Chris Van Buskirk
The Marlboro College Board of Trustees officially approved The Emerson-Marlboro merger on Friday, Marlboro President Kevin Quigley said in a Zoom meeting Saturday, and the deal now awaits approval from the Vermont Attorney General.
The Vermont Attorney General’s Office has a period of 20 days to approve or disapprove of the agreement and can extend that timeline if they wish. If the office takes the full 20 days, the deal will be finalized in the middle of July.
“We did sign the asset exchange agreement with Emerson, and an executed copy along with the public notice and the narrative and other supporting materials were sent to the State Office of Attorney General’s yesterday,” Quigley said in the meeting.
Quigley said the Board discussed the agreement in a previous meeting in May and officially signed the documents Friday.
If approved, the agreement would see all 20 of Marlboro’s remaining tenure and tenure-track faculty move to Emerson, as well as 40-50 remaining Marlboro students. In exchange, Emerson would receive an estimated $22 million, which includes Marlboro’s endowment, after paying debt and severance packages. It also includes the revenue from the sale of Marlboro’s Vermont campus last month to Democracy Builders, a non-profit charter school network.
The sale of the campus will not be finalized until the merger deal is approved because the Attorney General’s Office requested to evaluate the sale of the campus and the asset transfer simultaneously, Quigley said.
The signing comes at a tumultuous time, days after Emerson announced $7 million in COVID-19 related losses in the spring term and projected a $36 to 77 million loss in the 2020-21 fiscal year. Originally, Dean of the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies Amy Ansell said the Marlboro endowment would go toward paying incoming faculty salaries.
Saturday’s announcement does allow Marlboro to begin transferring student and faculty files to Emerson, Quigley said. Emerson was supposed to pay incoming Marlboro professors a summer stipend and provide health benefits, but those details had to be reworked because of COVID-19.
“This delay in the signing of the asset exchange agreement, and the delay on the closing with Democracy Builders on the [sale of the] campus has affected our initial plans that Emerson would provide summer stipends and health benefits for our faculty who are going to Emerson, and that’s 20 of the 20 tenure track faculty,” Quigley said. “Given the delay, we’ve worked so that Marlboro College is providing those summer stipends and the health benefits.”
Some Marlboro students have chosen to transfer to Emerson and will pay the same tuition and room and board costs they did at Marlboro—as long as they don’t defer entry in the fall.
While the pandemic is ongoing and the merger has been delayed, Quigley said he is excited about the future of Marlboro at Emerson. In a confidential document sent from Emerson to The New England Commission of Higher Education, Quigley said Emerson detailed its plans for the Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies.
“When we started our engagement with Emerson, we were hopeful that the impact of Marlboro would go way beyond the Institute,” Quigley said. “And if you saw that document… you would see that it is really their aspiration that the Marlboro Institute has an impact across the curriculum at Emerson.”