian (minor), marine science, organizational leadership (graduate program), philosophy, piano and web design.
The programs that were moving from majors to minors included business economics, entrepreneurial studies and sociology. Eliminating the programs or switching them to minors would have affected 272 students, including 123 freshmen and sophomores.
Under last month’s announcement to cut academic majors, courses would have been offered this year and next year so current juniors and seniors would have been able to complete their degree in their selected majors.
Rider University has been faced with a declining enrollment over the past few years. The current enrollment of 3,712 undergraduate students represents a 9-percent decrease since 2009. The current tuition and fees of $38,360 represents a 4.2-percent increase over last year’s rates. 