By Lauren Lavelle and Gianluca D’Elia
Major progress was made in the sale of Westminster Choir College on Feb. 21 when the name of the anonymous buyer was finally announced, bringing about long-awaited confirmation that the music conservatory will remain at its Princeton campus.
President Gregory Dell’Omo and Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Schimek announced Rider has signed a non-binding term sheet with Beijing Kaiwen Education Technology Co., Ltd. to sell the college for $40 million.
In the email to the student body, Dell’Omo and Schimek said Kaiwen Education presented a proposal detailing their admiration of the Westminster brand and their plans to keep the choir school in Princeton.
“Kaiwen Education put forth a detailed proposal rooted in their interest in the Westminster brand in Princeton,” Dell’Omo said. “They have been particularly impressed with the quality, breadth and depth of our students, faculty, staff and academic programs. Their stated desire to keep Westminster in Princeton will allow the College to remain an active and vibrant part of the local community. Working closely with our outside consultants throughout this process, we are confident in their ability to successfully operate Westminster.”
The announcement came just a few hours after the AAUP Executive Committee renewed it’s call for the University to abandon sale plans, in the wake of a third lawsuit in opposition to the proposed sale, filed by the Princeton Theological Seminary on Feb. 20.
An email sent to the University stated Kaiwen Education is a prominent Chinese firm that overlooks Kaiwan Academies, two K-12 international schools in Beijing.
The learning institutions boast a unique combination of American and Chinese teaching to present a fused curriculum that offers international education and athletic programs for all students, an NJ.com article said.
As recommended by Westminster, two consultants have been hired by Kaiwen Education to make the transition easier on the community.
Accreditation consultant Catherine Jarjisian will handle the necessary steps to earn accreditation with the National Association of Schools of Music.
Larry Livingston, Chair of the Department of Conducting at the University of Southern California’s Flora L. Thornton School of Music, will serve as project manager and liaison throughout the transition process. According to the statement, he will handle obtaining the proper regulatory approvals such as state licensing, accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and federal recognition.
While the details of the term sheet must remain confidential, Dell’Omo and Schimek ensured the community that Kaiwen Education fully intends to consider the concerns and needs of Westminster’s current employees and students.
“Kaiwen Education intends to make offers of employment to faculty and staff as well as continue committed student aid at the time of closing in the form of endowed scholarships, tuition discounts and other grant obligations,” they said. “The term sheet further provides that those offers to faculty and staff will include then-current base salary and hourly pay, preserve individual faculty members’ rank, tenure and service credit, and provide for employee benefit plans that are comparable in the aggregate to present benefit plans.”
The statement ended on a positive note with the promise of introducing Kaiwan Education to the Princeton campus at an “appropriate time.”
A binding contract is currently in the works and is set to be finalized in early spring, according to Dell’Omo.
“They are well positioned to continue the significant investment in Westminster that Rider has made over the past 25 years,” he added.