Westminster decision nears

By Shanna O’Mara and Gianluca D’Elia

A Rider-Westminster campus-merger decision could be reached next week.

University spokesperson Kristine Brown confirmed that the Board of Trustees will meet on Tuesday, March 28. “We expect to make a decision that day,” she said. “Until the board makes its final decision, I cannot comment on the outcome of the study.”

On Dec. 1, President Gregory Dell’Omo announced that the proposed sale of the Princeton campus is being studied as a potential step toward remedying Rider’s projected $13.1 million deficit by 2019.

Since then, he has been hosting town forums, meeting with department heads and has recently been speaking with coalition members and Westminster donors about the study, according to alumna Constance Fee, president of The Coalition to Save Westminster Choir College.

The coalition announced in a March 20 press release that it has filed for incorporation status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit entity and has sought legal counsel.

“We have retained the lawyers to keep an eye on us and make sure we’re staying on track legally, making sure the non-profit and landmark applications are filled out properly and submitted on time,” Fee said in an interview.

The press release also stated that Joseph Beck, ’59, who made a “generous donation” toward the 2014 construction of the Marion Buckelew Cullen Center, has threatened to “seek legal recourse,” urging Rider to refund his contribution or disperse the money to other colleges that would benefit by  the incorporation of Westminster students on their campuses.

According to the release, Beck wrote a letter to Jonathan Meer, vice president for university advancement. He wrote, “I would strongly urge my fellow donors who are dismayed at the destructive leadership of the Rider administration to withhold their checks and to seek redress in the courts if the Rider Board of Trustees votes to sell the campus.”

Brown refused to comment on Beck’s letter.

As the board continues to discuss the proposed sale, students on the Princeton campus expressed their concern for the final say.

“This academic year has been brutal for both Rider and Westminster,” said Gabriel Harley, junior music education major. “I sincerely hope that whatever happens, happens with truth and care.”

“I do not believe the move makes sense at all,” said Justin Farrell, junior music education major. “I believe that it is dangerous to move our college, which has such a historic place in Princeton’s history. I do not think it is a business decision which will save Rider either. Please don’t take away our little world of music.”

While waiting on word from the president about the future of the school, Jessica Stanislawczyk, ’16, looked back on her past at the institution.

“We’re all devastated at the possibility of selling Westminster’s campus,” she said. “For many Westminster students and alumni, including myself, we chose Westminster because of its small campus, its rigorous learning environment and the conservatory-like atmosphere. The Princeton campus truly feels like our home where we can collaborate and grow close as a community of musicians. Years of history and traditions have evolved on our beautiful campus, and it would be a tragedy to see these traditions sold.”

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