By Anne Levin
Early this month, a petition signed by 130 students and alumni of Westminster Choir College of Rider University was delivered to Rider administration. Complaining of inadequate facilities, decreasing enrollment, and unfulfilled promises since Westminster was moved from its longtime Princeton location to Rider’s Lawrenceville campus last year, the petition demanded an immediate response.
Rider responded with a lengthy email on December 16, addressing the concerns listed in the petition. “Starting at a high level, please know we have invested considerable time and millions of dollars in Westminster Choir College campus transition and the facilities to support it, all in a very challenging fiscal and COVID-impacted environment,” reads the letter, which is signed by Rider President Gregory G. Dell’Omo, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost DonnaJean Fredeen, and Westminster College of the Arts Dean Marshall Onofrio. “We know transitions are hard and often require sustained work to get right. We are continuing our work as explained below.”
While surprised at the length of the administration’s response, one of the students who wrote the petition was less than impressed with its content. “To me, it’s a prime example of gaslighting,” said Marion Jacob, who is pursuing a graduate degree in choral conducting. “It has taken all of our concerns and said they were not valid, exaggerated, or just don’t deserve attention. From every part of this petition, every one of our concerns was ignored. They mention a few things they have changed, but only since they got the petition.”
Westminster’s 22-acre choral campus has been located on Walnut Lane in Princeton since the 1930s. The college became part of Rider in 1992. Four years ago, Rider announced it would sell Westminster and its Princeton campus, saying the institution had been losing money. But the controversial plan was dropped in 2017 after attempts to sell fell through, and last year Rider absorbed Westminster into its Lawrenceville campus. more