April 16, 2013 • Comments (0)
The ‘Impeach Barbara Vacarr’ Facebook page
Judy Hiramoto, who was terminated from Goddard College but doesn’t know why, recently pointed me to the Impeach Dr. Barbara Vacarr Facebook page. Dr. Vacarr is the current president of Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. The FB page hosts a letter, written to the Goddard College Board of Trustees by someone who is obviously close to the Vermont campus scene.
Originally posted as several images, the letter has been transcribed below for easier reading. Scroll to the bottom to download the original images.
(Stamped) Received March 15, 2013
All Show and No Tell: The Real Story of What’s Going on at Goddard College
Send on behalf of concerned members of the Goddard College Community
The Board of Trustees has recently completed their meeting at Goddard College in which they considered a number of items. These included approving and ongoing deficit that has climbed to $800,000 and is likely to cross the million dollar mark by June 30, the end of the college’s fiscal year. In addiction the board approved a line of credit for over a million dollars to sustain the college as it slides deeper into a deficit under the administration of current president, Barbara Vacarr. This is a far fry from the state of the college during the previous Schulman administration as longtime Goddard friend and associate, Art Chickering, has pointed out in a recent letter to Seven Days http://www.7dtvt.com/2013let-editor-7. Vacarr and chief financial officer, Faith Brown, attribute the increasingly precarious financial situation of the college to an alleged national trend of declining enrollments. Moreover, at the board meeting a claim was made that the ongoing pattern of antagonistic relations between the administration and the faculty is also a cause of the college’s state of affairs. In fact, the current chair of the Board of Trustress, Andrea Clay, opened the meeting with a statement that Barbara Vacarr has assembled a number of newspaper articles that demonstrate a long history of such tensions at the college. Apparently the desire of the faculty to participate in governance is causing problems that are hindering the function of the college and needs to be countered by more administrative measures. It does not seem to have dawned on the trustees that a more plausible explanation is that Vacarr has been on a spending spree since she arrived just over two and a half years ago and has not made good on her promise to raise money (diversify revenues is her term) nor has she brought the necessary resources to bear to sustain enrollments. Instead the staff had to deal with the fiasco of having Vacarr’s chosen candidate, Christine Persico, as cheif enrollment officer and who eventually was let go at considerable costs to the college. No one of competence has been hired to replace her as enrollments in a number of programs slide downward. Predictably, the administrations position, as we have been informed in Vacarr’s recent update, is that the latter is due entirely to a national trend plaguing small colleges as well as the college’s uncooperative faculty.
Another matter of interest at the board meeting was a request the board consider approving an elder housing development. A similar request came before the board in the past and resulted in a seminar being offered on conflict of interest in February 2008 that ended with the board turning down the proposal. The conflict of interest, then as now, is that Andrea Clay and her husband and now current board member, Jim Clay, are in the business of elderly housing! Among the last items to go before the board was a reminder by Vacarr that she us up for review and is hoping for an increase in her salary that now stands just short of $252,000 with added bonus, benefits, and an expense account! Given the mess the college’s finances are in and her lack of effective leadership a significant cut in her salary would be the more appropriate action for the board to take.
Reports of the board meeting have begun to circulate among the staff, faculty, and students of the college with predictable results. In the recent past a significant number of faculty, nearly 50 and not a minority as Vacarr likes to put it, send a letter to the board raising their concerns. The letter was unfortunately largely ignored by both the board and administration. Program directors have also raised concerns with the administration, again to no avail. There are now a growing number of the college community who are running out of patience with Barbara Vacarr and her administration. In fact her administration consists of de facto appointees who were never vetted in a huring process as is customary and appropriate. Instead, Vacarr appointed friend and Lesley colleague, Marianne Reiff, as academic vice president. Her tenure in that position was filled with a number of bad decisions. These included dismantling the successful Health Arts and Sciences Program, launching a costly and badly under sources undergraduate program in Port Townsend, and creating a host of ineffectual committees that ended up undermining the Faculty Council. The Faculty Council had been constituted by an act of the Board of Trustees almost a decade earlier and by all reports had been functioning well until her arrival. Reiff’s inability to work with the Faculty Council or accept any input along with her embarrassing outbursts and pouty resentment characterized much of her time and interactions at the college. Since her departure, the Faculty Council’s mandate to oversee the academics of the college has been further circumvented by invented councils of one sort or another and, most recently, the co-called Academic Council.
