Letter: Secrecy at Marlboro College

By Rebecca Boyden

Rebecca Boyden is a former resident of Marlboro whose father was a teacher, Dean, Trustee and Acting President at Marlboro College for over 30 years

I am profoundly disturbed by the levels of secrecy which are now accepted at Marlboro College. As an institution founded on the principals of transparency that guide the New England Town Meeting, it seems extraordinary to me that the College is taking step after step to keep its community governance and its trustee/administration actions behind closed doors.

Recently, access to the full Town Meeting minutes, which had previously had been shared on various Facebook pages, has been limited to an “abbreviated procedural version”. And now the Emerson College Berkley Beacon student reporters are asked to issue “requests to report on our events to Town Meeting so that the community can deliberate and vote on whether or not to invite their reporters to campus for each individual event”. And, on February 29, the Board of Trustees had a special meeting that was not announced in advance. All this comes after the deal to give the College endowment and campus to Emerson College was crafted in secret in October/November of last year.

This is alarming. A community that once prided itself on openness is actively pushing away the alumni, the faculty emeriti, and the student reporters from the College they are proposing to merge with. The 2/27 Town Meeting minutes state that “community members are concerned about the effect of the Berkeley Beacon’s reporting on the greater Marlboro community in this difficult time, . . . we are concerned that having outsiders present and sharing our words/events/etc. out of context and outside of the community could misrepresent us or harm the community, and we are concerned that people will not feel free to act as themselves if reporters are present.”

I am not concerned about the legality of all these actions. I am just astonished that there is a belief that Marlboro College students need to be protected from the reporters that are their potential classmates, and from the world outside their community. At the risk of generating an ‘OK Boomer’ comment, when I was their age we were sitting-in at Columbia University, we were protesting apartheid at Harvard, we were marching on the Pentagon to protest the Vietnam war.

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The 1968 Spore Amendment to the Marlboro Constitution states:

1. Town Meeting shall not establish religion or prohibit the free exercise thereof.

2. Town Meeting shall not abridge freedom of speech or of the press.

3. Town Meeting shall not abridge the right of its members to assemble peaceably or to petition it for redress of grievances.

4. Town Meeting shall not require conformity of personal political opinion to any community standard; it shall neither establish nor support collective political opinion on matters beyond those enumerated in the Allocation of Powers.

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Censoring and operating in secret is wrong. Marlboro is better than that. Its students are strong and the community deserves to have a full voice in its future.