Let's get it straight, because Seven Days reporter Alicia Freese did not [Off Message: "Former Burlington College President Unloads on Board, Jane Sanders," September 6]: I never alluded to the influence of Sen. Bernie Sanders on Burlington College. Never mentioned his name in speaking to Freese. She took many liberties in making "allusions" to what I actually said.
Second, where was Seven Days when Burlington College students won awards for their work? Where was Seven Days when a student won a national award for community service? When BC lowered tuition to make college affordable?
All the paper printed was damaging news, which surely hurt the college's recruitment and its financial health.
Editor's note: Freese's call to Moore was prompted by the latter's letter to the editor in the Chronicle of Higher Education, explaining the demise of Burlington College. Although she didn't use proper names, Moore faulted an "inexperienced president" who led the institution to buy the $10 million lakefront campus, aka Jane O'Meara Sanders. Moore also wrote: "Who is to blame for this appallingly inappropriate business deal? Perhaps a board that steered clear of the tough questions which needed to be asked. Or a bank in the state of an influential senator — a senator, as it turned out, with bigger ambitions?" Did she mean Sen. Patrick Leahy? Not likely.
[Re Off Message: "Former Burlington College President Unloads on Board, Jane Sanders," September 6]: Why does the analysis of Burlington College's death by its last president, Carol Moore, ignore the tenure of the three who followed Jane O'Meara Sanders? More importantly, why does no one ask what happened after Sanders left BC in 2011?
Contrary to Moore's assertions in the Chronicle of Higher Education and in Seven Days, Sanders did not cause the collapse of BC. While she and her board did purchase the beautiful property for the school, Sanders was soon out of office for still-unclear reasons. At the time, she explained that "her vision for the future of the college was different than the vision of the board."
Sanders' vision was always to build a unique and thriving college. To implement her ambitious vision, Sanders recognized that the school needed to grow on an attractive campus with innovative programs. Her vision did not include a real estate development.
The actual decline occurred under the three presidents who followed Sanders: Christine Plunkett, Mike Smith and, finally, Moore. None of the three appeared to have any realistic ideas of how to build a plucky, small, affordable creative institution of higher ed like BC; none had any real ability to fundraise. In fact, during their presidencies, the board informed faculty and staff that fundraising was off the table.
From Plunkett on, the main BC-saving strategy was to sell it to real estate developers, mainly Eric Farrell, who, with his LLC, will turn it into condos and apartments. Moore delivered the coup de grâce to BC by completing the deal with Farrell during her administration. In a last irony, she awarded him an honorary degree at the school's final graduation in May 2016.
Baird is a former Burlington College instructor.
I read with total disbelief the article on independent schools ["Independent Schools Warn: New Rules Could Cost Them Students," September 7]. The idea that property-tax, school-fund dollars are being expended to send students to out-of-state and even out-of-country schools and ski academies is incredible. Add the imbalance of $43 million going to Vermont public schools while $54 million goes to independent schools, which, if the article is to be believed, have no budget or audit accountability to the Vermont Agency of Education. I cannot imagine that most homeowners in this state who foot the bill for education through property taxes are aware of this program and how it is implemented. School funding in this state is a mess, but I never imagined the degree to which it was so messed up. You don't improve public schools in Vermont by utilizing programs such as this.
Last week's Fair Game ["Rutland First," September 7], highlighting fear and opposition of a small group of Rutland County residents to refugee resettlement, overlooked a more positive story: Hundreds of people in the area have joined Rutland Welcomes, a grassroots organization with more than 20 committees focused on welcoming our new neighbors.
From farmers and schoolteachers to executives and business owners, Rutland Welcomes has been inundated with offers of help, donations of goods and ideas on how to provide the best welcome possible. Volunteers are teaching Arabic, collecting household goods, preparing to serve as mentors and community guides, and working to ensure our new neighbors are treated with the respect and dignity every human being deserves.
While fear and opposition may reign among a small group of local residents, I have witnessed a heartwarming outpouring of love and goodwill at meetings, films, donation events and in public dialogue — a wave of compassion the likes of which I have rarely seen before.
I've seen children speak out for what they believe is right. I've seen a mayor who risked his career to do what he knows is right. I've seen an incredible community of people quickly band together to ask how they can help.
It's true that there has been more ugliness in a few months than I care to witness in the rest of my lifetime, but it has been met with a flood of passion and compassion that tells me the greater Rutland region has a tremendous heart beating within its people.