2/9/20 Selectboard Meeting Minutes

Selectboard Clerk Felix, February 09, 2020

6 February 2020

 

Present: Izzy, Felix, Ariana, Maggie, Seth, Tanner

 

[CLOSED MEETING]

 

Between meetings:

Lydia Nuhfer was granted $60 from the reserve fund for an accessibility device

Annalise Guidry was granted $300 from the reserve fund as a deposit for a summer study abroad program

 

[OPEN MEETING]

 

Izzy: Tanner, are we going to get a treadmill?

 

Tanner: after fighting with that company I was hoping to lease two, it seemed fiscally more responsible, I’m pricing that out as well as what the terms are, if they’re finicky about what kind of treadmill we’re getting, a few companies, the business end, everyone was like “you need to file it this way to order the treadmill”… neither side was willing to just let me do what I wanted, which is fair, I guess, the treadmills I was looking at were like “if you have in your own home,” I was about to just order them, I was going to get in trouble, I didn’t really want that, I would have been ignoring direction from other staff, I’m just working on leasing one now… there’s a gym in town that Randy and I used to work with on equipment, I’m trying to see what it would be to try and lease one… I’ll have an update by our next meeting, should be a quick turnaround from there

 

Maggie: can I ask a tangentially related question? is someone thinking about what is going to happen to our gym equipment? are we going to sell it…

 

Tanner: maybe we’d sell it to the festival, there are some scenarios where everything the college owns stays here and goes on to the next entity, so that could very well be what happens with our gym equipment

 

(talking about what’s in there)

 

Maggie: if I work on language for flags can I bring that to this meeting?

 

(consensus is yes)

 

Tanner: Patrick’s Title IX stuff will be next TM

 

Felix: was that supposed to be on this week’s?

 

Tanner: yes, I took it off becase I knew Patrick wasn’t going to be here that day

 

(Aaron Pilarcik is here)




Felix: we have your emails etc., we’d like to make sure what you do works with Town Meeting, works with you

 

Aaron: I don’t really know how things get to Town Meeting

 

Seth: a couple options, resolution can go through fast, only has resolving power, let people know we’ve resolved something

 

Felix: it’s non-binding, no one has to follow through

 

Seth: the other option is changes to the constitution and bylaws, binding, this is so specifically mission-driven in the moment while the bylaws are more overarching

 

Aaron: so the bylaws govern the community

 

Seth: the other thing related to the nature of the request is in order to serve the purpose in mind, it needs to connect the sentiment of TM to powers outside of TM, it’s about the trustees, wider world, a bylaws change probably wouldn’t reach the trustees

 

Felix: an analogue to this is the key card resolution, where we were telling administration what we wanted rather than changing the bylaws, saying “this is what we want” vs “this is what will happen”… so this would be a better resolution given the involvement of the trustees, I would also be worried about the non-compete clause, it’s more official in the bylaws

 

Aaron: yeah, that’s a concern, I definitely don’t want to make anything worse, the whole idea was we have community governance and then this whole thing became kind of divisive, I thought if people thought they had more of a voice and at least was heard, it would kind of help with that, when people aren’t heard they tend to get more angry and upset, I found bringing this up and talking to people I’m getting a lot of different facts, learning things I didn’t know, I had a really interesting conversation with William Edelglass about why we’re merging, he told me things I hadn’t heard before, there are things I didn’t realize, so that was one of the reasons, the other reason was we have community governance, it felt to a lot of people who are upset about it, I’m just saying this from being in the middle, obviously everyone wants the school to exist but there are a lot of different arguments, people who are upset about the merger felt like it wasn’t community governance, it wasn’t out in the open, we never had the option to try to save the school, I can kind of see why it was made this way, it kind of felt like the decision was made by a small group of leadership, what if they’re not right, and once the school’s closed, it is gone forever, this is a really big decision, we’ve had a lot of community governance things, as a community we’ve decided little things, but this huge decision about the school ending or merging with Emerson, our money being transferred, is a really big deal, it feels like there was no real community governance or community involvement in the school, I think it’s been frustrating to people, it’s kind of what college is all about, open debate, different ideas, we kind of debate things, get things out there, and then come to some kind of conclusion, these are all the ideas I was thinking about when I thought of this idea, once the decision’s made it is final, so if we’re going to debate it now’s the time to do it, it seems like the decision has to be made one way or the other, if we were going to somehow survive there’s a lot that would have to be done, we’d have to have students and money, students that are transfering, for all the freshmen, sophomore, juniors, they need some kind of clarity for what’s going on… it seems like a tricky situation, those are the reasons I thought of the idea, I don’t want to make things harder for any students anyway for sure

