Two decades ago, Rider College was hailed as a savior in the music world when it acquired neighboring Westminster Choir College, a beloved but struggling institution in downtown Princeton. It was vital, Rider officials said, to sustain a storied history replete with students who had sung on the original “Fantasia” soundtrack, and worked with Bernstein and Toscanini.

二十年前莱德学院(Rider College)买下了邻近的威斯敏斯特合唱学院(Westminster Choir College),那是普林斯顿市中心的一所深受喜爱但陷入困境的学院,当时人们纷纷称颂莱德是音乐界的救世主。管理层表示,延续学院的显赫历史是十分重要的,那里的学生曾参与首版《幻想曲》(Fantasia)原声轨录制,还曾与伯恩斯坦(Bernstein)和托斯卡尼尼(Toscanini)合作。

Rider’s latest plan for Westminster has struck a far more discordant note.

然而,莱德学院对威斯敏斯特学院的最新计划,与当时的想法大相径庭。

Facing what it says are daunting fiscal challenges, Rider, now a university, hopes to sell Westminster to a for-profit Chinese company for $40 million. Under the proposal, the buyer, Beijing Kaiwen Education Technology, would maintain the choir college’s programs and staff in Princeton, while seeking to franchise the Westminster name.

现在已变成大学的莱德称它正面临可怕的财务困难,希望以4000万美元的价格将威斯敏斯特卖给一家营利性的中国公司。根据提议,买家北京凯文教育技术公司将保留该学院在普林斯顿的课程和教职员工,同时打算发展威斯敏斯特的品牌特许经营。

“It’s like passing on your child to the next parent and saying they can give them a better future than we can give them,” said Gregory G. Dell’Omo, Rider’s president. “Yes, it’s sort of a tough, sad decision, but it’s almost tough love.”

“这就像把你的孩子转给另一位家长,认为他们可以给孩子一个更好的未来,比我们所能给的更好,”莱德大学的校长格雷戈里·G·戴洛莫(Gregory G. Dell’Omo)说。“是的,这是一个艰难、悲伤的决定,但差不多是种出于爱的狠心吧。”

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But some Westminster and Rider professors, armed with fresh financial data, question Kaiwen’s experience in higher education. Many have also lost confidence in Dr. Dell’Omo, a former human resources executive in the retail industry, who took office in August 2015.

不过,威斯敏斯特和莱德的一些教授根据最近的财政数据质疑凯文在高等教育方面的经验。许多人也对戴洛莫失去了信心,他原是零售行业的人力资源主管,于2015年8月上任。

“Rider is not in crisis: that is a pure scare tactic to justify what he wants to do, which is get a windfall of money,” said Jeffrey R. Halpern, a sociology professor and longtime official with the Rider chapter of the American Association of University Professors. “He really epitomizes what we’d call the corporatization of American higher education.”

“莱德并没有陷入危机:这纯粹是一种恐吓战术,为他想做的事找理由,他是想赚一笔意外之财,”社会学教授、在美国大学教授协会(American Association of University Professors)莱德分部任职多年的杰弗里·R·哈尔彭(Jeffrey R. Halpern)说。“他其实是我们所说的美国高等教育公司化的典型体现。”

The existential battle over Rider and Westminster, eight miles apart, comes as many colleges, especially those with only local or regional reputations, confront shrinking demographics and declining government support.

莱德和威斯敏斯特相隔八英里。在两校为生存而挣扎的同时,很多大学,尤其是那些只有地方或地区声誉的大学,面临着入学人数和政府支持的缩减。

Outside Boston, Mount Ida College, a private college founded in 1899, closed in April. In Pennsylvania, the RAND Corporation just urged major changes or even consolidation at state colleges. In northern New Jersey, Drew University, reeling from credit rating downgrades, slashed tuition by 20 percent last fall, in hopes of boosting enrollment.