Faith Brown, chief financial officer and another appointee, with no experience in higher education has turned into an autocrat whose own frustration in the job have caused her to burst into tears at meetings. Her inability to work with staff and faculty without becoming entrapped in power dynamics of her own making has resulted in her remaining isolated in the administrative offices of the Manor building. Mickey Cronin who is the current undergraduate dean is, in fact, also an appointee in spite of there being a hiring process. It amounted to a series of lengthy interviews with three candidates, two from within the college, and one of these was advanced as the preferred candidate with Cronin being a distant third. In the end Reiff disregarded the recommendation os the hiring committee and appointed Cronin, another former Lesley colleague. This caused considerable reaction from the faculty and staff whose concerns were dismissed. Cronin’s tenure as undergraduate dean has turned into one in which nobody, not even in academic services, seems to know what she does. Her enthusiastic displays at meetings of all the “wonderful partnerships” that are developing and any number of other matters “in the works” leave most staff and faculty baffled as to what all of these are going to bring to the college and to increasing enrollments. She has also taken up the newly invented spin of how the faculty, as in her past, is causing the administration difficulties as it attempts to forge ahead with one project after another. Jackie Hayes, former of faculty and current graduate academic dean, is the only member of the administration that the faculty has any trust in. But even she seems at risk of being compromised by the hype and spin that is generated in the circle of yes people who Vacarr surrounds herself with as she weaves together her most recent narrative of post Pitkin Goddard. The most developed form of this narrative is found in Vacarr’s recent update and serves as a diversion from the more concrete and vital issues of what is to be done about the financial situation of the college and the downturn in enrollments. Neither of these are adequately addressed in the rhetorical fog or facile and empty theorizing about overcoming resistance and dwelling in the past and the need to implement her ongoing and nebulous “strategic plan.” All of this from someone who really does not understand Goddard pedagogy that continues as before in each and every residency and semester as the grand newly invented post Pitkin narrative is added layer by layer.
When Barbara Vacarr was hired many faculty and staff had hopes that she would bring to the college an openness to participatory and shared governance and she clained she would in her interviews. Faced with difficulty adjusting to her role, the faculty and staff were very supportive. In fact, the union even agreed to forgo an increase in compensation she proposed when student enrollments went into decline. Many now believe this was a wrong decision in light of Vacarr’s inflated salary that she must have negotiated, her inept hires, outsourcing to consultants, recycling of administrative assistants who found working with her intolerable, and expenditures galore. In fact, the staff too has found Vacarr and her administration so problematic that they voted recently to become a union to protect their interests. They did this despite the determined effort on the part of Vacarr and Brown and with chief advancement officer, Lauren Moye, in tow to engage in an anti union campaign and bully the staff into voting against unionization. That the overwhelming majority of the entitled staff voted to unionize by joining the UAW is a telling indicator of the level of concern and mistrust among them. In all of these matter the program directors and other senior staff are powerless and try to stay out of the limelight. Those who do talk confide to faculty that something has to be done since the discrepancy between the bombastic rhetoric about new visions of education and strategic planning and the reality of administrative incompetence and decline in enrollments cannot fo on because it will bring down the college. Now even the students are becoming concerned with many of the decisions being made, the noticeable decline in enrollments, the financial instability, and especially with the palpable tension between the administration and the faculty. This will only be compounded when they discover that the board has voted a 5% increase in the tuition and residency fees.
It seems unlikely that this state of affairs can continue ad something is going to have to give. The hope of many that the Board of Trustees would step up has not happened. The recent letter Vacarr included in her so-called update that typically makes no mention of the financial mess is hardly an encouraging indication that the trustees are on top of things. In reality so many of them are new and inexperienced and appear to be under the spell of Vacarr who was instrumental in getting them appointed after she purged the board of long standing members. In fact, the opening statement by Clay about the faculty is a stunning abnegation of her responsibility as chair to remain independent and put before the board any mater arising rather than naively sanctioning Vacarr’s dubious and distracting interpretation founded on a selected scattering of newspaper articles. It is starting to look like a case of the tail wagging the dog!