 

Tanner: when it actually came to the decision part of this process, our community governance process was not utilized in the capacity it might have been, I do feel like the community governance part of it was the presentations happening since my first year, it was declared we were running a $5 million deficit, there was some pie chart presentation, those numbers are also public, I understand administrators didn’t send out to everyone we know, hey we’ll close if we don’t make more money, our community at least was forewarned that we had to make some budgetary decisions, for the alumni we released we’re doing this Bridgeport thing, if you compare what happened to Hampshire and Sweet Briar, their alumni galvanized immediately, not only as a community but pulled together millions of dollars right away, that’s why they were able to do something else… the community wasn’t pulled in as much as they could have been for fear that it would hurt our ability to recruit students… other indicators where institutions have seen success, we have not had that, those were not pulled together by administration… that’s not to say that our people don’t care as much, it’s just that we can’t take that same leap of faith that other institutions did, especially when we did find an institution that kept our faculty’s jobs, options for students, that’s my take on this whole thing, just like our own governance model, you have to go and vote, you can either trust the media or find things on your own, a lot of people neglected this until a critical point, a lot of what Marlboro’s been doing has been pretty transparent, TM, Selectboard, a lot of ways to stay in touch with what was happening

 

Izzy: I do understand your frustration, I also feel like it wasn’t as transparent as that, last year we had multiple announcements at Town Meetings comparing us to Hampshire, we were told we were in a better place, had years left, we were given explicitly “we are in a much better position,” so it is frustrating, and I also would be concerned about, does someone have more information about accreditation type things? if there’s anything that could be shared that would help?

 

Tanner: like if we don’t do this we lose it

 

Maggie: that’s how I read the December 19 letter… we lose federal funding, financial aid, etc. That’s why I’m not taking part in this side of the conversation

 

Izzy: it’s frustrating, that to me feels a lot more definitive and very sad and I totally understand being frustrated and angry and upset, I know that I personally feel very frustrated with the rhetoric and the announcements last year, and also again this $200 million number that would be needed to keep the school functioning seems so incredibly unrealistic that what I’ve been trying to do is find these little things that will make things better, letting senior 1s walk, giving them a graduation ceremony that they might not have otherwise, doing things to make this not suck as much, that’s my own personal feeling, not as a Selectboard body

 

Seth: three things about transparency problem, Tanner you nailed the insofar as there has been transparency that’s what it’s looked like, why hasn’t there been more? we proclaim ourselves to be a self-governing institution, I believe that, but there’s real limits to that, day-to-day we don’t bump up against those, but bigger it’s really not Town Meeting’s purview to do budget decisions, merger decisions, etc., it’s the trustees’ job, if they want to share it with us, great, if they don’t want to share it with us, that’s on them… second thing is, when it comes to the question of mergers, they have to take their political culture, connect it to potential partners’ culture, Marlboro’s culture is more open than just about any place in the country, but they talked to EY Parthenon, Parthenon puts them in touch with places who said “if you tell people at Marlboro what’s going on before this comes to an end, we’re out, we don’t want that transparency,” as much as the trustees might want it, it’s a deal-breaker. to do the kind of thing that Tanner was talking about, okay there’s faculty on the task force, there’s a student, that’s a long way from “oh we’re talking about it in Town Meeting,” but that’s what they thought they could do… the third thing, the sort of hideous nature of marketing is “everything’s great until you’re dead.” you’re hooked up to the IV’s and the breathing machine, but if you don’t pretend everything’s great you’re already gone

 

Izzy: I definitely understand that

 

Seth: you go back to those conversations and say it’s dishonest, it does feel that way, there was still hope…

 

Tanner: the bad part, totally overlooked it, we had several years to close, could keep accreditation, graduate out everyone we took in, which is different, we have years before we hit that point, but we were not highlighting how close we were to that point

 

Felix: we have years to teach out also might mean we have to stop taking new students now

 

