Marlboro College Selectboard to restrict access to detailed Meeting minutes

Marlboro+College%27s+dining+hall+surrounded+by+snow+in+early+February.

Marlboro College’s dining hall surrounded by snow in early February.

By Jacob Seitz, Senior Marlboro Reporter

MARLBORO, VT—Marlboro College’s Selectboard will no longer release detailed minutes of the college’s weekly Selectboard and Town Meetings, according to a statement from Selectboard.

Selectboard—the body comprised of Marlboro students, faculty, and staff that governs and runs Town Meeting—has released extremely detailed minutes from weekly meetings since Sept. 2019, when Felix Bieneman took over the role of Selectboard Clerk. The decision to cease publicization of detailed minutes was announced in a precursive statement found in the Selectboard Meeting minutes from Thursday.

“In light of recent events, Selectboard has made the decision to circulate a more abbreviated procedural version of the minutes for both Selectboard and Town Meetings,” the statement reads. “The transcript-style minutes still exist but will not be shared outside of the immediate members of the respective bodies of Selectboard and Town Meeting.”

The new minutes—the first of which were published on Thursday—provide a detailed account of what is covered in the Selectboard meetings, but do not provide specific quotes or discourse. Head selectperson Charlie Hickman could not elaborate on what drove the decision but said that Marlboro as a community is under more of a microscope than before.

“We were never expecting for these minutes to be publicized in the way they are,” they said in an interview with The Beacon. “Before the merger, our minutes were not used in newspaper articles or posted in full in Facebook groups.”

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Past minutes have included key details related to the Emerson-Marlboro merger proceedings. Selectboard is in charge of “community leadership, running the community government and representing student interests,” according to the Selectboard website.

In the past three months, Selectboard minutes have detailed the announcement of the Emerson-Marlboro merger, students’ concerns for the future of the Vermont campus, Emerson College President M. Lee Pelton’s visit to Potash Hill, and detailed how Emerson’s proposed tuition increase will affect Marlboro students.

Hickman said they encourage people who want to receive information released in Town Meeting to come to the meetings themselves.

“I think there is something very important about being in the room when these statements are made because there is so much lost in translation,” they said.

Section 3, Article D of the Marlboro College Community Constitution—which lays out requirements for the positions on Selectboard—charges Selectboard Clerk with keeping minutes at Selectboard and Town Meetings and posting them for access by the external community—but the structure and specificity of those minutes are not stated.

Hickman cited this clause, saying Bieneman—who has been Clerk for four semesters—keeps minutes in detail unlike any prior clerks.

“Felix is incredible at typing very fast and getting these things down,” Hickman said. “And that’s not a skill that is shared by all of the clerks for Selectboard.”

Hickman said the most important updates about the transition would still be included in the abbreviated minutes but recommended that alumni who would like access to full transcripts email the Selectboard and specify why they would want the full minutes.

A more formal announcement of the new minutes procedures will happen at the next Town Meeting, Hickman said, which is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 26.