Rider University has cleared a legal hurdle in its controversial efforts to sell Westminster Choir College to a still-unnamed foreign buyer. Rider’s faculty union had mounted a legal challenge to the sale and had asked a judge to stop the sale of the music conservancy, which merged with Rider in 1992.
The faculty union brought the lawsuit after Rider sent out a layoff notice in October. The university told faculty that they would continue to work for Westminster if it transferred to new owners, but that the layoff notice had to be issued in case the sale did not go through. The union had asked the court to order a halt to the negotiations until arbitration between Rider and the union could be completed. The next arbitration hearing is scheduled for March 29.
However, U.S. District Court Judge Peter G. Sheridan said the negotiations could continue and that faculty could address their grievances in the arbitration process.
The sale faces at least two other legal challenges. Two different groups, one consisting of alumni and supporters and the other of students and parents, are also suing to stop the sale. One group, represented by attorney Eric Vaughn-Flam, filed a motion to stop the sale on February 10. Princeton attorney Bruce Afran, representing a different group of plaintiffs, filed a suit earlier in the summer.
As the legal battles unfold, Rider is continuing with the negotiations, which are still confidential. (U.S. 1, January 10, 2018.)
In a mid-December meeting, Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo told Rider library administration, faculty, and staff that Rider and the buyer were close to signing a term sheet and that Westminster would continue as part of Rider for the next year, with the sale likely being finalized in January, 2019. He also said afterwards that Rider might continue to partner with Westminster in Rider’s music education program.