By Sarah Siock
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Donnajean Fredeen announced the merger of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) and Westminster College of the Arts (WCA), at an all-faculty meeting on March 25 , a move she says will save the college $500,000 a year as it tries to tackle a projected $20 million deficit.
A “top-down” decision
Pending negotiations with the Rider Chapter of the American Association of University Teachers (AAUP), effective July 1, CLAS and WCA will merge to form a single new college called the College of Arts and Sciences. Current CLAS Dean Kelly Bidle has been named Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and will lead the new college. Within the college there will be four schools: Westminster Choir College (WCC), the School of Media and Performing Arts, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and the School of Science, Technology and Mathematics.
When asked at the faculty meeting, Fredeen said the merger was done without faculty input and was a “top-down” decision, and added that the consultant hired by CREDO university also played no part. direct role in the reorganization.
“As early as last summer, when we started exploring options for restructuring the institution, we asked the question, given our size, does it make sense to have four separate colleges? Honestly, the answer is no,” Freeden said at the faculty meeting. “I strongly believe that this merger will improve our ability to provide a more integrative educational approach, creating opportunities for our students to realize the interconnections of knowledge and research, and the humanities, social sciences, arts, mathematics , technology and science.”
Fredeen said the merger requires negotiations with the AAUP regarding the contractual language of the existence of CLAS and WCA. AAUP president Barbara Franz told The Rider News that until that language is negotiated, the merger remains just a proposal.
“This is a top-down proposal designed by the administration without any faculty input, such as hiring CREDO, library funding cuts, and the idea of selling the WCC,” Franz said, professor of political science.
At the meeting, Fredeen said she felt the merger would not affect students. However, Franz expressed concern about the impact the merger might have on students’ courses.
“It seems clear to me that, if implemented, many students will face substantial changes to their study programs and in particular to their core course requirements. I assume the faculty will stand up for their students and vote against changes that will impose additional burdens on our students,” she said.
Earlier this month, current WCA Dean Marshall Onofrio announced via email to WCA faculty, staff and students that he would be leaving Rider on June 3, due to his participation in the university voluntary leave program. Those who participated in the voluntary leave program were offered financial incentives that are not normally in place.
Fredeen said the new college will include two associate deans: Brooke Hunter, the current associate dean of CLAS, and Jason Vodicka, the current chair of the WCC’s music education department. Hunter will oversee the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and the School of Science, Technology and Mathematics, while Vodicka will lead the WCC and the School of Media and Performing Arts.
Communication professor David Dewberry questioned the reasoning behind the Department of Communication, Journalism and Media being placed with the Performing Arts instead of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Dewberry said: “If you look at anything, one of us [faculty in the department] have written or published, it is social, scientific and humanities-based. It’s not creative performance type stuff. … As far as our research goes, it makes sense to be [with humanities and social sciences].”
The change in college structure also raises questions about how departments will interact with each other in the new schools. Professor Emeritus Pamela Brown, who was chair of the Department of Communications, Journalism and Media for six years, said she felt it made more logistical sense for the department to be grouped together with the social Sciences.
“I think the Provost’s Office misunderstands that the Department of Communications, Journalism and Media is focused on factual content, not entertainment content, not fictional content and not creative storytelling. This is a significant difference between the types of communications, journalism and media majors and the types of performing arts majors,” said Brown, who retired in 2019.
In a March 28 email to union members, AAUP chief negotiator Jeffrey Halpern reiterated Franz’s statement that the merger is not final until a contract negotiation is completed. did not take place.
In the email, Halpern, a professor of sociology, said: “The fact is that the proposed reorganization would change many elements of the agreement ranging from promotion and tenure to all elements of the shared governance of the university and cannot be implemented until we have reached agreement on all of these. Until that happens, the current agreement remains in full force, and the timing and actual form of any reorganization remains to be determined.