Izzy: and I totally acknowledge that was a last resort of trying to see if we can get this last pull and I understand, I understand it’s the thing you have to do and be so bad for everybody, not honest for the students… because it didn’t work it’s especially hurtful

 

Felix: I want to redirect to the language, I’m not necessarily opposed to this coming to Town Meeting, but it seems like it’s trying to correct things that already happened a little too late…

 

Aaron: I have mixed feelings, I keep talking to people, changes every day, I need to put more thought into it, when I talked to people who saved Hampshire, they said they were told they would lose accreditation, that wasn’t true, just got accredited for 3 years, tripled fundraising, to me I could see that happening at Marlboro if people knew… alums at Home Days were saying they were worried, they were told we’re fine…

 

Seth: we were deep into Bridgeport

 

Izzy: we’d left Bridgeport

 

Tanner: it’d be interesting to know who was telling them that

 

Aaron: this is what was happening, I assume alumni were raising all the money, I assume if people knew we might not make it they would raise a lot of money, if somebody said Marlboro might not survive I would write a much bigger check… when you talk to the Hampshire people it sounds hopeful, we have a healthy endowment to debt ratio, endowment to student ratio, we’ve done a lot of things we’re just lacking in students, we’ve been giving those big discounts, our situation is a lot more hopeful than theirs was, they were in more debt, they’re missing a class, a lot of their fundraising is to make up what they lost, a lot of the alumni are freaking out a little, trying to figure out how to help, I partly wonder could they raise a lot of money, that made me feel hopeful, when I talked to William about it he said things I didn’t realize that I’m still processing, I didn’t realize we were getting a lot of our donations from like 5 really wealthy people and not alumni, I thought it was alumni that was generating that $35 million

 

Tanner: some of our donors are alumni, a majority not so much

 

Aaron: that was important, I guess they did an analysis of all the giving power, that sounds convincing, the five people who are donating are saying they won’t continue

 

Tanner: another piece with NECHE, accrediting body, their credibility is how the accreditation works, with everything that happened there was a change of faith, what would happen with Hampshire, Hampshire students, where Hampshire is with their connection with other institutions is a lot different from where we are, should we fail we really jeopardize our students, with Hampshire if they don’t succeed those students will have someplace to go, that affected the decision, their messaging ended up being different from the messaging we were given, we were all shocked when Hampshire got their letter and got their accreditation, we got our letter and it said we’re done

 

Maggie: I took your language and tweaked it, put it in the Selectboard folder

 

(Maggie’s rewrite)

 

Whereas much work has been done by various committees and the leadership of the school towards the merger, but very little open and meaningful debate about whether this is truly the best option for our community,

 

And whereas for many people, students, staff, and faculty, the merger is not a very good option for many reasons, and many people have come forward with offers to help the school, donate money, provide expertise, and have been turned away

 

Let it be resolved that Town Meeting creates an independent committee that explores the option of keeping Marlboro College open here on Potash Hill:

 

The committee will be composed of:

 

Two students

Two Faculty

Two Staff

Two Alumni

Up to two Marlboro town residents

 

The committee will meet weekly to explore the option of remaining open here on campus. We will report findings to the board of trustees, and give updates at town meeting. All meetings will be completely open to the community.

 

Aaron: that looks good to me, looks like it kind of captures the essence of what I’m thinking

 

Felix: we need to look at how these people are chosen, students, faculty, staff can go through Town Meeting, alums can go through alumni council, Marlboro town residents from town

 

(talking about how to include that, what do we need to add)

 

(updated language:)

 

The committee will be composed of:

 

Two elected students

Two elected Faculty

Two elected Staff

Two Alumni put forward by alumni council

Up to two Marlboro town residents resolved by Marlboro Town Selectboard

 

Aaron: part of what I was thinking is to give people a voice, have a balanced debate, everything’s out there, everyone can see the facts a little more, a healthy debate and then hopefully there’ll be more checks and balances in the process, hopefully people feel happier about the whole thing in the end, if we do have to close it’s good if we really look at everything, I’m not saying that the people who did this haven’t looked at everything, there’s a big divide, a lot of students are really upset too, a lot of people think the administration’s hiding something, I don’t know what’s going on, I’m just a student here, thousands of people signed the Will Wootton letter, William explained why they didn’t accept that challenge, his reasoning was pretty good, a lot of times I’ve played this role, peacekeeper, hearing everybody, maybe I can do that, I think that’s one thing I can do well… it’s changing almost daily because until I talked to William I didn’t realize these things, was sounding more hopeful, talking to Hampshire people, they seemed very hopeful we could turn this around, that’s what I really want, so they thought I was organizing, raising money, if that’s possible, I’d love to do that… my thought is once this decision’s done, it’s a huge decision, and when we transfer everything to Emerson it’s gone, $35 million is a lot of money, was raised for the school, feels like if we’re going to do something now is the time to do it

