April 17, 2019

Conference on Westminster Sale Encourages Those Opposed

By Anne Levin

At a conference in the Trenton courtroom of Judge Paul Innes on Monday between the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office and lawyers for all of the parties involved in Rider University’s plan to sell Westminster Choir College, no testimony was heard and no rulings were made.

But Bruce Afran, the attorney representing parties opposed to the sale, said that although the meeting was routine, he was encouraged by the state’s actions. Rider, which merged with Westminster in 1991, now wants to sell the choir college and its 22-acre Princeton campus to the Kaiwen Education Company of China.

“The Attorney General’s Office said the state will be retaining an expert in China corporate governance to address the issues of the control of the college under this deal by this commercial company,” Afran said. “Presumably they will also be looking into the role of the Chinese government. This is a significant step because it shows the state recognizes the question about governmental control of the choir college if the deal goes through.”

Several alumni, members of the faculty, and the Rider chapter of the American Association of University Professors are among those opposed to the sale.

Rider had declined to release the contents of the sale agreement with Kaiwen over the past few months. Late last month, the groups in opposition to the sale filed an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request and the terms were released.

The attorney general criticized Rider for the lack of compliance in a recent letter to the New Jersey Chancery Court. Rider has yet to comply with the attorney general’s request for additional information, and the deadline is April 29. Once the materials are submitted, the attorney general will review them and then inform the court by June 7 if there are any issues with the documents, Afran said.

A decision on the legality of the sale is expected in July. The next conference is August 13.

“We think that based on the report that has come out, the state seems skeptical about the propriety of this proposed takeover of the college,” Afran said. “In the unlikely case that they support the sale, we will continue with our opposition in court. But we are pleased that the state is taking this seriously and giving it a thorough analysis.”