Rider University’s proposal to sell the Princeton campus of Westminster Choir College has provoked a backlash from some students and alumni. The “Coalition to Save Westminster Choir College in Princeton” launched on December 15 and is composed of students, parents, and alumni who want to keep the music school at its current location on Walnut Lane rather than consolidate it with the main Rider campus on Route 206.
In early December Rider president Gregory Dell’Omo said Rider was studying whether to relocate the choir college as part of an effort to find $7.8 million in savings to fill a budget gap. Dell’Omo said the “one-campus model” was only a study, and that no final decision had been made. He said the goal of the study was to “determine whether the movement of Westminster’s academic programs to Lawrenceville could result in a more robust, renowned and comprehensive Westminster College of the Arts.” He said that Rider has considered moving Westminster several times in the past but decided against it. Westminster moved to Princeton in 1932 and its current campus in 1934. It has been part of Rider since 1992.
Some students and alumni are mobilizing opposition to the relocation, launching an online petition to keep the Princeton campus open and forming the Coalition to save Westminster Choir College.
The coalition has already taken action. Jonathan Lakeland, a Westminster alumnus and coalition member, is making a bid to win historic district status for the Walnut Lane property. The Princeton Historic Preservation Commission is scheduled to discuss the issue in a special meeting on Thursday, January 5. Making the 28-acre campus a historic landmark would impose usage restrictions.
“The Coalition to Save Westminster Choir College in Princeton vehemently opposes the move, and believes that there is no realistic plan which could accommodate the needs of Westminster Choir College in a new location, nor the available funds to provide for such a move,” the coalition said on its website, www.savewestminster.org.
Among the organizers of the group are Constance Fee, president of Westminster’s alumni association, and Matthew Koller, the father of a student.