1899年在波士顿郊外成立的私立大学艾达学院(Mount Ida College)于今年4月关闭。在宾夕法尼亚州,兰德公司(RAND Corporation)刚刚敦促几个州立大学进行重大改革,甚至是合并。在新泽西州北部,受信用评级下调影响的德鲁大学(Drew University)去年秋天为了鼓励学生申请,将学费降低了20%

For Westminster and its 439 students, the next few months could be the most pivotal yet.

对威斯敏斯特以及它的439名学生来说,接下来的几个月可能是最关键的。

A group of Westminster alumni sued Rider in Federal District Court in Manhattan in June 2017, arguing that a sale would violate the Rider-Westminster merger. The Princeton Theological Seminary contended in state court in February that the sale would break a promise made by the original donor of the land, to which it could lay claim. Meanwhile, another group of alumni, faculty, parents and donors, concerned about the Kaiwen transaction, just established a new nonprofit, The Westminster Foundation, Princeton, N.J., “to ensure the continued existence” of Westminster.

2017年6月,威斯敏斯特的一群校友在曼哈顿联邦地区法院起诉莱德,称出售将违反莱德与威斯敏斯特的合并协议。今年2月,普林斯顿神学院(Princeton Theological Seminary)在州法院提出,这项交易将违背对最初的土地捐赠者所做的承诺,它可以对这片土地提出权利主张。与此同时,另一群对凯文的交易感到担忧的校友、教师、家长和捐赠者刚刚成立了一个新的非营利组织——新泽西州普林斯顿威斯敏斯特基金会(Westminster Foundation),“以确保该校继续存在”。

Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

The uncertainty has already chilled interest in Westminster, where annual tuition is $37,650: the incoming class of freshmen and graduate students is expected to be half the normal size of roughly 110, faculty members estimate.

这种不确定性已经降低了学生对威斯敏斯特的兴趣。该校一年的学费为37650美元。据教师们估计,新生和研究生规模将是平常的约110人的一半。

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“It’s tough — I know what the college is going through, and there are not a lot of alternatives right now,” said former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean, who served as Drew’s president from 1990 to 2005, and has been active in efforts to preserve Westminster. “This is one of the best schools of its kind — not just in the state, but the country and the world. To lose it would be a tragedy.”

“这是个艰难的选择,我知道这个学院正在经历什么,现在它没有很多选择,”前新泽西州州长托马斯·H·基恩(Thomas H. Kean)表示。他曾于1990年至2005年担任德鲁大学的校长,一直在积极努力保护威斯敏斯特。“它是它所在的领域最好的学校之一,不仅是在新泽西州,而且是在美国和全世界。失去它会是一个悲剧。”

Founded in 1920 in a Presbyterian church in Dayton, Ohio, Westminster relocated to Ithaca, N.Y., before settling in Princeton in 1932. While it lacks the cachet of New York’s Juilliard School or Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music, Westminster has trained many singers affiliated with the Metropolitan Opera, as well as scores of choral directors and music teachers.

威斯敏斯特最初是1920年在俄亥俄州代顿市的一所长老会教堂成立的,后来迁往纽约州伊萨卡,最后于1932年搬到了普林斯顿。虽然没有纽约的茱莉亚学院(Juilliard School)或费城的柯蒂斯音乐学院(Curtis Institute of Music)的威望,但它培养了许多大都会歌剧院(Metropolitan Opera)的歌唱家,以及许多合唱指挥和音乐教师。

In the early 1990s, though, the college nearly closed in the face of mounting debt, declining enrollment and deteriorating facilities. Along came Rider, a private college which hoped to expand into the arts.

但是,在上世纪90年代初,由于债务不断增加、入学人数不断减少、设施不断老化,这所学院几近倒闭,遂被想涉足艺术领域的私立学院莱德并购

After the 2008 recession, however, Rider’s enrollment fell by 12 percent, before rebounding slightly in 2016. Now, with 88 percent of its revenue coming from students, the university relies more on tuition than its peers, according to Moody’s Investor Service, which revised its outlook for Rider to negative in November, citing the potential impact of the Westminster sale.

