What happened with Marlboro College was egregiously wrong

SOUTH NEWFANE — On or about July 22, Marlboro College trustees transferred the remaining Marlboro College endowment of $20.250 million to Emerson College in Boston and sold the 366-acre campus including over 50 buildings to Democracy Builders for $225,000, with Democracy Builders assuming a 40-year, $1.5 million note to the Marlboro Music Festival, all for a total of $21.975 million.

In 2019, the value of the Marlboro endowment was listed at $35 million, and the campus valued at $10 million or possibly more, so in less than one year the former $45 million value of the college has been reduced through the actions of the trustees by about $23.025 million, a loss of value of at least 51 percent.

In exchange, Emerson College will create a Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies at Emerson in some building in downtown Boston, employ about 20 former Marlboro College professors, and allow some former Marlboro College students to pay standard fees and enroll in Emerson College. The campus on Potash Hill will see no educational activity for likely two years.

The statement from the trustees and the president cites this accomplishment as a job well done, one necessary to preserve the learning heritage of Marlboro College.

An alternative scenario to this tragedy could have been that the college reduce its expenses to be in line with its income from student fees, donations, endowment income, and use of some endowment until student numbers could again grow, but the president and the trustees were apparently so convinced that this could not happen that they panicked and chose to abruptly have a fire sale, cancelling out the legacy of 74 years of the college's existence, 74 years of building a campus and endowment, 74 years of educating students, 74 years of creating alumni, 74 years of providing a place for educators to teach and do research, 74 years of employing staff and local purchasing, and 74 years of providing benefits as a good neighbor to the town of Marlboro and to Vermont.

The behavior of the Marlboro president and the trustees is so egregiously wrong that it needs to be undone. This may be accomplished through a combination of legal objections to the misuse of trustee responsibility and wide dissemination of what happened here in the court of public opinion.

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