By Stephen Neukam
Rider Student Government Association (SGA) President and senior TV, film and radio major Paige Ewing detailed the groundwork that the organization has built for the consolidation of Westminster Choir College (WCC) to Lawrenceville and conveyed optimism about the future of the integrated student body in an interview with The Rider News on Oct. 17.
Ewing, who was elected to her position on Aug. 9, said that a number of steps had been taken by SGA to help facilitate a smooth transition for WCC students.
Ewing said that she wants to act proactively to prevent any extra friction that could be caused by the consolidation. For example, she anticipated introducing legislation in the Senate that would reshape the structure of SGA to accommodate the choir students. The plan includes a two-year transition period in which WCC students would get extra seats in the Senate. Additionally, the creation of a transition committee will lend a resource to any students who have projects they want to be addressed.
“[We want to] make sure that there is a large connection between the student leadership and the Westminster students coming in so that they know they have a safe place to come and talk about any grievances they might have, any problems they might have, or even to ask for some student advice,” said Ewing.
Since then, Ewing said she has been pleased with the steps that the administration has taken to ensure transparency.
Ewing, who said she emphasized transparency in her campaign last semester, noted the various meetings between the administration and the faculty, staff and students of both campuses as an example of the improvements.
However, she remained skeptical of the trust between students and the administration, which she said was on a “come and go basis.”
“So far, I think that this consolidation is going to happen,” said Ewing. “The timeline, things being done [on time], when you look at [Cranberry’s] and things like that, maybe you’re a little untrusting of those. But you can only hope for the best.”
Ewing also said that she was satisfied with the amount of student involvement and engagement in the decision-making process of the consolidation plan. She highlighted the university’s Campus Transition Team and Working Groups, which she said each had at least four or five students in the group.
“I think that student involvement, students really continuing to be vocal and saying, ‘we have questions and we need answers,’ is what is going to hold the administration accountable,” said Ewing.
Sophomore political science major and Vice President of the class of 2022 Matthew Schantin said that he believed the administration was making positive steps in the transition but criticized the general transparency of the project.
“[In] SGA we have done little beyond talking about the basic renovations that are already fairly well known,” said Schantin. “This uncertainty with what is to come seems to only be growing tensions between the two campuses. Ultimately, SGA could play an extremely important role in clearing up rumors and prepping for a smooth transition but the ‘hush hush’ nature of how this process is going seems to be preventing the administration from disseminating information farther than the SGA executive board to the entire student government and the overall student body.”
In a private meeting with WCC students at the Princeton campus on Oct. 6, Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo announced that the consolidation is projected to cost between $16 to $20 million. Many of the infrastructure decisions are being handled by the Fine Arts Facility Working Group which, contrary to Ewing’s claim, currently has no students serving on it, according to Associate Vice President for University Marketing and Communications Kristine Brown.
Ewing said that, personally, she empathized with the WCC students.
“Here are these students who came to Westminster and they expected to be there in Princeton, and then, ‘oh, we’re getting sold, oh now we’re not getting sold.’ I think they are feeling very much whiplashed,” said Ewing.
Despite the challenges, Ewing said that she looked forward to the WCC students joining the Lawrenceville student body.
“I am kind of excited now, that we get these wonderful people onto our campus — this wonderful community of Westminster students onto our campus,” said Ewing.