By Shanna O’Mara
An injunction filed against the university by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) was denied today. It would have temporarily prevented Rider from entering a binding agreement with a third party buyer of Westminster Choir College (WCC).
The two parties met in U.S. District Court in Trenton on Feb. 2 to testify before a judge in regard to the filing.
“We are asking the court to restrain the defendant from selling Westminster, closing Westminster or taking any irreversible step toward sale or closure,” said National Relations Labor Board attorney Kent Hirozawa on behalf of the AAUP.
The AAUP challenged the contractual validity of the university’s step to send out layoff notices to 30 full-time WCC faculty members this past October. The union filed a grievance which was referred to arbitration.
The injunction would have prohibited the university from signing a final contract before the March 29 arbitration date.
Michael Lebowich, who represented Rider’s administration, called the injunction filing a “premature request,” noting that the university has not yet signed a term sheet or letter of intent.
“The school would continue as would their employment,” Lebowich said, stating that full-time and many part-time faculty would continue their careers at WCC under the leadership of a new entity.
“It is true,” he said of Rider’s financial instability. “Our troubles are deep.” While AAUP chief greivance officer Jeffrey Halpern has argued that selling the choir school would cause “irreparable harm,” Lebowich countered that disrupting the negotiation process will actually do so.
After just over an hour of deliberation in the chambers, the judge denied the request based on fact discrepancies in each side’s financial analysis of Rider, vague language in the union’s filing and his assertion that the university “acted in good faith” when issuing the layoff notices.
Halpern said he was “very disappointed” in the decision and that “the judge seemed hostile from the very beginning.”
President Gregory Dell’Omo was not present at the hearing.