Editor of the Reformer,
I urge the Board of Trustees of Marlboro College to pause in their plan for the college to merge with Emerson. Far from a "merger," the plan looks more like dissolution with a transfer of assets. The campus would be sold and the proceeds transferred to Emerson. The tenured faculty, current students, and the entire Marlboro endowment would be transferred to Emerson as well. Marlboro as it exists, including the core hallmarks of the curriculum, the self-governance model, and its sense of place in the landscape of Vermont, would all disappear. The Marlboro Promise, still advertised prominently on the college website, would be broken.
College leaders have said there are just two options — the "merger" with Emerson or closure. Yet this dichotomous construction belies the hallmarks of Marlboro — critical thinking, bold planning, and the fortitude to carry out ambitious endeavors, all in the context of a supportive community that holds its members accountable. This is, and always has been, Marlboro's formal educational structure. And this is what stands to be lost from the "merge with Emerson or close" dichotomy.
On the 40th anniversary of my first semester at Marlboro, I'm still harvesting the benefits of my college education. I've had successful careers in three different industries. Throughout these careers I've been recognized for my clear writing and incisive thinking and speaking. These are skills cultivated and honed at Marlboro, continuing to pay daily dividends four decades later.
Marlboro is not for everyone — in fact its annual enrollment goals are modest compared to other colleges and universities. But for a student like myself, who started with a list of 100 potential schools and in the end only applied to one, it is irreplaceable. Within our American higher education landscape it is irreplaceable. And within Vermont and New England, Marlboro, in Marlboro, is irreplaceable.
I urge the Trustees to pause, not panic, to think critically, act clearly, use the enduring resources of the Marlboro community (the town, current and former faculty, students, staff, and alumni) and to be bold, developing a third option, one that retains Marlboro's "promise," place, and future in Vermont.
Marlboro class of 1984
St. Paul, Minnesota, Dec. 5