Planet Princeton

Rider U. President: Layoff notices sent to Westminster Choir College faculty in case sale falls through

Rider University President Gregory Dell’Omo said the layoff notices that were sent to the 33 faculty members at Westminster Choir College were necessary in case the deal falls through with the potential buyer. School officials have declined to name the buyer of the internationally known choir college in downtown Princeton.

“We are pleased to have identified a partner who intends to operate WCC as a non-profit music school in Princeton, and it is our understanding, at this time, that the partner would want the current WCC faculty and staff to continue employment after the transition from Rider,” reads a letter Dell’Omo sent to Rider University and Westminster faculty, staff and students yesterday.

“In the event a transaction is not consummated, it may be necessary to transition to closure and provide an opportunity for teach-out of current WCC students,” reads the letter. “This process would decrease the size of the student body and thus create the need to concurrently reduce the size of the workforce. We expect to know more in the coming months as the work with the potential partner unfolds.”

Dell’Omo said th notice was provided as part of a larger process  to secure the future of the choir college.

“I repeat that our goal remains to transition Westminster Choir College to a new organization, and we believe we have found an entity that is committed to making the necessary investments in the institution to take WCC and its legacy to a stronger future. I commit to continue providing updates as this process moves forward,” Dell’Omo wrote.

Faculty members at the Princeton and Lawrenceville campuses have demanded to know why school officials are being secretive about the potential buyer and they have said the buyer is an Asian operator of K-12 private schools. School officials are not naming the potential partner because the purchase has not been finalized.

Two lawsuits have been filed to stop the sale of the school. A teach-in was held recently on the Westminster campus and one reporter was thrown out of the meeting. A security officer demanded that any photos taken at the event be deleted. The school is a part of a private university, but reporters were invited to attend the teach-in event by faculty members who organized it. The teachers’ union will hold a press conference Thursday afternoon to discuss future actions.

After the teach in, Rider University Spokeswoman Kristine Brown issued the following statement about the event in response to a Planet Princeton inquiry: “The university respects the right of our faculty to express their opinion as they did today.We continue to work diligently to finalize our mutual goal of continuing Westminster Choir College on the Princeton campus with a partner that is well positioned to make the necessary investments in and build upon Westminster’s world-class curriculum and rich legacy.”

She did not address questions emailed to her about people being barred from the teach in, rumors of layoff notices, or speculation about the buyer being a K-12 Asian for-profit secondary education group in her statement.

The full text of Dell’Omo’s letter

Dear Rider University Faculty, Staff and Students,

As you are aware, on March 28, 2017, the Board of Trustees voted to divest Rider University of Westminster Choir College (WCC) and the Princeton campus. As a result of that decision, the Board and University administration explored several options related to WCC and its campus. As stated in the Guiding Principles developed by the Board to direct this process, a primary goal was to find a partner committed to the preservation and enhancement of the WCC brand, mission, artistic standards and programs. On August 17, 2017, the Board unanimously voted to select a partner who proposed to do just that.

Since then, negotiations with the potential partner have moved forward, and while we have not reached a binding agreement at this time, the possibility exists that an agreement will be reached and finalized by the end of the 2017-2018 academic year.

We are pleased to have identified a partner who intends to operate WCC as a non-profit music school in Princeton, and it is our understanding, at this time, that the partner would want the current WCC faculty and staff to continue employment after the transition from Rider. The University will continue to work hard to bring negotiations with the potential partner to a successful conclusion.

However, in the event a transaction is not consummated, it may be necessary to transition to closure and provide an opportunity for teach-out of current WCC students. This process would decrease the size of the student body and thus create the need to concurrently reduce the size of the workforce. We expect to know more in the coming months as the work with the potential partner unfolds.

As you may be aware, the AAUP Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) requires that we provide faculty with a notice of layoff from Rider University in the event their position is eliminated. While we do not believe that the potential WCC transaction triggers the CBA layoff notice provisions, we provided a layoff notice to WCC full-time faculty earlier today in case it is required and in an effort to share important information about the process with our community. I want to be clear that this notice does not mean that our faculty were fired or laid off as of today. Rather, our community should understand that the notice was provided as part of a larger process intended to secure the future of WCC.

I repeat that our goal remains to transition Westminster Choir College to a new organization, and we believe we have found an entity that is committed to making the necessary investments in the institution to take WCC and its legacy to a stronger future. I commit to continue providing updates as this process moves forward.

Thank you for your continued cooperation as we work together for the benefit of Rider University as a whole.

Sincerely,

Gregory G. Dell’Omo, Ph.D.
President​

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

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