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Rider delays vote of no confidence in university president until next month

Some people had concerns about the timing of a no confidence vote, the union president said, including potential for harming student recruitment or alumni donations.

Rider University's faculty union decided Tuesday to delay a vote of no confidence in the university president until next month.

"We only had about 40 minutes, 45 minutes, to discuss it, and I felt that might not be enough time," said Art Taylor, an information systems and supply chain management professor, who heads the Rider chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). "I made it clear, if we had to, we would extend it to the next meeting."

Rider spokeswoman Kristine A. Brown welcomed the move.

"We are encouraged that many of our university faculty, coaches, trainers, and librarians are optimistic that we can work together to discuss our challenges and find solutions that will ensure Rider's long-term stability and competitiveness," she said in a statement.

Two faculty members had circulated a resolution declaring a lack of confidence in Gregory G. Dell'Omo and his senior administration, citing the university's handling of fiscal issues and enrollment woes.

Enrollment last year fell to its lowest in at least two decades, and in 2015 the university announced faculty layoffs and program closures before the faculty union agreed to concessions, including a two-year wage freeze. Rider officials have warned of fiscal gaps that are projected to continue for the foreseeable future.

Those challenges have led Rider to consider selling its Westminster Choir College campus in Princeton, raising concerns about the future of that school. The faculty members who drafted the resolution work at the main Lawrenceville campus, Taylor said, and their move is not a direct response to the Westminster situation.

Some faculty members strongly supported the resolution, but others said it was premature or misguided, saying the president was doing the best given the challenges facing the private university.

"I think there are, at Rider, faculty who want to be obstructionist, and it doesn't matter who the president is. It's someone coming in making changes, and by nature these changes are going to alter the way these people have worked the past 25, 30 years, so they're going to be upset with the president," Aaron Moore, a communications professor since 2006, said last week as the resolution circulated.

At Tuesday's meeting of the Rider AAUP chapter, a vigorous discussion was followed by a decision to delay the vote until the next monthly meeting, April 10, Taylor said.

"There was concern over the timing of this," he said, citing the union contract, which expires this summer, and any potential blowback from the administration.

Other concerns included the possibility of hurting student  recruitment or weakening the prospects of alumni donations.

Brown said the administration would continue to work with the union.

"President Dell'Omo remains deeply committed to working with AAUP leadership. He will continue to meet with academic departments and other groups across the university and is open to all ideas that will help the university address the issues before us," she wrote. "Our goals continue to be the same – we are all committed to improving Rider University and maintaining a world-class curriculum with excellent student outcomes. The president is confident in the future of Rider University."

Taylor said he was not worried about the delay — "it's just perfectly fine to me" — and hopes the next month will see faculty come together.

"I want the membership to be united in their approach to this. That involves discussion," he said. "This is higher ed; this is the academy. We talk, we discuss, we deliberate. It's what we do. It's not a bad thing."