Accept Will Wootton's Challenge or Clearly and Publicly Reject It

Accept Will Wootton's Challenge or Clearly and Publicly Reject It

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Amy Tudor
Amy Tudor signed this petition

During the Public Comment portion of the December 14 Marlboro College Board of Trustees meeting, long-time former staff member and alumnus Will Wootton [1] issued the board a simple challenge: 

"It has been stated publicly and reaffirmed repeatedly by the College Board of Trustees and the administrative leadership that there is no alternative for Marlboro but the Emerson Solution. President Quigley said the other day, about whether the College could figure out a way to carry on, ‘The Trustees explored that option extensively, an option that was everyone’s preferred option. There is no credible evidence to suggest that Marlboro can make it on its own.’ 

I’ve not seen that evidence, or lack of it. 

Thus, […] I hereby Challenge the Marlboro College Board of Trustees – in the Name of Integrity, Honesty, Forthrightness, and Fair Dealing – to a Contest of Administrative Plans and Projections.

THE CHALLENGE

Give me and my small team, including senior members of the Marlboro staff, four days and a working space on campus and access to the evidence the Board of Trustees did examine, the financial spreadsheets and projections, any analysis of the impact of downsizing on student life, academic integrity, and admissions and retention expectations, and within seven days we will deliver to the Board a report showing how the College can welcome a new class in September, and begin building for the future…”[2] 

After the December 14 announcement of Mr. Wootton’s challenge, the board indicated that a response would be forthcoming.[3]

Many alumni and other community members wrote during December to urge the board to accept the challenge. However, official communications from the Board in ensuing weeks left the community, including Will Wootton, in doubt as to the board’s position. It has not been clearly stated whether the challenge was rejected or, in some alternative form, accepted. 

Many faculty, alumni, and others in the wider community are under the impression that the Board has accepted the challenge. Mr. Saudek and Mr. Quigley's letter[4] implies that the Board is waiting for an answer from Will. In an email to a professor emeritus T. Wilson, the Chairman said, “We had intended that our previous letter convey that we ‘accepted’ the ‘challenge’ and were releasing the information – some of which wasn’t public – so he could do his work.” 

However, the Board's response avoided meeting the challenge in two critical ways: First, the Board has not shared the specific raw data mentioned in the challenge; Second, the Board hasn’t provided 4 days of access to senior staff and working space on campus, as included in the challenge. The failure to provide those elements is a de facto rejection of the challenge. The publicly released information is inadequate for the work Will has offered to undertake, let alone to be considered as a basis for the Board’s decision to merge.[5]

If the board cannot accept the challenge than it must clearly and publicly reject the challenge. If the board is not agreed, we urge those in support of the challenge to say so publicly.

We, the undersigned, urge the Board of Trustees of the Corporation of Marlboro College to accept Will Wootton’s challenge as issued, clearly and publicly by January 15, 2020. 

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NOTES: 

[1] Will Wootton, class of 1972, was an administrator at Marlboro for nearly two decades between 1983 and 2002 and president of Sterling College in Craftsbury between 2006 and 2012. He is the author of "Good Fortune Next Time: Life, Death, Irony and the Administration of Very Small Colleges."

[2] The full proposal http://bit.ly/WillWoottonChallenge

[3] Open Letter from Marlboro College Board of Trustees to the Marlboro Community on and off the Hill, December 16, 2019 https://www.marlboro.edu/community/news/what-is-next-for-marlboro/updates/?id=42&fbclid=IwAR29os-HilLKMT9LLf5wtuUvZKOgQRHDdv69wmagNlObq3zabG3vtJT0xLw

[4] Letter sent to alumni and community members replying to their request to accept Will Wootton’s challenge: https://docs.google.com/document/d/10bLoRH3uf2f0TjEBFB2jeXJYd60rd4gd752V0TWTTTg/edit?usp=sharing

[5] Board’s release of information: https://www.marlboro.edu/community/news/whats-next-for-marlboro/institutional-data/