Despite rumors, SVC to finish semester

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BENNINGTON — Southern Vermont College will not be closing on Monday, although the financially troubled liberal arts college continues to plan for a shutdown after the spring semester and graduation.

School officials on Friday afternoon issued statements to counter rumors flying around the campus and social media about an earlier than expected closure.

"The board [of trustees] has agreed to provide financial support to the college through May 18," SVC President David Evans said in an email. "However, this support has not yet arrived, and as such the rumors started. I firmly believe the board will deliver that financial support, but await its receipt."

He added, "So that's where we are. As far as I'm concerned, the college will be here Monday and through the end of the semester."

Board member David Newell, of Shaftsbury, said on Friday that he an attorney representing the board, John Monaghan, of Holland & Knight in the firm's Boston office, met with faculty and staff on campus during the morning to explain the situation and answer questions.

Newell, who said he was designated to represent the board and assure employees the school would not close early, described the meeting as "a nice exchange with faculty and staff."

Despite the trying circumstances, he said, nearly all the staff and faculty members have indicated they want to work toward the goal of completing the semester for the graduates and other students.

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The SVC board decided in March to close the struggling private institution at the end of the semester, citing falling student enrollment and financial challenges that threatened the college's academic accreditation.

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While the semester will continue, Newell said the process of closing down the 371-acre campus is moving ahead. He said the Laumeister Arts Center off West Road, which the college acquired two years ago through a donation, will be listed soon with TPW Real Estate, of Manchester, and the board also intends to list other campus assets.

The campus includes more than 200 acres at the base of Mt. Anthony, which is restricted from development through a conservation easement with Vermont Land Trust, and the main campus, including the Everett Mansion, the athletic center and a dormitory building.

Decisions regarding the property will involve approvals from two banks, Community Bank and Bank of Bennington, which hold mortgages totaling about $6 million, Evans has said.

Email to students

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Evans also released on Friday an email he sent earlier to students, which said in part, "With regard to the rumor the college will close on Monday, I have made it clear to the board of trustees that the only viable, responsible and lawful plan is one that will enable the college to complete the semester and meet its existing obligations to students and staff, and that I cannot and will not participate in any other course of action."

He added, "I am confident that the board has the information it needs to make the appropriate decisions and take the necessary actions, and I expect the board will make its decision very soon I understand how stressful this semester has been, and that these new developments are unsettling."

Evans also referred to the departure of Executive Vice President for Administration and Finance Jennifer Macksey and Vice President for Enrollment Management Daniel Summers II for other positions.

He said he wanted to address student concerns about those changes, saying, "They left on good terms with me and for their own good reasons, but because this is personnel matter I cannot comment further."

Other staff members have left or will soon leave for other jobs as the college heads toward the examination period and the school's final graduation ceremony on May 18. The college has about 25 full-time faculty members, whose contract extends through the summer, Evans has said.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. Twitter: @BB_therrien


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