By Lauren Lavelle
A New Jersey judge has set an April 29 deadline for Rider to answer a set of 100 questions posed by the state attorney general — a timeline which Rider’s faculty union believes may push the university’s ability to close the proposed sale of Westminster Choir College (WCC) past the settlement date with the Chinese buyer, Kaiwen.
In an April 17 email, Rider’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) also notified faculty that the union is still awaiting an arbitration ruling on Rider’s layoff of WCC faculty in anticipation of the sale.
“The arbitration response date was a target and, therefore, tentative,” the email said. “Though everyone is eager to hear the outcome of his decision, the arbitrator will take whatever time necessary to make his decision. This period of waiting doesn’t convey any meaning either positive or negative. As soon as his decision is known, the AAUP will notify all our members.”
In addition, the AAUP notified members that a recent case management hearing for the McMorris et al. v. Rider University lawsuit, which aims to prevent the sale of Westminster Choir College (WCC) to Kaiwen Education, could impact the sale contract’s June 30 transfer date.
“It is clear from the McMorris lawsuit that Rider cannot close the deal with the proposed buyer by their contractual deadline,” the union’s email said. “The AAUP views this is [sic] a very positive light. Among other things, Rider will continue to run Westminster next year and will require Westminster faculty to do so. We acknowledge this reality but the administration will decide the exact timing of any announcement.”
Jeff Halpern, the AAUP’s chief contract administrator and grievance officer, said the AAUP decided to publicly answer these questions posed by a member in order to inform the community.
“We thought they were reasonable questions and we try to be as transparent as we can,” he said. “Our members are rightfully nervous. At the moment, they still feel they are in limbo.”
According to Halpern, rescinding the layoff notices is a logical choice for Rider because it will most likely be in charge of WCC past the original transfer date.
“Even if they get an extension, they are going to need to run WCC next year,” Halpern said. “This whole deal comes from a scheme that [President Gregory] Dell’Omo came up with to try to raise additional money. It had nothing to do with the expense of WCC, it had to do with its value.”
Kristine Brown, the associate vice president for university marketing and communications, said the Rider administration is anticipating the eventual arbitration results and declined to comment on the outcome of the McMorris et al. v. Rider University case management hearing.
“We look forward to the outcome of the arbitrator’s important work and know these decisions take time,” Brown said. “In regards to the McMorris lawsuit, we do not comment publicly on pending litigation.”