Industry News

Westminster Choir College Continues the Fight for Its Princeton Campus

September 4, 2019 | By Susan Elliott, Musical America

The Westminster Foundation--the group of alumni and faculty that has been most vigilant in the effort to keep Westminster Choir College alive and well and continuing to operate on its longtime Princeton campus—has announced a “Critical Public Meeting” for September 10 at 7 p.m. The issue, "Why the Princeton Campus is Vital for Westminster’s Survival," addresses the inadvisability of the plan by Rider University—which merged with WCC in 1992—to integrate the historic music school’s operations onto the Rider University campus in Lawrenceville, NJ.

According to Constance Fee, president of the Foundation, shortly after the collapse of the sale of the school to the Chinese firm Kaiwan, on July 1, and the subsequent announcement that Rider would absorb Westminster in Lawrenceville, University President Rider President Gregory G. Dell’Omo sent a letter to the Rider community to the effect that Rider was “going to begin moving Westminster to Lawrenceville immediately,” regardless of pending lawsuits.

The move is projected to be completed by fall of 2020.

After Dell-Omo’s letter, the Westminster Foundation filed an amended complaint with the Superior Court of New Jersey’s Chancery Division, further seeking to prevent the move. In an unpublished letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer, subsequently sent to Musical America, Gerald D. Klein, a Rider Professor Emeritus deeply involved with the Foundation's efforts, explained the latest court filing.

“The complaint seeks to block the transfer of Westminster programs and operations from Princeton to Rider's Lawrenceville, NJ campus, an idea that three Rider University studies under three presidents have concluded would be impractical, harmful to Westminster programs, and prohibitively expensive. 

“Further, the complaint seeks the appointment of a receiver or other legal representative to act on behalf of Westminster and to protect the College from further harm.

“The new filing with the Court documents Westminster's healthy condition—it had operating surpluses from 2014-16—before it was announced that the College would be sold; the disastrous and institution-threatening decline in enrollment (down by two-thirds) and fundraising, and faculty turnover since that decision was announced; and the absence of facilities in Lawrenceville able to even minimally meet the needs of Westminster's many programs. The filing also reveals that because of these declines Westminster may not be able to fulfill and honor its long-standing and highly coveted performing contracts with premier orchestras and other venues, including the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and Carnegie Hall.”

The public meeting on September 10 is scheduled for 7:00pm at the Nassau Presbyterian Church/Assembly Room in Princeton. The announcement of the meeting reads:

“All members of the Princeton community are urged to attend this open public meeting.  In light of a proposed move to Rider University’s Lawrenceville campus, the future of Westminster Choir College is at a critical juncture. The meeting will focus on discussing answers to these questions and sharing vital information with the community.

“The Westminster Foundation is an independent organization made up of supporters, alumni, faculty, donors, and friends of Westminster Choir College.  Our stated purpose is to preserve the legacy and ensure the future of Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and to oppose efforts by Rider University to sell, relocate or close Westminster Choir College.” 



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