Chronology of a Crisis
Fact Sheet: Timeline of Dispute from 2015 to Present
Fact Sheet: Timeline of Dispute from 2015 to Present
- October 29, 2015: Rider University President Greg Dell’Omo and Provost DonnaJean Fredeen give notice of layoff to 14 Westminster Choir College (WCC) tenured faculty and a number of long-time adjunct faculty, and, cancel 13 academic programs with no plan to phase out students who were currently enrolled in those programs. While these layoffs were rescinded after concessions by the AAUP it demonstrates a pattern of reckless behaviors on the part of senior administrators whose actions are indifferent to their adverse impact on students, faculty, and programs
- December 1, 2016: In a meeting of faculty and staff President Dell’Omo announces he plans to close WCC, sell the property, and move the College to Rider’s Lawrenceville campus by fall 2018. Dell’Omo also reveals that the Board of Trustees had begun a study on the fate of WCC in October of 2016 without informing any other stakeholders
- December 9, 2016: WCC alumnus Matt Koller meets with Dell’Omo and posts minutes of the meeting to social media. According to Koller, Dell’Omo acknowledges that selling WCC was an option of the October study.
- December 16, 2016: Rider AAUP issues statement in opposition to the sale of WCC
- March 9, 2017: Dell’Omo address faculty about plans for WCC for and acknowledges that Westminster’s small operating losses are not a major concern. Dell’Omo later reveals that his real motivation is to sell Westminster in order to gain funds for projects on the Lawrenceville campus unrelated to WCC’s mission
- March 28, 2017: The Board of Trustees meets and Dell’Omo announces their plan to sell Westminster Choir College. In subsequent public statements Dell’Omo reveals that he will ask a price of $40–60 million for a type of transaction that has never occurred in higher education. Dell’Omo claims that the Board made its decision at this meeting but the transcript from the March 9th meeting with faculty demonstrates that this decision had already been made.
- March 29, 2017: Prospective student receives notices from Rider admissions informing them that after the 2017-2018 academic year, “it will no longer be feasible to maintain a separate campus in Princeton to house Westminster Choir College and its programs.” The notices contradict Dell’Omo’s previous statement and were reported to have driven away prospective students.
- April 19, 2017: The Rider AAUP announces an overwhelming faculty vote of no confidence in Dell’Omo and his senior financial team.
- May 14, 2017: WCC Dean, Mathew Shaftel, who had raised circa $5.5 million in donor contributions during his brief tenure at the College, announces that he will leave mid-summer to become dean at Ohio University.
- June 20, 2017: Rider University is sued by members of a group of WCC alumni, students and others seeking to block Rider from selling the music school.
- August 17, 2017: The Rider Board of Trustees announces it has begun negotiations with an international buyer and refuses to provide any further details saying that all elements of the discussions would be kept secret.
- August 20, 2017: Students and parents file new legal papers adding a second suit against the sale.
- October 3, 2017: Westminster Dean Marshall Onofrio holds a meeting for WCC faculty and staff during which he reports that the buyer is a for-profit corporation that runs K-12 schools in Asia and has no experience in higher education.
- October 4, 2017: Dean Onofrio informs the WCC faculty that because the buyer’s name and financials remain secret and that it has not yet created a not-for-profit corporation in NJ, accreditation cannot move forward.
- October 9, 2017: At an all WCC meeting forty-six Westminster faculty signs a statement that among other items demanding the name and details regarding WCC’s proposed buyer and refusing to participate in the accreditation process absent full disclosure.
- October 28, 2017: Rider shares the AY 2016–2017 University audit with the AAUP. The audit shows a $5.5 million increase in net assets, a cash surplus, and a $500k operating deficit—belying the University’s dire prediction of a $13 million deficit
- October 31, 2017: All full-time AAUP bargaining-unit faculty at Westminster receive lay-off notices informing them that as of August 31st they will no longer be employed by Rider University.
- On November 1, 2017: Rider announces it will float a $40 million bond on Nov. 14th, the proceeds of which will go to physical improvements on the Lawrenceville campus.
- November 6, 2017: Rider AAUP sends a letter to the Board of Trustees pointing to the disastrous drop in student and faculty morale and calling on them to work with all stakeholders to address the situation.
- November 22, 2017: The AAUP notifies the administration of its intent to arbitrate the “improper layoff” of Westminster faculty on two grounds—(1) the administration did not meet the contractual requirements necessary to trigger layoff and (2) by not properly notifying all members of the bargaining unit, beginning with part-time members per the contract, that the University had made a technical error that forbids it from laying off the notified full-time members.
- November 27, 2017: Dell’Omo and Provost Fredeen report the buyer has still not incorporated as a non-for-profit in New Jersey. President Dell’Omo says that if there is no deal “we will move to closure and the ‘teach-out’ plan.”
- December 14, 2017: The Rider AAUP chooses Alan Symonette as arbitrator and agrees that the arbitration will occur on March 29th and if a second date is needed it will be held on May 2nd.
- January 8, 2018: Rider AAUP files for a temporary injunction to keep Rider from signing a binding agreement to sell prior to the completion of the arbitration so as to not foreclose any options for remedy from the arbitrator.
- February 2, 2018: AAUP’s motion for a temporary injunction against the University is denied.
- February 20, 2018: Princeton Theological Seminary files a suit in New Jersey Superior Court contending Rider’s effort to sell WCC disregards the school’s obligations to Princeton Theological Seminary and the conditions set by the original donor of the land.
- February 21, 2018: Rider University's Board of Trustees announces that it has agreed upon a non-binding term sheet for the purchase of WCC with Kaiwen Education Technology Co., Ltd., a for profit company. Kaiwen Education Technology Co. Ltd. was until January of this year entitled the Jiangsu Zhongtai Bridge Steel Structure Co. Ltd. whose business was described in company papers as fabricating steel components for bridge construction. Kaiwen Education Technology Co. Ltd. owns the Kaiwen Academies, which owns two Chinese for profit K-12 academies established 2-3 years ago. Kaiwen Education Technology Co. Ltd. is controlled by the Badachu Holdings Group, which on its webpage describes itself as “a large state-controlled Beijing-headquartered enterprise.”