Rider trustees vote to put Westminster Choir College up for sale
LAWRENCEVILLE — The Rider University Board of Trustees voted to put the Westminster Choir College up for sale in a move members said was made to preserve its legacy.
University president Gregory Dell’Omo said "the decision made today was to authorize the university to seek out a new partner for Westminster Choir College as we move forward." The university has hired Price, Waterhouse Cooper to help find "a partner ... that will purchase the campus and keep the programs in Princeton. That's our first preference."
A second option would be to find an institution willing to take the programs and move them to another location but sell the campus, according to Dell'Omo.
"We feel very confident that we will be able to find a very suitable partner as we go through this process," Dell'Omo said.
Facing a potential $13.1 million deficit by 2019, Rider has been undergoing a comprehensive study and analysis of its programs and degree offerings, including a "one-campus" model that would move Westminster to the Lawrenceville campus.
"It was concluded that neither keeping Westminster at its current location in Princeton nor consolidating Westminster onto the Lawrenceville campus would achieve the strategic goals of the University," Dell'Omo said.
The process is expected to take a year, but there is no hard timetable, according to Dell'Omo. He called Westminster a "very, very prestigious institution that has international acclaim for a long period of time."
Dell'Omo said there have preliminary talks with some institutions but would not name them. He said the board has a "number in mind" for Westminster, but would not disclose the pricetag during a press conference following the vote.
Michael Kennedy, chairman of the Rider Board of Trustees, said the board understands the uncertainty created is "unsettling" but said the board "did not take the decision lightly and took into account the thoughtful feedback from the campus community and all its stakeholders."
A group formed in opposition to the move, the Coalition to Save Westminster, held a rally in the rain on campus before the vote. A representative of the group did not return a message following the meeting.
Parent Bob Witanick, who was holding a banner outside the meeting and press conference, said he is the father of a piano graduate and believes that Westminster is still being "scapegoated for issues that have never really been put on the table."
"They've never fully revealed the financial details behind the situation they describe," he said.
He also blames Dell'Omo, in his two years as Rider's president, for creating "two years of chaos. Two years of crisis. It's an administration governed by chaos destroying the brand" that creates hesitation on the part of students that could attend Westminster," Witanick said.
"Are they going to cut my major? Are they going to cut my school?" he asked.
Dell'Omo said the board and the university's administration are "confident that these actions will help preserve and enhance both Westminster and Rider University as a whole" that allows both to "more strongly towards a brighter future."
More than 440 students attend Rider on its main campus while another 3,300 attend Westminster.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.