Burlington College officials announced to students, faculty, and staff on Monday that the school will shutter its doors in two weeks, the Burlington Free Press reported. The school will officially close on May 27.
Burlington has long faced financial difficulties stemming from a 2010 purchase of 32 acres of land. Notably, Jane Sanders, wife of Vermont Sen. and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, oversaw the deal during her time as president of the 250-student college.
Incidents over the past few years, however, struck the biggest blows to the college, Yves Bradley, chair of the college’s board of trustees, told The Chronicle of Higher Education.
I think that the biggest nail in the coffin, frankly, was about two years ago. We began what I call “the troubled period.” Which is when a lot of media called us out and had nothing but negative things to say about the college, particularly beginning with President Plunkett’s resignation and the behavior of the students around that.
Christine Plunkett served as president of Burlington College from 2012 to 2014, directly following Sanders. She aimed to increase enrollment and set a target of growing Burlington’s enrollment to as large as 750 students, according to the Free Press. She also created a housing-development plan that would help pay off some of the colleges debts.
But Plunkett’s efforts to bring financial stability to the college were ultimately unsuccessful. In 2014, the student union and faculty and staff council issued a statement of no-confidence in her leadership, according to the Burlington Free Press.
Plunkett resigned suddenly amid a tense altercation with students, who confronted her about the housing development plan after a board meeting. She snapped, saying, “OK, I resign. Happy?” according to the Free Press.
- Evan Vucci/AP Photo
Despite Bradley’s comments placing blame for the school’s demise on media coverage of Plunkett and student behavior, the discussion has focused heavily on Sander’s 2010 land purchase.
In the same interview with the Chronicle, Bradley even describes how the school began aggressively trying to sell the land when it became clear Burlington couldn’t manage its debt level.
“We realized that we had 32.4 acres that we would never use. Our campus would never grow to a size where we would need that much land,” he said. “In order to cut our debt, we needed to find a partner to take that land, to take that debt off our hands, and do something with it that would be beneficial to the college.”
Bradley, along with the rest of the board, voted to close the school on Friday. The decision was unanimous.
“This is a great loss to the higher ed community,” the school’s current president, Carol A. Moore, said Monday, according to the Free Press.