Editor of the Reformer,
Recently a friend bribed me with a chocolate eclair to attend a meeting at which the "proposed" merger between Marlboro College and the University of Bridgeport was to be presented to the community. I can't say I was delighted at the chance to listen to this informational meeting which was held in the church in Marlboro.
All I know of Bridgeport, Conn., is that it is the town you pass by no matter how exhausted you are to find a cheap room just down the road in Stamford. Lock you doors there also. And that University of Bridgeport went bankrupt some years ago and was saved by Reverend Sung Yung Moon. So I was surprised as you must be that Marlboro College was going to give up its $35 million endowment to U.B. in the hope that they would rescue Marlboro. Apparently U.B. just has bailed out on this merger, I imagine they discovered that this chicken wouldn't be so easy to pluck.
My letter is about with the way this meeting was conducted. The "moderator" started by saying she also moderates a town meeting nearby. She stated she would be translating what people had to say if it wasn't clear. (What!?) She then allowed a panel which consisted of two Marlboro teachers and the college president to hold forth for about 20 minutes about the whys and wherefores of this proposed merger; all well and good.
Then the forum opened up for public comment. An alumnus who had driven from Greenfield, Mass., who is now an accountant spoke about how the numbers did not line up very well in his opinion. After about one minute the Moderator cut him off, saying that other people needed a chance to weigh in on the matter. Unfortunately the next person she acknowledged was another alum who came all the way from San Francisco and who had numerous concerns about potential loss of control by Marlboro to a large cumbersome university which is likely to swallow little Marlboro whole. After two minutes she cut him off also. The next person who spoke was another alum and former Marlboro teacher with similar concerns about how this whole thing was being conducted quietly without transparency. He was answered by one of the people on the stage who was given ample time to ramble through a convoluted explanation. When the teacher/alum asked for a follow up question, he was denied. A woman was then acknowledged who stated her excitement about what this meant for Marlboro but admitted she knew nothing about U.B.
Another alum stated his reservations about the Moonies' policy of gay bashing, stating that he himself was gay and found a supportive atmosphere at Marlboro. The president assured him that all ties with the Moonies had been severed as of May this year. Forget the 20 previous years of affiliation between U.B. and the Moonies.
At this point a Marlboro student was allowed to speak. He stated he was presently a student, he wanted to hear what the former teacher/alum had say and would like to allot his time to him. Request denied. More time given to the three on the stage to make clear that they all felt fine about said merger. It turns out the two professors were guaranteed their jobs by U.B...Interesting.
A Marlboro resident then stated very eloquently his reservations about this whole affair, so well that the college president asked him to repeat what he had just said. He garnered an applause. At this time the Moderator stated that the meeting was over, that their time was up and we needed to vacate the church. Further investigation revealed that this was false, the meeting did not need to be ended by any certain time.
I was rather shocked by the proceedings. I felt I was watching Mitch McConnell preside over a presentation of the old Politburo. This is supposed to be Marlboro College. Oh, by the way, did I mention that the Moderator is a soon to be retired professor at Marlboro? This is the new transparency. If you have nothing good to say, shut up.
Marlboro now has a chance to try to find another way to avoid vaporization. Maybe they should look into finding students from Hong Kong and Seoul as other small progressive schools have; students who are able to pay full tuition and want to escape the oppressive culture of their own institutions. Maybe in the interest of transparency the search committee should inform the alums and the community what is transpiring before presenting it as a done deal. Maybe Marlboro should take advantage of the vast talent represented by its alumni community and ask for input. And perhaps Marlboro's trustees should pay more attention to the administration they are supposed to watchdog.
I give credit to a small group of dedicated alums, retired faculty and concerned locals for pulling this barrel out of the river just before it was about to go over the falls.
South Newfane, Sept. 15