Over the past few years, I have seen NJIT Students participate in all our campus has to offer, from leadership positions to student activities to research opportunities. Now it appears some administrators are making a bold attempt at combining those three factors of the NJIT experience in their own work.
Sources have confirmed that Lynn Riker, Director of Residence Life, was asked to take an Administrative Leave from NJIT. However, NJIT administrators chose not to provide details as to why this occurred. What seems more interesting is that no information regarding this situation was released to any student for over two weeks. It took a rumor from a student to initiate a chain of events and questions that eventually led us to the truth.
Again, since nothing was disclosed about why Riker was asked to leave NJIT, this article is being written without any reason being assumed.
Lynn Riker has supported so many students in a myriad of ways over her near 20 years at NJIT. She demanded pristine customer service from her Residence Life staff and led by example, known for even criticizing the manner in which tape is applied on posters placed on walls in the Residence Halls. Lynn was a unique professional with a special level of commitment to her constituency—she prioritizes the current and potential on-campus resident population. I am not entirely sure if there is anyone more fit for this position, but I guess someone in Fenster Hall thinks they can try.
It seems that this campus community was built on employees who did their work with students in mind, employees who cared for the best interest of the students before themselves. However, it appears to me that NJIT is entering a new era. The leave of Lynn is not the first of its kind here. Over the past year, we have seen the sudden and unprecedented departures of the likes of Anthony Culpepper and Scott Kline, just to name a few. These are people who, although are not widely known, have given a lot back to students at NJIT when they have needed it most. So the question is: who is next on the list? Dr. Marybeth Boger? Karen Quackenbush? Humberto Baquerizo? All people who we have seen first hand doing everything they can for students for so many years at NJIT, but maybe just are not doing it “the right way–” whatever that is. How can any of the administrative employees continue comfortably carrying out their jobs for the students when they now have to fear for their own job security first?
More and more, I see moves being made without the students in mind. This is the research opportunity I mentioned earlier; we the students are being treated like lab rats in a maze the administrators are creating for us. Stories are constantly popping up about how people think NJIT is turning into a business and it looks like some are just trying to improve their resumes at our expense.
So let’s go back to the Lynn Riker story. While it was my assumption that NJIT is supposed to be setting us up for our future careers, it appears that they must have overlooked that objective here. If I had a fancy title in a big company and just removed the Director of a department with over 50 employees under them, it would probably be in everyone’s best interest for those 50 plus employees to know. However, not a single Resident Assistant (RA) was notified of Riker’s departure for weeks. In fact, the first and only time that any public statement on the matter was released by a university official was at an RHA Meeting this past Friday, the same day that the RA’s were finally emailed the news. Why was this hidden for so long? Why has no explanation been given? The chance to give any was declined. Normally, when things like this happen, material is not disclosed for reasons such as “an ongoing investigation,” but in this case, no information was provided at all. So we wonder why administration is being so closed on the subject. What could have possibly happened that such a strong and supportive member of the NJIT Community was removed from her position?
“But wait,” as the famous saying goes, “there’s more!” RAs were told via email they were “not permitted to make statements to The Vector regarding Lynn Riker,” and that they should reply “no comment” if asked anything about the situation. Since when should any student be told they are not permitted to make a statement, as if their job was on the line? It is my personal belief is that this message was sent on behalf of a higher power who wants to continue keeping this situation under the rug. Like I said earlier, maybe this would all make sense if it was known that there was some ongoing investigation or something of the sort on the line that could compromise the student’s job status if they spoke out. Otherwise, why should any student be told to keep quiet without any reason being given?
As a direct message to the upper administrators of NJIT on behalf of the entire student body, I say this: What more do you have planned in this experiment on the NJIT Community? We students are the reason you have a job here, and if you are not here for our betterment, then we want some change. There are plenty of other dedicated professionals here who have been working at this institution longer than just a few months that would kill to have a promotion to make a more positive impact on the students. Look within yourselves, quit this science experiment, and stop all of this nonsense. I personally believe that a lot can be accomplished if we spent more time working together instead of against. Look to us for feedback and suggestions. Keep us involved and informed of what is going on at NJIT; there should not be any reason to come off as if you are hiding something. In my time here as a student leader, even though it has been a very short time, I have learned that transparency and communication are major keys to success. Although you have denied our first request at an explanation, we are giving you a second chance here. Take advantage of it.