Layoff notices were distributed to every member of Westminster Choir College’s full-time faculty on Nov. 1.
Westminster Choir College, Rider University’s musical branch that lies just a short walk from the University, has been facing a rough year. The layoffs, which will take effect on August 31, 2018, come after Rider University’s Board of Trustees decided to divest from the Choir College, . A new buyer of Westminster was announced by the Board in August 2017, but the buyer’s identity is still unknown and has been described only as an Asian for-profit education corporation.
In a letter to the Rider University community, Rider President Gregory G. Dell’Omo emphasized that although he expects Westminster’s new owners to continue the faculty’s employment, the details have not been finalized, and layoffs may be necessary if the purchase is not successful.
“In the event a transaction is not consummated, it may be necessary to transition to closure,” writes Dell’Omo. “This process would decrease the size of the student body, and thus create the need to concurrently reduce the size of the workforce.”
Dell’Omo expects that a final decision will be reached by the end of the 2017-2018 academic year in May 2018.
Current Westminster students have displayed frustration over the chaos that has ensued since the news of the pink slips was released. Corinne Berntsen, secretary for Westminster’s class of 2019 who was interviewed in previous 'Prince' coverage of Westminster, found the reaction to be more disturbing than the event itself.
“My observation, as a student, is that when it seems as if there is new or mixed information, an explosion of anxiety on campus is created,” said Berntsen. “It is very important to support us no matter the distance, but as a student, my wish is that instead of enforcing negative energy that could possibly deter a buyer, it would be a better use of time putting positive energy towards the current students and campus.”
Additionally, Westminster alumni across the country have expressed their outrage at the abrupt announcement of the wide-scale faculty layoffs.
“Westminster is a true cultural treasure,” Suzanne Anderson, a member of Westminster Class of 1997, said. “What Rider's president and the trustees are attempting to do is a slow motion crime in progress.”
In reaction to the layoff notices, union leaders held a news conference on Nov. 2 at 1:00 p.m. in Taylor Hall on the Westminster campus.