All members of the Rider community have likely heard about the uncertain reality facing this university, whether from an article online or through the words of administrators. Rider is facing a projected $13.1 million financial deficit for the 2017 fiscal year. President Gregory Dell’Omo said enrollment has not improved enough and the deficit is projected to worsen. Anyone looking in on this ominous fiscal situation should agree that Rider needs to increase revenue.
However, last semester, Dell’Omo introduced the possibility of a one-campus model. This change would bring Westminster Choir College to the Lawrenceville campus, allowing Rider to sell the Princeton property.
But selling a historic, 85-year-old property with world-renowned teachers and global esteem seems counterproductive.
At the moment, Westminster Choir College boasts a faculty of the most highly respected musicians and conductors, mentoring our Westminster students.
The Westminster Symphonic Choir performs with the New York Philharmonic, The Philadelphia Orchestra and many other major orchestras and composers.
The Westminster Williamson Voices were nominated for a Grammy for Best Choral Performance in 2014.
And this is just a short, recent selection of all the esteem and respect that is commanded by instructors and students of Westminster. Selling the property, where elite performers have taught and learned since 1932 will damamge the Westminster Choir College reputation.
The merge could drive those brilliant instructors away. It ends years of legacies created by performers that began in the halls of Westminster’s Princeton campus. And it turns away other talented musicians and singers who have otherwise found a home at that campus that has attracted and produced legends for so many years.
Rider University is a distinguished institution that provides high-quality education and produces skilled professionals. It doesn’t make sense to diminish the school’s successful history.
For this reason, combining the Lawrenceville and Westminster campuses is a short-term financial solution. The sale of the Westminster campus will yield immediate resources, but it will not provide steady revenue. In addition, much of that money will likely need to be used to seamlessly move Westminster students onto the Lawrenceville campus.
The union of campuses might also yield negative results ifadmitted students choose not to attend. In turn, the enrollment would become a greater issue.
The Princeton property is not what makes Westminster’s programs so highly esteemed. However, that property still offers an ideal venue to live, teach and learn, especially with the performance spaces on campus. Its location in Princeton, a town brimming with great local art and music culture, is also important to the learning process for Westminster students.
Dell’Omo aims for the university to continue to grow its arts and science programs as a part of an academic prioritization plan. He hopes we can create new engineering or computer technology programs. This will undoubtedly attract a new student base that would have otherwise avoided applying to Rider.
He said, the money made and saved by combining our two campuses will be spent to craft those new programs. However, it comes at the expense of an already well-established and reputable part of this university. This might prove more detrimental to Rider’s financial future if it triggers a loss of current students and turns away potential freshmen.
Administrators need to be mindful of the student body when looking into these possibilities, as it is unfair for the quality of one’s education to be lessened in the name of saving money, when they are already spending thousands of dollars in tuition. Concerns and questions, such as those voiced by the 1,800 people who support the Save Westminster Choir College Facebook page, need to be considered.
Dell’Omo says that the strategic planning committee hopes to reach a final decision regarding the merger by February. As they continue to look at this possibility, it is important that they weigh the potential loss of reputation, renown and revenue that will come from this merger.
It is important to remember that Westminster students, though their campus is 7 miles away, are as much a part of the Rider community as anyone in Lawrenceville. It is not fair to ignore the concerns of at least 1,800 people online who support preserving the Princeton property, or to disregard their legacy and the legacy that has been paved at that campus for 85 years.
The weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Samantha Sawh.
Printed in the 2/1/17 issue.