These days staff and faculty report Vacarr looking nervous and concerned in spite of they hype and spin she generates and the displays of her face in newspaper articles that extol her accomplishments and plans for an ailing Goddard College. The recent Seven Days piece http://www.7dvt.com/2013ho-president-barbara-vacarr-plans-save-goddard-college is an appalling example of the skills of her KSE consultant handlers to promote their client by demeaning the college. In fact, the arrogance that comes across not to mention Vacarr’s angry outbursts are well known to many who have been on the receiving end of her “undigested rage” as she once described it in an explosive outburst before the undergraduate faculty. This “undigested rage” is evident in her ongoing faculty suppers at the residencies when she talks at those present, insisting on the precarious state of the college she inherited, her convoluted and largely insubstantial views of education and the need for change, and recycling stories of all that she has done and will do. Any who speak up to offer their views that in any way deviate from this established narrative are quickly shut down or pulled aside afterwards and given a reprimand. It is painful and disconcerting for those who attend these meals to witness faculty and program directors, many of who are seasoned and accomplished professionals, being talked down to by an insecure, manipulative, and defensive administrator who is clearly way out of her depth. For many these events are becoming insufferable and fewer and fewer want to attend future meals or have even proposed canceling them altogether. Cutting through the rhetorical fog the reality looming on the horizon is the dark cloud of layoffs and retrenchment, the legacy of Vacarr and her administration. All of this does not bode well for where we are headed as a community but this is what’s going on at Goddard College.
Click to view-full sized, right click to download.
Posted in Goddard College MFA-IA on April 16, 2013
April 07, 2013 • Comments (0)
1. Do You Feel Special?
You have a feeling inside that you will somehow figure out how to pay for school after you’ve attended. You feel that going to graduate school is the best way to be discovered. Despite other people warning you about it, you just instinctively know you’ll be okay.
2. Are You Trying to Escape?
Perhaps you live in your parent’s basement or you’ve got a new born and a dead-end job. Maybe you’re over 40 and you feel that MFA will give you that career boost you need. These aren’t good reasons, especially if you have to borrow money for tuition.
3. Have You Spent $50,000+ in One Place?
You purchased a new car on credit and completely paid it off one month at a time. You’ve got a house. You accumulated debt on credit cards and paid it all down to zero. You borrowed money from a loan shark and managed to not get your fingers broken. If so, you might be prepared to borrow money for graduate school tuition and pay it off monthly over the next ten or twenty years.
4. Do You Have a Romantic Vision of What Grad School Will Be Like?
Graduate school might be an amazing experience. It’s also possible your experience will suck or be just okay. But then again, maybe it will be better than you could ever imagine. Gambling on whether or not grad school will be great is kind of the fun of it, right? If you don’t do enough research before enrolling, high stakes gambling is exactly what you’re doing.
5. Are You in a Rush?
You want an upper level degree and you want it now! If you had that degree last week you could have applied for so many great jobs. Maybe you’ve got a narrow window before the ease of going to graduate school closes because a baby is on the way or you’re going to move. If something is pressing you like that, perhaps it’s not the best time to make such a huge commitment.
6. Do You Think the MFA will Land You a Job?
If you have it in your mind that an MFA will help your career because potential employers are throwing out resumes that don’t contain the three letters “MFA,” you may be right—that is, if you’re looking to teach. College hiring teams claim to choose potential professors based on their portfolio. That may be true because, in order to be considered for a professorship, the assumption is that each applicant already has an MFA.
7. Do You Have a Need for the MFA?
If you have you been rejected time and time again from opportunities that were offered to you and then rescinded because you don’t have an MFA, then an MFA might be the way to go.
8. Are You Sure You Want to Teach?
Some people go to graduate school to earn their MFA with the idea that at least they will be able to teach art when they graduate if they want to. If you are considering teaching on the college level as an adjunct, definitely read the Adjunct Project, which is a collection of experiences penned by actual adjunct professors. The site also lists current pay scale data for colleges in your area.
9. Are You Looking for Feedback?
If you’re going for an MFA primarily for the experience of being critiqued by your peers, it simply means you’re not currently getting your work out there enough. If you were making and showing art regularly then you’d be getting critiqued, praised, criticized, and reviewed for free.
10. Have You Counted the Ways?
Write down all of the reasons you want an MFA. How many reasons do you have? How many of those reasons can be remedied or addressed without paying tuition? Can you make creative projects based around your reasons? For instance, if you’re looking to learn about art history, start an art history collective. If you’re looking to learn about color theory, take a continuing education course on that specific topic or get a DVD from the library. If you want to go for an MFA to legitimatize your practice for two years, well…
Posted in A Matter Of Opinion on April 07, 2013
February 18, 2013 • Comments (0)
The following letter is from Goddard College’s direct neighbor in Plainfield, VT. If you’re not familiar with this situation, read about Goddard’s planned 2.3 million dollar biomass plant.
My name is Karen and I bought the President’s house from Goddard 30 years ago. I am now being faced with the option of living next to a pollutant spewing factory incinerator—which will coat my lungs with toxins that will enter my bloodstream and kill me quicker than anything in nature ever would—or leave my home in which I was hoping to see grandchildren run around in someday, the way my children did years ago.
