By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
MONTPELIER -- Vermont State Colleges System Chancellor Jeb Spaulding said this morning that he has pulled the plug on his proposal to shutdown college campuses in Johnson, Lyndon and Randolph Center.
Spaulding had proposed shifting liberal arts at Johnson and Lyndon to Castleton University in Rutland County. In addition, the longtime Vermont Technical College campus in Randolph Center would close and programs moved to its campus in Williston.
“Our Board of Trustees heard loud and clear from thousands of students, employees, communities, and the State’s elected leadership and determined that my recommendations would be damaging on many levels and would not be acceptable. I accept their judgement,” Spaulding said in his announcement.
The move came after the state college trustees held an emergency meeting on Tuesday evening. It was actually a continuation of a meeting that began on Monday and was filled with comments from students, faculty and staff.
More than 26,000 people signed an online petition over three days following Spaulding’s proposal being made public on Friday.
“Indications are positive that the State leaders will be assisting us to get through the immediate problem, although we are not sure of exactly how at this time, said Spaulding, a former state treasurer and ex-state senator from Washington County.
Gov. Phil Scott at his regular news conference on Monday was cautious about the news. Scott said the lack of revenue and the ongoing declining pool of possible students remain serious concerns.
Scott said the financial pressures from the deadly COVID-19 virus also remain on the table as Vermont tries to rebound.
The Governor had questions about the plan, including the financial impact on Central Vermont by closing the Randolph campus and moving it to Chittenden County, which is doing well financially. He said he would like to try to protect the more rural areas.
Scott pledge to work with all parties -- his cabinet, the legislature, the faculty, staff and alumni of the state colleges, local community and business leaders and others -- to see what might be done.
Spaulding apparently agreed with some of the thoughts by the Governor.
“I am taking this action with strident caution that the current configuration of the Vermont State Colleges is not sustainable; it cannot continue for long. Through whatever process we define a more workable solution to this problem, it will surely be disruptive to the VSC’s current mix of 4 colleges and universities and 5 campuses.”
Spaulding, a former state treasurer, added he will begin work immediately to formulate a new proposal, which will include seeking input from the Legislature, the administration, and community and campus leaders.
Board Chair J. Churchill Hindes of Colchester said the trustees will continue to work in the coming months on the issue with Gov. Scott, the legislature and others.
“Decisiveness during particularly urgent times is a critical element of sound leadership and is especially difficult when that sense of urgency is not widely shared or understood,” he said.