NJCU Jersey City

On the surface, things appear to be humming along at New Jersey City University: Students and teachers are back in class after a year of remote learning; an ambitious expansion featuring a state-of-the-art performing arts center is proceeding apace.

But simmering below is a cauldron of dissatisfaction that could come to a boil as legions of faculty are collecting signatures to have the university’s senate support a resolution of no confidence in the school’s president, a resolution that could be voted on as early as Monday, Sept. 27.

NJCU enrolls approximately 6,000 undergraduates who pay in-state tuition and fees of $13,168 and out-of-state costs of $23,449. The school boasts 1,500 graduate students.

The resolution takes President Sue Henderson to task for questionable fiscal management that, it says, has contributed to a nearly $170 million decline in the school’s net financial position over a seven-year period. (It also says that decreased state funding, declining student enrollment, and employee pension adjustments have contributed to its financial weakening).

The decline, documented on the school’s website, also shows dramatic losses in the school’s net income, from $101.8 million in 2013, when Henderson first took office, to a loss of 67.4 million in 2020.

Accompanying that slide, the president’s detractors note, is a downgrading of the school’s bond rating to BBB, the lowest rating an “investment grade” can have.

According to Investopedia.com, such a rating indicates that the bond issuer “has an adequate capacity to meet its obligations, but it can be subject to adverse economic conditions and changes in financial circumstances.”

During that same seven-year downward spiral, the petition says, NJCU proceeded on an ambitious building, expansion program and real estate investment program in Jersey City and in Monmouth County, all with questionable fiscal returns. It also says NJCU undertook efforts to set up academic programs in Egypt and China without consulting the university senate.

At the same time, the petition says, NJCU created a “top-heavy and expensive” staff, increasing the number of administrators from 11 to 16 with a $1 million hike in additional pay.

It further stipulates that NJCU’s hiring a consultant for $350,000 to evaluate only the academic part of campus finances and not the school’s operations in full will likely result in “deep cuts into the academic side.” This, it says, will not solve the school’s fiscal dilemma.

An expansion program involving development of luxury apartments that few NJCU students can afford while increasing tuition is contrary to the university’s mission to foster a climate for “the improvement of the educational, intellectual, cultural, socioeconomic and physical environment of the surrounding urban region and beyond,” the petition says.

In conclusion, the petition says that the university senate “will welcome a new president who embraces shared governance in deed as well as in word, transparency, and mutual trust and respect.”

Ron Leir has been a journalist since 1972. That includes a 37-year stint as a reporter, copy reader and assistant editor with The Jersey Journal, followed by a decade as a reporter with The Observer in...