Adrian Segar: College board should accept Wootton's offer

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The Marlboro College Board of Trustees is avoiding responding to a generous offer to review possible futures for the school besides their avowed only option: closing the college and giving the entire school endowment ($30 million) and campus ($10 million) to Emerson College.

Will Wootton, who made the offer of the review — to be completed in just 11 days — at the recent special trustee meeting, is uniquely qualified to determine whether other options exist. He is a Marlboro College alumnus, was a senior-level administrator at Marlboro College for 19 years under two college presidents, is the former president of tiny Sterling College, and recently wrote a book about administration of very small colleges.

If the Board of Trustees really believes, as they have repeatedly stated, that they have considered "all possibilities," and closing the school and what they call the "Emerson Alliance" is the only remaining option, then why on earth have they refused to respond to his offer with a simple "yes" or "no"?

What are the trustees afraid of? After all, Wootton has clearly stated that if he and his team conclude that a viable plan that keeps Marlboro College open does not exist, he will publicly state so. The process will be quick — just 11 days — and will not jeopardize any ongoing discussions. The trustees have nothing to lose if they are indeed right and he agrees. And if Wootton should report on a viable plan that preserves the Marlboro College in Vermont, isn't that what everyone, including the trustees, wants?

Privately, the trustees are apparently ready to accept Will's offer. In a December 18 communication to alumna Becca Boyden, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees Dick Saudek wrote: "We'll see if Will or anyone else can come up with a plan that's financially sound and passes muster with our accreditors."

Publicly, the trustees have deceptively characterized the Wootton offer as a request "to share data used in making the decision." However, they know full well that the data they have provided to date — the majority of which is already publicly available — is totally inadequate for carrying out the kind of analysis Wootton would need to perform.

There is no honest rationale for the Marlboro College trustees, who are ethically bound to do their best for the institution, to decline Wootton's pro-bono offer. We ask them to publicly and promptly accept it.

Adrian Segar, a resident of Marlboro, taught at Marlboro College for 10 years. He is the author of a number of books, including "Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love" and "The Power of Participation: Creating Conferences That Deliver Learning, Connection, Engagement, and Action." He can be contacted at adrian@segar.com. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.

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