The Coalition to Save Westminster Choir College in Princeton Announces Incorporation as Rider University Board of Trustees Prepares to Vote on Selling the Campus

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As it steps up its ongoing efforts to preserve the world-renowned institution at its current location, The Coalition to Save Westminster Choir College in Princeton, Inc. announces that it has filed for incorporation status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit entity and has retained legal counsel.

Westminster Choir College has been at the forefront of choral leadership throughout its existence, and in our estimation, it is as strong as ever.

As it steps up its ongoing efforts to preserve the world-renowned institution at its current location, the Coalition to Save Westminster Choir College in Princeton announces that it has filed for incorporation status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit entity and has retained legal counsel. Rider University continues to move ahead with plans to close and sell the Westminster Choir College campus in Princeton, and the Board of Trustees is expected to vote on the issue at their next meeting on Tuesday, March 28th.

“Although alumni, students, and faculty have been told by administration officials that a one-campus model was initially being considered, it is clear that Dr. Dell’Omo has no plan to move to Lawrenceville anything approaching the array of educational programs currently offered at Westminster’s Princeton campus. To date, there has been no official communication with Westminster parents, current students, or prospective students informing them of the possible sale of the campus,” stated Constance Fee, Coalition president. Membership in the Coalition, which includes alumni, donors, parents, students, faculty, members of the WCC Leadership Council, and supporters in the Princeton community and beyond, has grown dramatically in recent weeks.

Rider student Shanna O'Mara, writing in the Feb. 7, 2017 edition of the Rider News stated that, "….as Rider is facing growing operating deficits of more than $13 million, Dell’Omo introduced the idea of moving all Westminster students onto the Lawrenceville campus and selling the Princeton land. While many agree it is time to make changes and increase university revenue, many also say the solution should not be based on the drastic decision to sell one of Rider’s most distinguished aspects." University leaders have not been willing to acknowledge that their initial plan to move WCC to their main Lawrenceville campus would fail since they cannot provide adequate facilities to ensure quality instruction or attract students. “Rider is a fine school,” Thomas Kean, former New Jersey governor, wrote in a Star Ledger column published on Feb. 6. “It should sit down with a growing and potent national coalition representing Westminster Choir College alumni and its allies. Together, they need to explore how Rider may fund its future without destroying the integrity of a vibrant and respected New Jersey cultural institution and damaging its own reputation.”

President Dell’Omo told current Westminster students in a forum on the Westminster campus recently that he would develop a campus and provide facilities for them in Lawrenceville, according to first-year WCC graduate student, Kimberly Reinagel. She stated that, “These open forums we’ve had with Dr. Dell’Omo have shown us that there’s been a real lack of transparency.” At the same time, he is planning to transform Rider’s campus by investing in a mixed-use residential Town Center on Route 206 and developing new course offerings which competing universities have had for years. Rider enrollment has declined steadily since 2010 due to its inability to keep up with academic offerings and campus improvements. Rider's total enrollment had been falling since 2009 and there were few signs the numbers would improve. An article published in NJ.com in 2015 stated, “Dell'Omo announced Rider was cutting 13 majors and laying off professors. The new president was frank: Rider just didn't have enough students to cover its bills.” However, Westminster’s enrollment remains steady. The Lawrenceville campus currently has dormitories and classroom buildings sitting empty. These abandoned buildings would require millions of dollars to renovate for Westminster students should a consolidation occur. Although the University has not made an announcement, it has become apparent that the plan to merge both campuses onto the Lawrenceville campus is no longer on the table.

Dr. Joseph Beck, a 1959 graduate of Westminster Choir College, is a long-time supporter who has made a generous donation to the new Marion Buckelew Cullen Center on the Princeton campus, which opened in October 2014. Incensed by Rider’s plan to dismantle Westminster Choir College, he stated last month in a letter to Jonathan Meer, Rider VP for University Advancement, that he will ask for reimbursement of the monies he has donated over the last nine years if this plan proceeds.

Dr. Beck continued, “Rider President Dell'Omo seeks to save Rider by destroying Westminster. In the end, he will not be able to rescue Rider, but Westminster’s support group of parents, alumni, donors, and friends fully intends to save this treasure. I will request that Rider either refund my donations or disperse them to the various colleges that would benefit by accepting the incredibly talented students who could no longer train and study at WCC. I would strongly urge my fellow donors who are dismayed at the leadership of the Rider administration to withhold their checks if the Rider Board of Trustees votes to sell the campus.”

In an open letter to President Dell’Omo and the Rider Board of Trustees (see below) last week, Dr. Tim Sharp, Executive Director of the American Choral Directors Association, stated on behalf of its 20,000 members that, “Westminster Choir College has been at the forefront of choral leadership throughout its existence, and in our estimation, it is as strong as ever. To my knowledge, there is no other institution of higher learning that has the term ‘Choir’ in its name, which is one of the reasons that Westminster’s earned and sustained reputation has such iconic importance.”

“My daughter is a talented musician. She could have attended any number of top tier universities and prominent music conservatories, but selected Westminster Choir College because of its rigorous, residential conservatory experience, its 90-year reputation, and the promises made to her by Rider University,” said Mona Davids. “When signing over a tuition check, there is a contract made between two parties. I paid for a Mercedes and Rider thinks they are going to hand me a Yugo.”

For more information please go to http://www.savewestminster.org

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