May 17, 2017

Rider Finds Some Errors in Coverage Of Westminster Student-Faculty Rally

To the Editor:

​The Rider chapter of the American Association of University Professors — our union representing nearly 500 professors, librarians, coaches, and athletic trainers — strongly supports the continuation of Westminster Choir College in Princeton as a treasured gem of our university. Alongside the Coalition to Save Westminster Choir College in Princeton, we have made clear to Rider’s Board of Trustees that Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo’s decision to “sell” Westminster makes no sense from an academic, aesthetic, moral, or business perspective.

We appreciate Town Topics’ coverage (“Faculty, Students Protest Sale of Choir College at Westminster Rally,” May 10, page one) of a student-faculty rally that took place on the Westminster campus on May 8. We realize that your readers, including residents and officials, have a significant stake in the fate of this priceless property.

As your story made clear, Dell’Omo’s Westminster ultimatum is not his only crisis. He has presented our union with a set of demands — to be rushed into place by what he says is a hard deadline of Aug. 31 — that would increase teaching load by one-third, erase support for research, effectively eliminate our enviably transparent system of promotion and tenure, and end the faculty role in academic decision-making. He demands cuts to pay and benefits amounting to approximately $10 million a year. That would average approximately $20,000 taken from each bargaining-unit member’s pocket each year.

In your report, there were three errors which should be corrected.

1. Julie Karns is described as ​“Board of Trustees President.” Karns is Rider’s vice president for finance and treasurer. She is an administrator and is not a member of our Board of Trustees.

2. “Speakers at the rally said that if the negotiations fail, an arbitrator would be brought in.”

​We wish! The membership of the faculty union h​as voted overwhelmingly to submit unresolved issues to ​binding arbitration if an agreement is not reached by the time the current contract expires on 8/31​, but Rider’s administration has ​formally ​refused to agree to this condition.​

3. “‘If the faculty sees the students are organized, they’ll negotiate,’ said Professor Joel Phillips.”

Because of missing context and faulty pronoun-antecedent agreement, this passage does not make clear: (1) faculty have been and remain eager to negotiate; (2) administrators have for nearly two years raised demands instead of negotiating compromises; (3) our union believes if the administration sees the students are organized, the administration will negotiate.

Art Taylor

President, Rider Chapter of the American Association of University Presidents