Planet Princeton

Larry Livingston named interim president of Kaiwen’s new Westminster Choir College Acquisition Corporation (updated)

Larry Livingston

Kaiwen Education has created a New Jersey non-profit called the Westminster Choir College Acquisition Corporation to operate Westminster Choir College once the sale of the school is final, and has appointed Larry Livingston as the interim president.

Headquartered in Beijing, Kaiwen Education operates two K-12 schools, and company representatives say several more international school campuses are in the planning stages.

Kaiwen representatives say the company’s vision is to “sustain and grow Westminster Choir College’s reputation as a world-class music school, while maintaining it as an artistically pre-eminent, academically rigorous, and fiscally sound” institution.

“The historical programs of Westminster Choir College will be substantially maintained in Princeton. Kaiwen imagines that Westminster Choir College will be even stronger, more well known, more selective, and further enriched by the presence of an outstanding international student body,” representatives for Kaiwen said in a written statement. “Lest this concept be misconstrued, the goal is to achieve an optimal mix and balance between domestic and international students on campus. Without question, Kaiwen’s decision was based on its respect for and unalterable desire to help sustain Westminster Choir College’s culture as an American institution.”

In January,  Livingston was hired as the project manager for the sale. Formerly a vice president of New England Conservatory of Music, he was previously the dean of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. Livingston is also the chair of the department of conducting at the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California. He will work with Rider University officials to secure regulatory approvals for the school, officials said.

Two lawsuits challenging the legality of the $40 million sale are still pending. Many students, alumni, and faculty oppose the sale of Westminster Choir College to Kaiwen. A foundation has been formed by people who oppose the sale to Kaiwen in an attempt to raise money to buy the school and operate it as an independent entity.

On Wednesday afternoon, the union for faculty members said the announcement about the new nonprofit corporation is the latest attempt “to conceal Rider University’s illegal sale of one of America’s great music schools to a financially precarious, foreign for-profit company with no higher-education experience.”

“The cover-up continues,” said Jeffrey Halpern of the Rider University chapter of the American Association of University Professors.  “Make no mistake this hastily put together entity is nothing more than a shell company whose purpose is to provide cover for a for-profit corporation to acquire a very valuable property to add to its portfolio.”

Faculty union members claim that having only recently filed for incorporation on May 1 of 2018, the Westminster Choir College Acquisition Company cannot claim to be a not-for-profit because it has yet to receive tax-exempt status from the U.S. government as a 503(c)(3). The union claims the new company is a shell company that is controlled by the for-profit Kaiwen Education, which provided the funding and named its three corporate trustees.

Kaiwen made several claims about its profitability and ability to borrow money in a news release that was sent out on Wednesday. The faculty union is challenging the claims. Planet Princeton will attempt to fact check each claim.

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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