View recordings of the March 4, 2018 webcasts of Dean Marshall Onofrio and Kaiwen Education Project Manager Larry Livingston sharing information about Westminster's transition and responding to questions from alumni and parents of current and prospective Westminster Choir College students.
March 26, 2018: Westminster Update
Dear Rider University Community,
Earlier this month, representatives from Kaiwen Education visited our Princeton campus and held a series of meetings with faculty, students, staff and administration. We also held two webcasts for alumni and parents of current and prospective students to help answer the many questions our community has about Kaiwen Education’s plans for the future. We received an overwhelmingly positive response from those meetings, as participants were encouraged to meet the partner in person, and learn more about Kaiwen Education and its vision. You can view these webcasts at www.rider.edu/wccupdate.
We are currently working to finalize a binding agreement with Kaiwen Education, and we expect that process to be complete within the next few months. When we initially started this process last year, we had hoped that the transition could begin this summer. As we progressed, it became clear that Rider will continue to operate Westminster after August 31, 2018.
You may know that as part of the collective bargaining agreement with AAUP, the faculty union, the University issued Westminster faculty a formal notice in October 2017 regarding their employment. We gave that notice to keep faculty informed and to facilitate a transition from Rider to their new employer in case the transaction was concluded by July 1, 2018. Based on the current transaction status and progress, however, we have concluded that a transition to Kaiwen Education’s ownership will not occur before the end of this current academic year, therefore the notice we issued to faculty has been rescinded.
As we move forward with the Westminster transition, please understand that it is likely that Rider will issue a similar notice at the start of the 2018-19 academic year as the transition timetable becomes clearer. We understand that when this occurs, Westminster faculty will also receive a conditional offer of employment at Westminster, contingent upon several factors such as a successful completion of the transaction.
Now that we have been able to identify Kaiwen Education as our partner, I hope you are as encouraged by its plans for Westminster as we are, including its stated intention to extend offers of employment to all current Westminster employees.
I am confident that Kaiwen Education values Westminster’s people, including faculty, students, staff, alumni and friends, and they fully understand that it is you who make the institution the treasured and respected institution for which it is known.
We will provide you updates on our progress as more information becomes available.
Gregory G. Dell’Omo, Ph.D.
March 1, 2018: A message to the Rider community about Westminster Choir College
Dear Rider University Community,
Since last week when we announced the completion of the non-binding Term Sheet for the transfer of Westminster to Kaiwen Education, I have seen and heard many messages of support, concern, excitement, unease and everything in between. These emotions are understandable and reasonable. We know there are many questions that remain unanswered.
I want to reaffirm, once again, that the Board of Trustees and my administration unequivocally believe that Kaiwen Education is the best option to enable Westminster to survive and prosper.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Kaiwen Education’s interest is rooted in Westminster’s talented students, faculty, staff and alumni. Kaiwen Education recognizes the value of Westminster’s people and their expertise. The Board of Trustees and I believe Kaiwen Education’s commitment to Westminster is real, as is their desire to invest in and grow the school. I experienced their commitment to education firsthand when I visited Kaiwen’s campus in China as part of the vetting we did before agreeing to move forward with a non-binding agreement. I encourage you to view this video about the Kaiwen Academies.
The Board of Trustees and my administration have worked tirelessly for nearly a year to find the right partner to continue Westminster in Princeton. Remember, it was only this time last year when we first announced we would seek to find a partner to run Westminster. Since then, we have been working very hard, first by developing a set of Guiding Principles to steer our work, following that, by conducting a national and international search for institutions interested in continuing Westminster in Princeton, vetting that pool of potential partners, and ultimately selecting the best partner, domestic or international, willing to acquire, operate, retain, invest in and grow Westminster in Princeton. We have negotiated a non-binding term sheet, are assisting Kaiwen Education with its efforts to gain necessary licensures/approvals/accreditations, and we’re working diligently to finalize a binding contract.
From the very beginning we have been faithful to our Guiding Principles, developed through the input and perspective of the entire Westminster community, to ensure both Westminster and Rider University as a whole are able to move forward with a high level of quality.
Dozens of individuals are working on this process around the clock. Those who characterize this administration as uninterested or apathetic towards the future of Westminster are uninformed and just plain wrong.