 

[Tanner: they don’t get $35 million, there’s messaging by Emerson’s president which is to help sell his board on this idea, but if you do the math Emerson loses millions of dollars for at least 4-5 years on supporting the Institute, the money going there is used to support our students and faculty, then you get into the argument of what we’re preserving of Marlboro in doing this, depending where you fall in that that’s what the money is going towards, Emerson has that money, has to use it to pay what parts of Marlboro go…

 

Felix: as a Renaissance scholar I can appreciate that, a lot of people aren’t paying to be here

 

Maggie: and Emerson knows that

 

Tanner: …that number is put out there because it’s kind of our endowment and it’s essentially they’re getting our endowment, they sold it in a much more positive light than it is]

 

Felix: Town Meeting could be a place for this, you’re talking about the discussion between various perspectives, could be a place to get it out in the open

 

Aaron: it would be good to get these facts out…

 

Tanner: they’re visible to some of us, not everyone

 

Aaron: I’ve thought a lot about the division of power, the US government is like that, they kind of did that for the reason that they see in so many countries that rule by dictatorships or kings, rule for the people, they divided things up really carefully, and I feel like that’s kind of one idea here, people who are upset feel like it was just a small group, leadership pushed this through, and everyone else is silenced, I’m not saying that’s true, it’s just the idea, the more I talk about it the more I understand it’s really complex, the idea is kind of that we do have community governance, this way we get all the voices out there, make it balanced and open, I was more hopeful before, now I’m a little more understanding

 

Felix: if this goes to Town Meeting you’ll want a read-in first, read-in next week, vote the 19th… I think this is productive language, will create discussion…

 

Aaron: I know students who aren’t for the merger feel like they can’t speak, some are even told if you speak against the merger you’ll destabilize it, these are all things that have created different divisions, it would be good to have everything open, create a voice, which is what community governance is about, it’s a healthy thing to bring forward

 

(Aaron is leaving, we’re moving on to things Maggie has brought)

 

Maggie: not quite finished, flag resolution… basically all the whereases are the same as the other resolution we brought, I have a bunch of flags that represent many people in this community, what do you think is smarter, should I put up flags that I have, should I not put them up until someone asks…

 

Felix: that’ll take all semester if you go by asking, I say put them all up

 

Maggie: represents broad diversity, not specific

 

Seth: I think this gives you the green light to put up whatever you want

 

Maggie: I said place-based identities because we haven’t just had nation-states, we’ve had Hawaii, Oglala Lakota, etc. …

 

(debate about the word “conversation”, it’s in the abstract sense here)

 

Whereas Marlboro College strives to support a diverse and inclusive learning community;

 

And whereas the feedback from Town Meeting discussions and student conversations support the need for a welcoming atmosphere that is inclusive of students from diverse backgrounds;

 

And whereas immense support has been expressed for flying international flags on campus;

 

And whereas flags can be an opportunity for continued cultural learning;

 

Let it be resolved that Town Meeting supports the International Office in raising flags in the dining hall representing place-based identities. The International Office will facilitate conversation between any community members who may oppose a particular flag.

 

(read-in and vote this week)

 

Maggie: just forecasting the 19th, that week is Career Week, the fashion show would like to be placed at the end of the agenda on the 19th, and then the diversity and inclusion task force would like to at some point in February commemorate 1619, the first year that African slaves were brought to North America with 400 seconds of silence, 6 minutes 40 seconds, I suggested not on the same day as the fashion show, so maybe the 26

 

[TOWN MEETING AGENDA]

 

TM agenda 2/12/2020

 

Graduation Resolution Deliberation

Title IX Report

Exploration of Marlboro’s Future Resolution Read-In

Flag Resolution Read-In and Deliberation

Committee Reports

Announcements

(agenda moved and passed)

 

(Seth is going to stay and talk to Emmanuel)




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