Newly publicized Emerson-Marlboro transfer agreement reveals new details of proposed merger

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Media: Jakob Menendez

An Asset Transfer Agreement, signed by Emerson and Marlboro, revealed that Emerson expects to receive just over $20 million from the merger.

Marlboro and Emerson signed an Asset Transfer Agreement last week, which lays out final terms for student accommodations, faculty transfers, and finances, including details about the anticipated $20.25 million sum Emerson expects to receive from the merger. 

The 78-page Asset Transfer Agreement, filed by Marlboro on June 26, details the inner workings of Emerson’s planned absorption of Marlboro and the new, renamed Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies.

The agreement marks the second to last step in a months-long merger that has received spirited scrutiny from Marlboro alumni, who made continuous attempts to stop the deal and save Marlboro and its hilltop Vermont campus. 

The agreement awaits approval from the Vermont Attorney General’s office. A decision is expected by the middle of July. 

Finances

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Marlboro’s “Closing Asset Target Amount”—the amount of money they hope to give to Emerson—is $20,250,000, according to the documents. That money will include the funds from the sale of the Marlboro campus to Democracy Builders, which plans to offer a hybrid college education at the site. 

The money does not include the separate scholarship funds created by Marlboro to help partially cover room and board costs for its students transferring to Emerson. Emerson initially expected to receive $40 million from Marlboro, including the college’s endowment and the campus, which was valued at $10 million in November.

The agreement also specified how Emerson may spend Marlboro’s unrestricted assets versus those provided, and thereby controlled, by donors. 

Assets from donors must be spent within the new Institute in a way that meets restrictions set by a state government or specific donor. If Emerson believes it is not possible to use the restricted assets as they were intended in the Institute, those assets can be released for Emerson to use completely as they wish by the donor or court order in some cases.

According to the documents, Emerson will spend the transferred, unrestricted financial assets—those not constrained by donor terms—on the Institute and related costs, like salaries, financial aid for Institute students, and program costs. 

As part of the agreement, two Marlboro Board of Trustees members will be appointed to the Emerson’s 35-person Board of Trustees for at least a three-year term—equal to the normal tenure of an Emerson trustee.

Students

Emerson will accept all Marlboro students who wish to come to Emerson as long as they are in good standing with the college and have no “documented history of egregious conduct.” 

As part of the agreement, Emerson agrees to charge those students the same unique net tuition they paid at Marlboro, with scholarships and institutional financial aid factored in, subject to yearly rate increases at Emerson. If Marlboro students wish to study away for a semester at Emerson’s Los Angeles, Kasteel Well, or Washington, D.C. programs or transfer out of the Institute, they will forfeit that financial benefit and pay full Emerson tuition. 

Emerson also agrees to offer all Marlboro students on-campus housing for the 2020-21 academic year. Those coming to Emerson as sophomores will also be guaranteed housing for the 2021-22 academic year, and all incoming students will be eligible for the optional housing lottery their senior year. 

Marlboro students will be subject to full Emerson room and board costs—about $5,555 more per student than at Marlboro. However, Marlboro agreed to allocate funds to pay the difference for incoming students. If those funds do not cover the disparity, Emerson agrees to disperse them evenly but does not have to use its own funding to cover room and board costs. 

Marlboro also agrees to “use its good faith efforts to solicit and collect donations and bequests” to the Institute and aid in recruiting current Emerson students for the Institute.

Faculty

Incoming tenured faculty from Marlboro will be appointed associate professors, and tenure-track professors will have their “tenure clock” reset upon entering Emerson—they will be appointed assistant professors. Those faculty will not be eligible for tenure until their third year at the college. Incoming tenured professors will be eligible for promotion to full professor after five years. 

Emerson agrees to pay the incoming faculty at or above the salary they received at Marlboro, which has similar salary rates as Emerson, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Marlboro agrees to provide those faculty with a summer stipend of an undisclosed amount to aid in the transition and will continue to provide them health insurance through July. 

However, the agreement does not specify how long Emerson must keep these professors, meaning they could be subject to any faculty layoffs that may come as a part of cost-saving measures implemented by the college due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The agreement also details the major requirements for Institute students as well as four new classes created in the Institute. 

Ways of Knowing will be taken by all first-years and offers the chance for students to “learn how to pursue a genuine question and evaluate evidence in the liberal arts.” There are also two new seminars being introduced, focusing on “Project-Based Learning” for sophomores and “Theories, Sources, and Methods” for juniors. A new, more individualized Capstone class for seniors, which includes a committee-evaluated oral examination in the spring term, will be similar to Marlboro’s Plan of Concentration presentations, which is similar to a thesis defense.

The documents also lists the titles of over 650 textbooks and teaching materials faculty will have transferred from Marlboro to Emerson. 

Emerson will also keep all Marlboro email addresses operational until three years after the closing date.