I stand firm in my belief that the Board and administration is doing everything within their power to make this a successful transition that will enable Westminster to stay open and thrive. The actions and words of those condemning our motives and process are not serving the best interests of Rider, Westminster and their people.
Throughout this process, we have met with many Westminster stakeholders, including faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors and friends.
Earlier today, Robert S. Schimek, Chair of the Board of Trustees, and I met with Elizabeth Scheiber, President of AAUP; Jeffrey Halpern, Contract Administrator and Chief Grievance Officer; and Joel Phillips, Assistant Grievance Officer, and asked for their support to move this transition toward a successful conclusion. We made it clear that the Board of Trustees stands behind this process and believes its decisions are in the best interest of Westminster and Rider as a whole.
I also ask for all of you to be supportive, patient and optimistic. We are at a critical moment. This weekend our community will have the opportunity to hear directly from Kaiwen Education and some of their advisors. Please lend your positive spirit and voice to this effort.
I am confident in the steps we are taking to ensure a successful and long-lasting future for Westminster. We will continue to take the necessary actions to make that a reality.
Gregory G. Dell’Omo, Ph.D.
Feb. 21, 2018: Rider University finalizes term sheet with partner
Dear Rider University Community,
Today marks an important date for the future of Westminster Choir College. We have signed a non-binding term sheet with Beijing Kaiwen Education Technology Co., Ltd, to transfer ownership of Westminster Choir College, Westminster Conservatory of Music, and Westminster Continuing Education. This entity, herein referred to as Kaiwen Education, is a Chinese firm that owns Kaiwen Academies, two prominent K-12 international schools in Beijing. They plan to continue operating Westminster and its entities in Princeton.
While there is more work to be done, the steps accomplished to date represent a significant step forward. We now turn our attention to a binding contract, which we hope to have finalized by early spring.
Throughout this process, we have adhered to our Guiding Principles and found a willing partner that we believe is committed to the success of Westminster, along with the success of our students, faculty and staff. As we have said since last year, Westminster’s legacy can best be preserved with an organization that is better positioned to make necessary investments – and Kaiwen Education meets that criteria.
Kaiwen Education put forth a detailed proposal rooted in their interest in the Westminster brand in Princeton. They have been particularly impressed with the quality, breadth and depth of our students, faculty, staff and academic programs. Their stated desire to keep Westminster in Princeton will allow the College to remain an active and vibrant part of the local community. Working closely with our outside consultants throughout this process, we are confident in their ability to successfully operate Westminster.
Details of the term sheet remain confidential. However, Kaiwen Education intends to make offers of employment, with terms to be determined, to faculty and staff as well as continue committed student aid at the time of closing in the form of endowed scholarships, tuition discounts and other grant obligations. The term sheet further provides that those offers to faculty and staff will include then-current base salary/hourly pay, preserve individual faculty members’ rank, tenure and service credit, and provide for employee benefit plans that are comparable in the aggregate to present benefit plans. Some other terms of employment may vary from what is presently in place to address the circumstances and challenges of operating Westminster independent of Rider University. More information will be forthcoming as we finalize a binding agreement.
As we shared late last year, Kaiwen Education has hired two consultants recommended by Westminster to assist in the next stages of this process. Catherine (Kitty) Jarjisian, an accreditation consultant who is retired from a career in music education and administration, will lead and coordinate efforts to obtain accreditation with the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), the accreditation body charged with maintaining national standards for undergraduate and graduate degrees and other credentials for music and music-related disciplines.
Additionally, Larry Livingston, currently the chair of the Department of Conducting at the University of Southern California’s Flora L. Thornton School of Music, will serve as the project manager and liaison to guide this process to a successful conclusion. He will also work with Westminster and Kaiwen Education to assure they receive all necessary regulatory approvals such as state licensure, accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and federal recognition. Livingston has a distinguished career including roles as the vice president and music director of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston; Dean of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston and Dean of the USC Thornton School of Music where he is now chair.
Plans are currently being finalized to bring representatives from Kaiwen Education, as well as Livingston and Jarjisian, to campus in the near future to meet the Westminster community.
We understand that this announcement raises additional questions, and we will provide more information as it is available. Several important milestones remain, and some aspects of this process will need to remain confidential. In the meantime, we are working with Kaiwen Education to find an appropriate time to introduce them, Larry Livingston and Kitty Jarjisian to the campus community.
