LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP — Rider University will not sell its Westminster Choir College to a Chinese company, and instead will move Westminster to Rider's main campus.

Rider announced Monday it and Beijing Kaiwen Education Technology Co., Ltd. agreed not to move forward with the proposed $40 million deal. Rider's Board of Trustees also said it will not put the institute up for sale and will instead "integrate" the choir college into the University’s existing Lawrenceville campus beginning in September 2020 as part of the Westminster College of the Arts.

The College of the Arts will include Westminster Choir College, the School of Fine and Performing Arts and the Westminster Conservatory — all consolidated in Lawrenceville.

"It is not financially feasible to allow Westminster to continue on its present course as a separate, fully operational campus seven miles apart from Rider’s Lawrenceville campus," board Chairman Dr. Robert S. Schimek said.

Rider did not disclose plans to sell the current Westminster Choir College site off Walnut Lane in Princeton, and said it will explore maintaining a 'footprint' in Princeton "dedicated in part to the activities of the conservatory, with possible academic and artistic opportunities for students."

“Throughout this process, we have continually sought to preserve and enhance Westminster’s legacy as a world-class institution, and we made every effort to maintain the College in Princeton,” Rider President Gregory G. Dell’Omo said in a statement. “Given the enormous complexity of the transaction, it became increasingly clear that partnering with an outside entity, even one as well-intentioned as Kaiwen, was not feasible on a viable timeline.”

Two lawsuits opposed the sale. One alleges it violates a 1990s merger between Rider University and Westminster, and could lead to the music school's closing.

The Westminster Foundation, which opposed the sale, said in a statement it is also opposed to the move to Lawrenceville.

Foundation president Constance Fee in a statement said there are no adequate facilities to support the world-class training of Westminster and a move is "unacceptable." Bruce Afran, the foundation's president, said Westminster's specialized facilities in Princeton cannot be replicated and a move would continue to "severely damaged this vaunted music college."

Earlier this year, Republican lawmakers called on the state Legislature to oppose the sale, saying that the "communist Chinese government owned company" could pose a danger to national security.

"With the multitude of world-class scientists, researchers, and institutions located in Princeton, it appears that the Chinese government may be using the guise of academia to infiltrate the choir college for nefarious purposes, including the collection of U.S. intelligence and intellectual property theft," Assemblymen Hal Wirths and Parker Space said in a joint statement this month.

 

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report

Sign up for the WPG Talk Radio 95.5 Newsletter

Get South Jersey news and information e-mailed to you every week.