President: Manhattan College is not closing


Manhattan College is not shutting down.

That was the message the school’s president, Milo Riverso, wanted to convey during a meeting this past week that included his administrative cabinet as well as select students from the school.

Yet, Riverso did concede Manhattan College — struggling to meet its costs, to the point of even laying off faculty — was on track to not “be around for life.”

“I’m here to assure you there’s nothing to be nervous about,” he said. “I don’t want you to be nervous about the fiscal happening at the school. We’re out of the woods.”

Riverso had prefaced the meeting with an email sent out to the faculty and students that made it clear “ despite unfounded rumors to the contrary, Manhattan College is not closing.

“We have no intention of seeing anything happen to this great institution other than to continue to provide the same high-quality education and opportunities for the future as it has for our entire 170-year history,” Riverso wrote. “What you may have recently read in various newspapers presented a very skewed and misinformed representation of life at Manhattan College.”

Over the course of the current academic year, departments and majors were cut, schools merged, and layoffs among faculty and staffers caused confusion and concern within the student body. Student government leaders had pushed for Riverso to have a conversation with the campus community as early as last December, but he wanted to wait until he was done “right-sizing.”

“By and large, a lot of our professors had tenure track, which is supposed to be for life, with the exception that the institution wouldn’t be around for life,” Riverso said. “We tried to treat them with respect, and we gave as many of them as we put in a year’s notice, which some of them worked part of the year for a salary for the rest of the year. But we tried to do the right thing, minding that we still had to pay our bills to keep the institution open.”

With a reported deficit of nearly $17 million and an enrollment drop of 30 percent, Manhattan College was forced to make cuts, what Riverso described as the institution doing what was needed to save it.

At the meeting, Riverso asked students to do some “critical thinking” and use common sense — a request that was met with some boos.

“You tell us to use our critical thinking,” one student told him. “This involves taking in what is going on around us. What we, as students, have been noticing are large amounts of faculty leaving from top to bottom positions. As students, we cannot fully feel comfortable in a classroom when our professors are leaving.”

And those were educators who were not being let go, but leaving on their own, the student said.

“Using critical thinking, why do you believe that so many upper faculty and professors — those not being fired — are leaving?” they asked.

Riverso, however, turned the table.

“If you were president, what would you do to keep the doors open for the college?” the president asked. “If you’re president, how would you have balanced the finances of the college?”

After the meeting, some students questioned Riverso’s reassurance — and the point of the meeting in the first place.

“They didn’t answer any of the things that we wanted to know,” one junior-year student said. “They didn’t tell us where the money went. They didn’t tell us anything.”

Colin Ratner, the student body’s vice president, said he hoped some students walked away feeling better about the college’s situation, however.

“I hope people read through the lines a little bit and understand that we are going to be fine,” Ratner said “The road might be a little bumpy right now, but I’m placing my trust in our president. We’ll have some smooth sailing ahead.”

Yet, senior Cornelia Eboh didn’t share that optimism, and didn’t think Riverso’s presentation helped much.

“I thought that (the meeting) could have been better in every regard,” she said. “It kind of feels like us students do not know actually what’s going on behind closed doors. The meeting seemed kind of fake and not actually genuine.”

Colin Sweeney, a fifth-year student at Manhattan College, thought the meeting was going to be more worthwhile than it ended up being. He believes there is still a lot of unclear information, including how the college found itself in financial trouble in the first place.

“In the five years I’ve been here, there’s been a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “I think the community has always pulled together, and we’ve been able to make it through it. S,o I don’t feel as reassured as I think that people could have felt at the end of this meeting, but I’m just hoping that we continue that, and I’m glad that this wasn’t an announcement that we’re shutting down.”

Manhattan College, Milo Riverso, financial stability, layoffs, budget cuts, rumors, transparency, skepticism, student concerns, college administration, fiscal challenges