Court rulings change fate of Westminster Choir College and its Princeton campus

By Kaitlyn McCormick

A recent series of long-awaited court rulings have opened yet another door in determining the fate of Westminster Choir College (WCC) and its Princeton campus, as well as the financial standing of Rider.

On June 29, the Appellate Court ruled that students, alumni and faculty had the right to sue Rider to block the movement of WCC to the Lawrenceville campus, reversing a previous 2020 dismissal from Judge Robert Lougy. 

This comes less than a month after a separate suit by the Superior Court of New Jersey ruled June 15 that Rider breached the trust for the property, defaulting the possession of the valuable Princeton land to the Princeton Theological Seminary, the next beneficiary.

Upholding the right to sue

In a unanimous decision, the New Jersey Appellate Division upheld student, faculty and alumni rights to sue to block Rider University’s closing of WCC at the Princeton campus.  

This major decision is one that “gives new life to Westminster,” the Westminster Foundation said in a press release after the decision. The foundation is a nonprofit organization that says it is “dedicated to preserving the legacy and ensuring the future of [WCC] in Princeton.”

In March 2020, Lougy of the Superior Court Chancery Division, dismissed the lawsuits – one consisting of faculty, alumni and donors and the other current students. 

Rider’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors responded to the Appellate Court’s decision via a Facebook comment: “A pragmatic university president would recognize that continually fighting this case would drain desperately needed resources and reverse course.”

WCC and The Princeton Theological Seminary

On June 15, the Superior Court of New Jersey Mercer County, Chancery Division ruled in favor of the Princeton Theological Seminary in a dispute regarding the ownership of WCC’s Princeton campus.

The decision rules that due to Rider’s abandonment of the Princeton property when it jumped to move WCC to the Lawrenceville campus, the university broke the agreement in the Taylor Trust that the Princeton land was endowed on, setting forth the shift in ownership to the seminary. 

See the Appellate Court ruling here

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