Letter: A response to the Marlboro Board of Trustees

By T. Hunter Wilson, Marlboro College Faculty Emeritus

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The Marlboro College Board of Trustees has received dozens of letters and a petition with nine hundred signatories asking them to accept Will Wootton’s offer (the “challenge”) to spend four days on campus working with senior staff and another seven days to process that work to see whether he could come up with a way forward that did not require closing the college and transferring the assets accumulated over more than seventy years to a very different sort of college in a very different sort of place. They have finally issued a response.

The Board’s official statement persists in pretending that Will’s offer has been accepted, that the necessary information has all been released, and that the Board eagerly awaits Will’s conclusions. Most of the Trustees must know that these things are not really so, as they have received detailed and repeated explanations of what is actually proposed and of Will’s significant qualifications to carry it out. Individual Board members have asked Will questions about what the process would entail and have received answers and reassurances directly from Will.

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Since the members of the Board are intelligent people who have dedicated years of service to the college, it is now obvious that the Board must have signed some sort of agreement with Emerson that prevents them from engaging in the exercise Will proposes and prevents them also from even describing that agreement. Only if Emerson were to relax its requirements for secrecy and non-cooperation would any real opportunity for reconsideration arise.

We are at a crisis point. The Board is beyond persuasion and constructive dialogue, and probably previous appearances of dialogue were a pretense, designed merely to kill time. We must assume now that such an agreement exists and that the Board has effectively abandoned to an Emerson veto their fiduciary responsibility to consider whether better possibilities than closure might exist. That seems a real shame and not in the best interests, at this point, of even the Emerson deal itself, as roughly outlined. It certainly calls into serious question Emerson’s commitment to retaining anything of Marlboro’s “DNA.” Progress requires a new strategy.

T. Hunter Wilson
Marlboro Faculty Emeritus