Faculty at odds over future of Vermont College of Fine Arts campus
MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont College of Fine Arts faculty are at odds over what to do with the Montpelier campus since leaders moved summer residencies out of Vermont. Our Cam Smith spoke with faculty on both sides of the issue about what the future holds for the small school.
“We just won’t stand for it,” said Michael Minelli, a member of the faculty.
Following a decision by school leaders back in June, summer residencies will be moved from the Montpelier campus to Colorado College, impacting 350 students. A spokesperson for the school said stipends will be provided for students who need them for travel.
Minelli says the decision came without much consideration or collaboration.
“For them to make that decision without understanding what the consequences could be for those constituents is irresponsible,” he said.
Minelli and several other faculty members penned a letter of no confidence in college President Leslie Ward, accusing her of not being transparent and not engaging in collective decision-making.
The school denies those claims, stating in a letter from the board of trustees that the decision was made unanimously and done in the college’s best interest.
“I think you’re seeing the most pushback from faculty who depend upon that in-person relationship to the work that the student is pursuing for their degree,” Minelli said.
While summer residencies will happen in Colorado, administrative offices will remain in Montpelier.
Other faculty members like Ellen Lesser say the decision by the administration and board was a good one.
“Our worry if the president and board had not made this decision is that in a couple of years we might be closing our doors,” she said.
Lesser was among 42 faculty members to express full confidence in President Ward.
Ward said the school could no longer afford to spend more than $1 million a year on buildings that sit empty for three-quarters of the year.
Lesser says the decision to move operations will benefit the college for the future.
“Then over time, those resources can be put toward people, toward programs,” Lesser said.
Ward and the school’s board of trustees are looking to sell or lease some of the property on campus. The board of trustees is expected to meet later this week to discuss faculty concerns.
Copyright 2022 WCAX. All rights reserved.