不过,在2008年的经济衰退之后,莱德的入学率下降了12%,2016年略有反弹。根据穆迪投资者服务公司Moody’s Investor Service)的数据,莱德目前有88%的收入来自学生,所以,它比其他同行更依赖学费。去年11月,穆迪以出售威斯敏斯特的潜在影响为根据,将莱德的前景调整为负面

“As part of our financials, and our strategy going forward, we cannot make the kind of investments that Westminster needs,” said Dr. Dell’Omo, who previously served as president of Robert Morris University, outside Pittsburgh.

“作为我们财务以及未来战略的一部分,我们无法做出威斯敏斯特所需的投资,”戴洛莫说,此前他在位于匹兹堡郊外的罗伯特·莫里斯大学(Robert Morris University)担任校长

Dr. Dell’Omo has pushed to incorporate more “higher-demand career” programs, such as computer science and sports management into Rider’s offerings. When he revived a proposal to move Westminster to Rider’s main Lawrenceville, N.J., campus, and sell the 23-acre Princeton parcel, irate faculty, students and alumni said the acoustics and intimate milieu could not be replicated.

戴洛莫已推动将更多“需求更高的职业”课程纳入到莱德提供的课程中,例如计算机科学和体育管理。他重启了将威斯敏斯特搬到莱德的新泽西州劳伦斯维尔主校园的方案,并出售位于普林斯顿的这块23英亩的校区,这激怒了教师、学生和校友们,他们表示那里的声学环境和私密氛围无法复制。

Rider then approached other colleges — Princeton, Juilliard, Oberlin, and the like — about taking over Westminster, but no offers materialized because the choir school may have been “too much of a niche market,” Dr. Dell’Omo said. The only viable offers came from overseas, he said, and Kaiwen, a publicly traded company on the Shenzhen stock exchange, had the most impressive plan.

之后,莱德又与普林斯顿、茱莉亚、欧柏林(Oberlin)等学校进行接触,希望它们接管威斯敏斯特,但是没有收到任何报价,因为这个合唱学校可能“对于这个小众市场来说太大了”,戴洛莫说。他说,仅有的几个可行报价来自海外,而深圳证券交易所上市公司凯文给出了最出色的方案。

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Kaiwen runs two international K-12 schools in Beijing, and has partnered with the Manchester City soccer club and Major League Baseball on sports education. So the company was particularly interested in the Westminster Conservatory of Music, which gives music lessons to children and adults, and Westminster Continuing Education, which primarily runs on-campus summer programs.

凯文在北京经营着两所K-12国际学校,并与曼城足球俱乐部和美国职业棒球大联盟合作进行体育教育。因此,该公司对威斯敏斯特这所为儿童和成人提供音乐课程的音乐学院特别感兴趣,此外还有它的威斯敏斯特继续教育(Westminster Continuing Education)计划,以校园夏季课程为主。

“They understand the idea of branding,” Dr. Dell’Omo said. One thought is that Kaiwen would start new Westminster schools in other places.

“他们理解品牌塑造,”戴洛莫说。目前的想法之一是由凯文在其他地方开办新的威斯敏斯特学校。

Under the deal, Rider would still run Westminster for the next academic year, and Kaiwen, operating as a nonprofit locally, would honor Rider’s student aid packages. Two consultants based in the United States with experience in accreditation and music education are aiding the transition, and PwC, formerly known as PricewaterhouseCoopers, is vetting Kaiwen, Dr. Dell’Omo added.

根据协议,威斯敏斯特的下一个学年仍将由莱德管理,学生的助学金将由以非营利机构身份在当地开展业务的凯文承付。戴洛莫还说,两位有资格认证和音乐教育经验的美国顾问正在协助完成转交工作,普华永道会计师事务所正在对凯文进行审计。

One of Kaiwen’s top shareholders is Badachu Holdings, a state-controlled enterprise. One person listed as a director at both Kaiwen and Badachu is Xu Huadong, who held leadership positions within the Chinese People’s Liberation Army from 1978-2000.

