Letter: Evans, board to blame for college's failure

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To the Editor:

Shocked. Angry. Saddened. These are a few of the emotions experienced today, not just on Mansion Drive, but also among the thousands of Southern Vermont College alumni throughout the country. Ten years ago, Hunter Hall opened and there was a sense of pride emanating from everyone on campus. SVC was growing — in the number of students, in revenue from donors, in the academic curriculum, and in the number of wins on the athletic fields. When former college President Karen Gross accepted a temporary position during the Obama administration, it seemed there was no limit to the potential of SVC. Instead of making headlines for creating innovative academic policy, a different SVC administrator, Interim President James Beckwith, brought notoriety to the college — for all of the wrong reasons — embezzlement, fraud, deceit, and suicide.

When the board of trustees named David Evans SVC's ninth president in 2014, the college was healing. However, over the last five years, rather than recover, the college crumbled under Evans' tenure. The nursing program never rebounded after it faced accreditation revocation in 2013. Since then, Evans sat in his ivory tower proving he does not know how to lead a college.

In the wake of its financial difficulties, the college could have, and should have reinvented its curriculum; placing an emphasis on the STEM fields and returning its nursing program to former glory. It should have lowered tuition to entice more students to pick SVC without taking on crippling student debt. School leaders needed to engage its alumni base to raise money. And as much it pains me to write, the college should have laid off its highest paid faculty and replaced them with a new generation of teachers.

Alas, President Poindexter did not do any of these things. When the administration learned of the show-cause hearing and the possibility of losing accreditation, Evans and Co. decided to stop recruiting new students at the height of recruitment season. This illogical response is the equivalent to throwing your coat on the side of the road if your car breaks down in a snow storm. The board of trustees needed to have a vote of no confidence in Evans. But they too failed the college community. Following in Beckwith's footsteps, Southern Vermont College committed institutional suicide. Today is a tragic day to be a Mountaineer.

Richard W. Lavariere, Esq.,

Newington, Connecticut

The writer is a 2009 graduate of Southern Vermont College.

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