We will continue to provide updates on our progress, and we sincerely appreciate your continued patience and understanding. As always, please visit www.rider.edu/WCCupdate for the latest information or contact [email protected] with any questions.
Best, Gregory G. Dell’Omo, Ph.D.
Robert S. Schimek '87
Chairman, Board of Trustees
Jan. 23, 2018: Update on Westminster Choir College
Dear Rider Community,
As we begin the spring semester, we want to provide you with the latest on the future of Westminster Choir College. For the past several months, including through the holidays, we’ve been in constant discussions with our partner and have been productive in our efforts to finalize a term sheet that will provide the opportunity for the long-term success of Westminster.
We are pleased with our progress, but we understand the frustration that comes with such a lengthy and complex process. We know that this process is more than just a simple business transaction and recognize the impact of these actions upon the future of the place that many of you consider home. As such, we would like to emphasize that we are taking steps to ensure that this process is deliberate and reflects the best interests of the entire community.
While we are working diligently with our partner to finalize the term sheet, we want to make it clear that the Choir College is continuing with an incredibly active audition, performance and class schedule for the spring semester. We look forward to sending off the class of ’18 in a few short months, while preparing to welcome a new group of talented, creative individuals as the class of ’22 enters this coming fall. As we have said before, we will continue to keep you all updated on our progress throughout this process. We appreciate your continued patience as we work towards our goal.
Gregory G. Dell’Omo, Ph.D.
Robert S. Schimek
Chairman of the Board
Dec. 4, 2017: Westminster Choir College Update
Dear Rider Community,
Approximately a month ago we held a series of meetings and conversations with faculty and staff, students, the Westminster Alumni Council, and parents in relation to the progress of the Westminster Choir College transition. In response to questions, we said at the time that we felt it was important for a number of reasons to have a term sheet in place with the partner before introducing them to our community, and we hoped to have that term sheet in place in approximately 30 days from that time. While we are making good progress, we do not yet have agreement on a term sheet. Consequently, we are not yet in a position to introduce the partner to you. We realize this is taking longer than many in our community would have hoped, and we share your desire to speed up the process.
We are encouraged to say that the partner has recently hired an accreditation consultant recommended by the Choir College to help them coordinate accreditation with the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). Westminster Choir College is currently accredited by NASM and the partner is working diligently to assure its continuation. For those of you unfamiliar with NASM, it is an organization of schools, conservatories, colleges and universities that establishes national standards for undergraduate and graduate degrees and other credentials for music and music-related disciplines. It also provides assistance to institutions and individuals engaged in artistic, scholarly, educational and other music-related endeavors.
The partner has also identified a project manager, again on the recommendation of the Choir College, with substantial U.S. higher education/music experience. This project manager will work with other consultants and the Westminster community to help lead this process to a successful conclusion. At the earliest opportunity, we plan to bring all consultants to campus to meet with our constituencies.
In the next several weeks, we have meetings scheduled to try to finalize the term sheet. As we have indicated previously, this document is non-binding. However, it is a road map for the drafting of the binding transfer agreement. That effort will begin upon completion of the term sheet.
Although we had hoped to share the name of the partner by this time, the negotiations remain confidential and both Rider and the partner have committed to maintaining their confidentiality until we are further along in the process. Please know that we are working as quickly as possible to advance the process to the point where introduction is appropriate and have discussed this issue at length together. As soon as we are able to do so, we will.
Thank you for your continued understanding. We will keep you updated with any important developments. As always, please visit www.rider.edu/WCCupdate for the latest information or contact [email protected] with any questions.
Gregory G. Dell’Omo, Ph.D.
Robert S. Schimek ’87
Chairman, Board of Trustees
Dean, Westminster Choir College
Oct. 31, 2017: University Update from the President
Dear Rider Community,
As you are aware, on March 28, 2017, the Board of Trustees voted to divest Rider University of Westminster Choir College (WCC) and the Princeton campus. As a result of that decision, the Board and University administration explored several options related to WCC and its campus. As stated in the Guiding Principles developed by the Board to direct this process, a primary goal was to find a partner committed to the preservation and enhancement of the WCC brand, mission, artistic standards and programs. On August 17, 2017, the Board unanimously voted to select a partner who proposed to do just that.