I am appalled that an institution like Goddard has been granted an Act250 permit and a zoning permit from the Town of Plainfield when no research has been done by the College to address the issue of nano particles. These particles are .1 micron and pass directly into the blood stream where they wreak havoc inside the heart, lungs, and other organs. No ESP will remove them. They are killers. The particles are too small and do not have enough electrons to generate enough of a charge for them to be removed. VT has the highest rate of asthma in the country. We also coincidentally have the highest level of biomass combustion. There are more plants in Washington County than anywhere in the state.
We all know that this is about a group of people getting together to push these plants through so that the huge tax dollars and grants and incentives (which the citizens end up paying for) are made available through corrupt laws and legislation. By 2020 there will be 800 million tons of CO2 in the atmosphere that will be unaccounted for because these plants are not required to report their CO2 emissions. This is a nightmare. What an atrocity. All for greed. Not a single thought for the planet and what the effects of biomass has on the people who live here.
• Goddard College: Biomass forum funding falters
• Goddard College biomass plant meets resistance
• Plainfield, Vermont Residents Near Goddard College Oppose Biomass Plant
• Neighbors challenge Goddard College wood chip heating system
Posted in Goddard College MFA-IA on February 18, 2013
February 16, 2013 • Comments (0)
If you’re feeling uncertain about staying in Goddard College’s low residency Master of Fine Arts in Interdisciplinary Art degree program, read the following…
1. You Are Not Alone or Crazy
Everything you are feeling is 100% valid and justified. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re being whiny for any reason. So many other people question the validity of the program but never say anything for fear of being ostracized by the community. Trust your gut and take action.
2. Things Will Not Change
Things at Goddard are not going to change. The school has been operating its free-form process for many, many years.
Imagine Goddard like a church—but one that’s the total opposite of whatever it is you do or don’t believe. Now imagine trying to change that church to see things your way.
As Goddard will tell you: Your options are to “transform,” adapt to, and accept Goddard’s way or you can leave.
3. Do or Die
If you’re going to go someplace else for school, early is arguably the best time to do it. You have a better chance of not losing (as much) money or college credit if you transfer sooner rather than later. There are many other low residency programs out there. If you’re a G4, stick it out and see below.
4. Protect Yourself
If you have expressed your frustration with Goddard to a faculty member and you choose to stay in the program, you need to cover your butt. At the next residency (or in your current packets) tell that faculty member, “Oh wow! I get it! Trust the process! Something shifted and I just get it! Thank you so much!” Doing this will smoothen things out as the Goddard employee will feel that the magic of the program finally broke through your resistance walls and transformed you. If they perceive you as having been transformed, they will no longer need to worry about you expressing dissonance.
5. Shut Up!
If you choose to stay, don’t complain again. Just do whatever you want and fly under the radar. That works for a lot of students. Don’t ask permission, do as you please, and justify your actions with some confident Goddard speak.
Posted in Goddard College MFA-IA on February 16, 2013
January 31, 2013 • Comments (0)
A pass/fail system is different from the current A, B, C, D, F grading system in that there is no scale of performance in the pass/fail scenario. You either made it or you didn’t.
The pass/fail system is often accompanied by a narrative transcript, which is the part of the student’s history that explains their performance. In a typical pass-fail program, an advisor doesn’t grade the student and instead determines if the student accomplished what they set out to do in their learning plan. Advisors look to answer the following questions: Did learning occur? Is there evidence of growth? Overall is it a yes or a no?
One of the positives about a pass/fail system is that it eliminates the student’s desire to simply achieve an “A.” The pass/fail system ostensibly allows students to focus on performing the lessons to the best of their own ability without fear of being compared to fellow students. The letter grading system is arguably based on how well a student follows directions while the pass/fail system looks at innovation, motivation, and results.
In self-designed learning environments, it is common that a student will over design their learning goals. As a result, the student only achieves a portion of what they set out to do within a given semester, quarter, or term. If the student were being graded with a letter grade then the incompletion of their plan could be seen as a failure. However, in the pass/fail system the student could be recognized learning not to bite off more than they could chew and they could still pass.
A con with the pass/fail system in experiential education programs is that it’s hard to define the criteria for a pass or failure. Students often don’t know what’s expected of them and those who judge the student sometimes have a hard time reaching a verdict. What’s more, many of the experiential educations programs are smaller in size meaning that the student and the teacher form a more personal relationship. It can be very difficult for a teacher to fail someone if they like the student as a person, especially if the criteria are vague.
Posted in Alternative Education on January 31, 2013