By Theresa Evans
Faculty and staff at Westminster Choir College (WCC) received letters from Constance Fee, president of the Westminster Foundation, and Larry Livingston, interim president of Westminster Choir College Acquisition Corporation (WCCAC), who are on opposing sides of the WCC litigations, on Nov. 8.
Both parties addressed the possibility of the Kaiwen Education sale not being finalized by the intended date of July 1 and their plans regarding the potential circumstance.
“As a result of the opponents’ tactics, Westminster Choir College Acquisition Corp (WCCAC) has decided to delay issuing the planned conditional employment offer letters,” wrote Livingston. “I realize this delay is a cause for concern among the Westminster community. You, and many others, are working hard to provide high-quality instruction and service to the College’s most important asset— its students.”
Fee’s letter considered the possibility that the sale of WCC could fail and anticipated that President Gregory Dell’Omo would execute a teach-out in response to that potential outcome. She further stated that the Westminster Foundation would call for an injunction if faced with that situation.
“Our legal counsel has reviewed this matter in depth and has concluded that Rider cannot implement such a plan because the University is legally obligated to continue operating Westminster Choir College under both New Jersey charities law and the 1991 Merger Agreement,” Fee wrote. “We expect the courts to enforce this obligation so that Westminster will continue operating as part of Rider or independently until managerial or appropriate institutional affiliation arrangements have been made in a new process that solicits meaningful input from all stakeholders.”
Livingston further stated that even though the WCC sale is ongoing, WCCAC plans to be proactive.
“First, let me say that WCCAC is 100 percent committed to completing the transfer from Rider University as soon as is practically possible,” he wrote. “Lawsuits and other allegations are, to be sure, a distraction that requires our time and resources to counter. However, we remain focused on bringing the transaction to a successful close.”
Livingston mentioned that as the sale remains pending, Kaiwen Education has begun to support WCC financially, including a recent trip to Beijing.
Kristine Brown, associate vice president for university marketing and communications, said, “WCCAC envisions a real and substantive future for Westminster Choir College with a future as fulfilling and meaningful as its past. That is what the university is working toward, and we are confident in the process that is being undertaken to chart this new course for WCC.”
Fee claimed that Rider cannot remove WCC or terminate WCC faculty because the university would not meet the AAUP contract requirements.
Jeffrey Halpern, AAUP contract administrator, said, “We do not believe the university has met its burden that is required for them to be able to to write off faculty in the closed programs.”
Halpern said that the AAUP will reassess the potential WCC layoffs and that they “will succeed in that arbitration.”
Brown said that Rider and WCCAC intend to work together to ensure an effective transition and that they will not be hindered by those in disagreement.
“Though the AAUP is separate from the Westminster Foundation, we strongly support their mission and actions towards saving WCC,” said Michael Brogan, president of Rider’s AAUP chapter. “The Rider and WCCAC administrations have tried to downplay the lawsuits and other legal actions against the illegitimate sale of WCC to Kaiwen Education, a newly formed education conglomerate, as a ‘distraction.’
This type of language is not only offensive but underestimates the commitment of all involved to save this world class institution. What is amazing is the tone deafness of both administrations dismissal of the collective concerns of students, alumni, donors, faculty and families connected to WCC and Rider University in order to try and earn a quick profit over this cultural gem.”