Since then, negotiations with the potential partner have moved forward, and while we have not reached a binding agreement at this time, the possibility exists that an agreement will be reached and finalized by the end of the 2017-2018 academic year.
We are pleased to have identified a partner who intends to operate WCC as a non-profit music school in Princeton, and it is our understanding, at this time, that the partner would want the current WCC faculty and staff to continue employment after the transition from Rider. The University will continue to work hard to bring negotiations with the potential partner to a successful conclusion.
However, in the event a transaction is not consummated, it may be necessary to transition to closure and provide an opportunity for teach-out of current WCC students. This process would decrease the size of the student body and thus create the need to concurrently reduce the size of the workforce. We expect to know more in the coming months as the work with the potential partner unfolds.
As you may be aware, the AAUP Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) requires that we provide faculty with a notice of layoff from Rider University in the event their position is eliminated. While we do not believe that the potential WCC transaction triggers the CBA layoff notice provisions, we provided a layoff notice to WCC full time faculty earlier today in case it is required and in an effort to share important information about the process with our community. I want to be clear that this notice does not mean that our faculty were fired or laid off as of today. Rather, our community should understand that the notice was provided as part of a larger process intended to secure the future of WCC.
I repeat that our goal remains to transition Westminster Choir College to a new organization, and we believe we have found an entity that is committed to making the necessary investments in the institution to take WCC and its legacy to a stronger future. I commit to continue providing updates as this process moves forward.
Thank you for your continued cooperation as we work together for the benefit of Rider University as a whole.
President Gregory Dell’Omo
Aug. 17, 2017: Board selects a potential partner
Dear Rider Community,
As you know, over the last several months we have been working diligently to find an interested partner to acquire Westminster Choir College. I am pleased to say that we continue to make considerable progress, and I write today to share another important update.
Today the Board selected as its finalist a potential international partner that has proposed to acquire Westminster Choir College and maintain the campus in Princeton. From the beginning, our goal has been to identify a partner that is well positioned to make the necessary investments in and build upon Westminster’s world-class curriculum and rich legacy. This selection is the continuation of the process we began in March that involved formal outreach to approximately 280 entities through our adviser PwC Corporate Finance LLC.
We now begin negotiations with the selected potential partner, which will include a detailed investigation of the proposed transaction. Please know that much work still remains, and as this process moves forward, it is critical that negotiations remain confidential between Rider and the selected potential partner. However, the University remains encouraged by the strong progress to date, accomplished in accordance with our Guiding Principles, including the commitment to maintaining our existing programs, faculty and administration.
I understand the desire to move this forward as quickly as possible. While I too share that sense of urgency, I again ask for your continued patience as we move into the next phase of this important process.
I look forward to seeing many of you on campus in just a few short weeks.
July 11, 2017: Rider currently reviewing potential partners in sale of Westminster Choir College
Rider University is currently reviewing proposals as part of its effort to find an entity to operate Westminster Choir College programs and purchase the campus in Princeton. On behalf of the University, PricewaterhouseCoopers Corporate Finance identified and communicated with about 280 potential partners.
Rider’s Board of Trustees announced in March that it was seeking a partner in three categories, in the following priority:
- a partner who is interested in purchasing the property and the Choir College with the purpose of continuing to operate the College in Princeton;
- a partner who is interested in acquiring and relocating the Choir College programs to another location; and
- a partner interested in acquiring the property.
“We have received multiple proposals in all three categories,” President Gregory G. Dell’Omo wrote in a message to the University community in June. “The Board of Trustees will undertake a comprehensive review process through the summer.”
“We understand and appreciate the interest that all of you have in the future of Westminster,” Dell’Omo continued. “As I have committed to you, I will continue to keep you apprised of this work moving forward and will share additional updates throughout the summer.”
April 3, 2017: University Update from President Dell'Omo
Dear Members of the Rider Community,
One of the truly great pleasures of serving as your university president is the fast-paced, non-stop activity that takes place across both of our campuses. Never a day goes by without an exciting event. Just last Wednesday, I sat in a classroom to hear student presentations at our annual Gender and Sexuality Studies Colloquium. It’s so rewarding to see our students at their very best, and hear about their research on these important topics. Participating in events like this puts a big smile on my face and reminds me of the best of Rider University.
On that note, and as we begin the homestretch of this semester, I want to update you on a few items of importance.
