Letter: Marlboro’s Degrees of Freedom can thrive – with innovation, collaboration – Brattleboro Reformer

Editor of the Reformer,

The vision painted by Democracy Builders Fund (DBF) CEO Seth Andrew for Degrees of Freedom College is inspiring ("Marlboro College campus sold," July 24). However, the disparities between the vision painted and past experiences shared by the Black N Brown at DP collective are striking and deeply concerning.

After carefully reading posts from Seth Andrew and Black N Brown at DP, meeting with Seth and members of his team, as well as with J. LeShae (a representative for Black N Brown at DP), and listening to the recordings of the June 25 and July 9 Marlboro town meetings, I came to believe that a different owner should be found for the Marlboro College campus. When it became clear that was not possible, I resigned from the Marlboro College Board of Trustees.

Opportunity remains to realize the vision for a creative, safe and stable place for future learners on Potash Hill. The difficult conversation at the Marlboro town forum on July 20 is a start. Continued open conversation and honest engagement are needed to create alignment and collaboration between DBF, the town of Marlboro and the state of Vermont. The experiences from the past need to inform the work of the present.

Seth Andrew has spoken of the need for innovation in higher education. Innovation flourishes in open, transparent and collaborative environments. Mistakes will happen: transparency and collaboration are key to ensuring that mistakes can be corrected. I believe the Degrees of Freedom design team will benefit from a deep collaboration with members of the Vermont community, particularly those who are currently engaged in the kind of work Degrees of Freedom intends to champion. I ask the Degrees of Freedom design team commit to the following:

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- Appoint DBF board members from the town of Marlboro and one or more members of the Coalition for Black and Brown Students in Marlboro, the Vermont Coalition for Ethnic and Social Equity in Schools, and the Rights and Democracy movement.

- Publish the design principles for Degrees of Freedom with an opportunity for public comment.

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- Publish the bylaws for the Democracy Builders Fund corporation and Degrees of Freedom corporation (if they are separate).

- Public notice of DBF and/or Degrees of Freedom board meetings with the public invited.

- Publication of Degrees of Freedom handbooks for students, faculty and staff.

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Such commitments align well with the Vermont tradition of direct democracy and with the stated vision for Degrees of Freedom.

With hope for the future,

Kirsten A. Newcomer

Marlboro College, class of 1982

Bedford, Mass.

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Letter: Marlboro's Degrees of Freedom can thrive - with innovation, collaboration - Brattleboro Reformer

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