凯文的最大股东之一是由国家控股的八大处控股集团。在凯文和八大处均被列为董事的徐华东,1978年至2000年曾在中国人民解放军内担任领导职务

Kaiwen declined an interview request, saying it was “inappropriate for Kaiwen Education to comment on any pending transactions.”

凯文拒绝了采访要求,称“凯文教育对任何未决交易发表评论是不恰当的”。

But in an interview with Chinese media in March, Xu Guangyu, Kaiwen’s chairman, a choral singer in college, talked about how Westminster would be “an important part” of a globalization strategy to offer a broad “quality education.” Mr. Xu also said that “whether it is our music education resources or our sports resources, everything is shared.”

但在3月份接受中国媒体采访时,凯文的董事长,曾在大学参加过合唱团的徐广宇,谈起了威斯敏斯特如何成为该公司提供广泛“素质教育”这一全球化战略的“重要组成部分”。徐广宇还说“无论说是我们的音乐教育资源、体育教育资源,方方面面都是共享的。”

Chinese companies are increasingly eying education-related mergers following the early, though not sustained, success of Qtone Education Group in 2015. But for Kaiwen, “the prospects of profit are not optimistic” because of the company’s weak revenues.

继2015年全通教育集团早早获得成功后(虽然未能持续下去),中国企业日益留心与教育相关的合并活动。但对凯文来说,“盈利前景并不乐观”,因为公司的营收状况低迷。

Rider faculty are even more dubious. In a new report, three current and retired professors, relying on public data, flag Kaiwen’s high debt and negative cash flow, and criticize Dr. Dell’Omo and Rider’s board of trustees for “a failure to perform due diligence and carry out fiduciary responsibilities.”

莱德的教职员工感到更加怀疑。在一份新报告中,三位现任及退休教授根据公开数据指出了凯文的高负债和负现金流,并批评戴洛莫和莱德董事会“没有履行尽职调查义务及信托责任”。

莱德大学校长格雷戈里·G·戴洛莫表示,出售威斯敏斯特“这就像把你的孩子转给另一位家长,认为他们可以给孩子一个更好的未来,比我们所能给的更好”。
莱德大学校长格雷戈里·G·戴洛莫表示,出售威斯敏斯特“这就像把你的孩子转给另一位家长,认为他们可以给孩子一个更好的未来,比我们所能给的更好”。 Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

“To claim that Rider is likely to fail or collapse is an absurd characterization of the financial situation of Rider University,” wrote Howard J. Bunsis, a professor of accounting at Eastern Michigan University, in a 28-page analysis of Rider’s finances, commissioned by the faculty union.

受教员工会委托的东密歇根大学(Eastern Michigan University)会计学教授霍华德·J·班西斯(Howard J. Bunsis)在一份28页的莱德财务分析报告中写道:“宣称莱德可能破产或倒闭,是对莱德大学财务状况的荒谬表述。”

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On campus, where Westminster’s motto is “spectemur agendo,” or “let us be judged by our deeds,” many students said that they were skittish, particularly if future enrollment plummets.

威斯敏斯特的校训是“spectemur agendo”,意思是“根据我们的行为来评判我们”,许多学生说他们担惊受怕,特别是如果未来入学率暴跌的话。

But Ingrid Clarfield, a longtime professor of piano, said she was cautiously upbeat. After attending a recent Music Teachers National Association conference, she was heartened by educators with experience in China.

但长期担任钢琴教授的英格丽德·克拉菲尔德(Ingrid Clarfield)表示谨慎的乐观。在前不久的音乐教师全国协会会议上,一些曾赴中国执教的教育工作者令她感到鼓舞。

“I said, give it to me straight, and they felt this would be a very beneficial move for both Westminster and Kaiwen,” she said. “I really need to believe strongly in this.”

“我说,你们就跟我直说吧,他们认为这对威斯敏斯特和凯文都会是非常有利的举措,”她说。“我真的需要坚信这一点。”