Update on the Path Forward
In my campus message last week, I announced the Board’s decision on the future of Westminster Choir College and what the university is doing to outline a clear path forward. Since that time, we have received a number of thoughtful and important questions from students, faculty, staff, alumni and others. I can tell you that my administrative team and I are working very hard to answer all of your questions and ease your concerns. While we don’t have all necessary details just yet, rest assured that we will share information with you as soon as it becomes available. In addition to the updates that I plan to provide, please continue to visit www.rider.edu/thepathforward for more information.
I also recognize that you have probably heard a number of reports regarding Westminster, including news that Princeton Public Schools had expressed interest in the Princeton campus. To reiterate, when we first began to study the feasibility of a one-campus model, we heard from several entities that might be interested in the campus. The Princeton school system was one of these entities. But, as I shared with you last week, we eventually abandoned the idea of campus consolidation and instead focused our efforts on ensuring that Westminster’s legacy could live on in Princeton. To that end, please know that our highest priority is to find an institution interested in acquiring Westminster Choir College and keeping it where it is today. Please also know that as we begin this process, aspects of this search will have to remain confidential between Rider and that institution. As we move forward, I will do my very best to balance the confidentiality of this process with your desire and concern to know more information.
For many of you, April 13, 1994, is before your time. As old as that makes me feel, it doesn’t take away from the pride I associate with that day. This year marks the 23rd anniversary of the day Rider was granted university status by the State of New Jersey. It’s a time to reflect on our past successes and the many exciting decades still to come.
This year we will celebrate on Friday, April 7, from 8-10 p.m. with a fireworks display to be viewed from the Ben Cohen Turf Field at 9:30 p.m. All are welcome to gather on the Turf Field starting at 8 p.m. and enjoy kettle corn, s’mores and music provided by 107.7 The Bronc. A special thanks to all of this year’s sponsors, including the Student Entertainment Council, Office of Campus Life, Athletics, Student Government Association, Rider University Greek Council, Residence Hall Association and the Office of First and Second Year Programs. It promises to be a fun evening, and I hope to see you there
Best of luck to all of you as we head towards to the finish line of another exciting semester at Rider University.
Gregory G. Dell’Omo, Ph.D.
March 28, 2017: Important Update from the Rider University Board of Trustees
Dear Members of the Rider Community:
I’m writing to you today to share an update on the steps we’re taking to improve and strengthen Rider University. As many of you are aware, there are a number of significant challenges facing the University – among them, declining enrollment and retention, high operating costs and increased competition. While these issues do not define Rider, it is our responsibility to address them and map out a path forward.
After commissioning a months-long study that incorporated community input and concerns, the Rider University Board of Trustees today announced a decision on the future of Westminster Choir College (Westminster). Specifically, the Board concluded that the strategic goals of the University will neither be achieved by keeping Westminster at its current location in Princeton, nor by consolidating Westminster onto the Lawrenceville campus.
Recognizing the invaluable role that Westminster plays in the music community, the University has instead begun the process of identifying an institution that may be able to acquire the Choir College. The goal is to keep Westminster in Princeton given the deep community ties and the resulting opportunities and resources they afford to students and members of the faculty. We expect this process to play out over the next 12 months. We hope to continue offering classes on the Princeton campus. Once an institution to acquire Westminster is identified, we will work closely with that institution to determine when students will begin to take Westminster courses from that college or university. These courses could be offered at the Princeton campus or they could be offered on the campus of the new institution.
I am acutely aware of the significant impact that this decision will have on students, faculty, and staff, especially those of Westminster Choir College. Please know that the Board of Trustees did not reach this decision lightly, but I am confident that these actions will help preserve and enhance both Westminster and Rider University as a whole. I strongly believe that Westminster’s legacy can best be preserved by finding an institution that is better positioned to invest in and build upon the Choir College’s extraordinary history.
I know you will have questions and concerns and over the coming months, we are committed to providing you with regular updates. As you may already know, I will be conducting Town Halls this evening at Westminster and tomorrow at our Lawrenceville campus with students, faculty and staff. I hope to address your questions and concerns at that time. Additionally, as progress is made on all fronts, you can visit www.rider.edu/thepathforward for more information.
I am confident that the changes being proposed today will help deliver on Rider’s promise for a bright future. I am committed to working with all of you as we make this transition together.
With deep appreciation,
President Greg Dell’Omo