• Evi Arthur

Roosevelt announces plans to integrate with Robert Morris University

Mablene Krueger, Robert Morris University President with Ali Malekzadeh, President of Roosevelt University. Photo courtesy of Inside Higher Ed.

“Ready for some good news?” President Ali Malekzadeh asked the congregation of Roosevelt staff and students.

On Oct. 2, Roosevelt students woke up to a shocking announcement—Robert Morris University and Roosevelt University had officially submitted an application to combine the two schools. Emotions were running high amongst both staff and students, the majority of which (99 percent, according to Malekzadeh) had no prior knowledge of this proposed convergence.

Although the combination of Robert Morris University and Roosevelt University has yet to be approved by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the proposed integration would establish the “Robert Morris Experiential College” as the sixth college at Roosevelt University.

President Ali Malekzadeh of Roosevelt University and Robert Morris University President Mablene Krueger held student forums at both colleges on Oct. 2. “From the first day our discussion was: would it benefit the students of both universities?” said Malekzadeh.

With a student body of 1,800 at Robert Morris University and 4,200 at Roosevelt, the combined student population would increase to 6,000. 

According to Malekzadeh, there is only a 40 percent overlap between the two universities in terms of majors. Robert Morris University offers programs such as nursing, culinary arts and exercise sciences that are currently not available at Roosevelt. Additionally, Robert Morris students would be able to take advantage of Roosevelt’s liberal arts programs like philosophy, math, English and sociology. “It puts a significant number of additional academic programs in front of our students, so it’s good for our students,” Malekzadeh said.

President Malekzadeh later told the story of a student that came up to him after the open forum who was about to leave Roosevelt because she wanted to major in nursing. President Malekzadeh said that she claimed “now that I know Robert Morris will be joining us, I’m going to stay because I love it here.”

“This merger will create additional opportunities that neither of us could do by ourselves,” said Krueger at the student forum. 

The addition of RMU’s major programs would also make it possible for Roosevelt students to earn an associate’s degree, all the way up to a doctorate degree, all under one roof. All degrees earned within the integrated school would be under the name Roosevelt University. 

“We have been under a non-disclosure agreement [until Oct. 1],” said Krueger. “It feels great to openly share this with you.”

Going forward, the details of this integration will be worked out by task forces—34, at the time this story was printed. These task forces are open to staff, faculty and students (as long as the force’s goal is relevant to the student experience) and can be found at the new website for the integration. 

Post-integration details like tuition and the possibility of moving to an eight-week mini semester are still up in the air going forward. However, Malekzadeh mentioned in the meeting that tuition will not be affected for the rest of this school year or the one following.

According to Malekzadeh, he and president Krueger have been informally discussing the possibility of an integration for close to a year now, which is separate from the housing agreement the school has with Robert Morris where RMU students live on three floors of Wabash. 

Although the decision to integrate has been ultimately left up to the HLC, Malekzadeh thinks the application will most likely be approved.  “Everything we have heard from the board of HLC is they have been looking at this integration very positively,” Malekzadeh said. “Our missions are similar, our locations are close to each other and our boards have also voted to move forward with this.” 

Although the effects of this decision on the student body as a whole are still unclear, the future of student athletes at Roosevelt remains even more of a mystery. Half of RMU’s student body is made up of athletes—that’s about 900 students—with 50+ athletic teams as opposed to Roosevelt’s 16 athletic teams and 179 student athletes. It is currently unclear what will happen to our own student athletes, coaches and staff following the integration. 

After the open student forum, a second forum was held at 7 p.m. in the Goodman Center for student athletes and coaches to discuss what the integration would mean for athletics. Information about this closed forum was sent out in an email to student athletes throughout the school. Further updates with student athletes and the integration will be in our next issue. 

Roosevelt student Quinn Riggins asking a question at the forum. Photo by Evi Arthur.

Quin Riggins, a sophomore business management major and basketball player, spoke out at the open forum saying he felt disrespected and upset that President Malekzadeh had little information on what would happen to the athletics department. Him and a few other players on his team never received the email about the forum for athletes later that night. 

“I’m from Alabama, I’m 12 hours away from home. I came to this school because of those coaches,” Riggins said. He also expressed the fear that he and his teammates had for their coaches and, if a new RMU coach was hired, whether or not any of them would make the team. 

During the forum, Malekzadeh mentioned that student athlete’s next steps would be to work with their coaches to make sure that “playing time doesn’t get affected—it might” and that their academics also wouldn’t be affected. 

After Riggin’s questions went unanswered in the open forum and Malekzadeh’s claims that “playing time and academics” wouldn’t be affected, him and the rest of the basketball team got up from their seats and walked out of the forum. 

“We have a great team chemistry, and we built that. We were in the gym together everyday and everyday we got to know our coaches real well, they’re a big reason why we came here,” said Mark Johnson, freshman IMC major. “Now to know that the future might be altered because of this and the students didn’t even get a say in it…” 

Administration met with the coaching staff of both schools before addressing both student bodies and gave athletic directors, coaches and other staff 48 hours to figure out how to talk to their athletes and be able to answer their questions. President Malekzadeh encouraged student athletes to speak with their coaches over the next few days to have all of their questions answered. 

Many student athletes are only able to study at Roosevelt due to the scholarships they receive for playing a sport. If the athletic teams at RMU and RU combine, many students might not make the cut and will lose their scholarships, making it impossible for them to continue their higher education. “[The integration] affects everyone’s lives on the court and off the court and the fact that we weren’t even really considered is bs,” said Sullivan Tomich, a senior actuarial science major and the manager of the basketball team. 

Also a senior here, this integration has little effect on finance major Tariq Archibald and his last year, but that doesn’t stop him from worrying about his teammates. “To know that their futures are so uncertain right now, whether they’re going to have scholarship money next year…we’ve got all these questions that we need answers to and we don’t feel like anybody’s giving us the answers.”

One student at the open forum said that she had failed to receive an email from Roosevelt administration regarding the integration.

Riggins also expressed his disappointment with Roosevelt’s administration in the way they broke the news of the integration in that it wasn’t communicated to student athletes— arguably the student group most affected by the news—prior to the sudden announcement. “I’m pretty sure that we would’ve woken up for something like this, but we never got a chance to,” Riggins said looking around at his teammates. “You’re losing your own students trying to save [Robert Morris] students.”

President Ali Malekzadeh speaking at the forum alongside Robert Morris president Mablene Krueger. Photo by Evi Arthur.

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