Reacting to the loss of a president


A difficult aftermath following the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic seemed inevitable, and Castleton University is already starting to feel the repercussions.

There was a rollercoaster of news surrounding former Vermont State Colleges Chancellor Jeb Spaulding’s proposal to close North Vermont University with his resignation to follow.

Soon after, the Castleton community was rocked with more surprising news.

It has been just over week week since it was announced that Castleton University President Karen Scolforo would be resigning. She informed the Board of Trustees on Friday, April 29.

The decision came after a news article from Seven Days revealed that Spaulding was planning on firing Scolforo as part of his proposal.

This came as shocking news to Castleton students and faculty. Professor Trish van der Spuy watched part of Scolforo’s speech on a stream of the meeting. After missing the first part of it, she was confused about what exactly Scolforo was announcing. But when she was made aware of the resignation, van der Spuy could not believe it.

“I was stunned and didn’t sleep that night,” she said.

In Scolforo’s short time as president, the university experienced significant growth. Two campuses were added in Killington and Bennington, new programs and certificates were introduced to the catalogue and enrollment has increased steadily.

Professor Marybeth Lennox-Levins was impressed by what Scolforo brought to Castleton.

“She has certainly left her mark, after such a short time. I feel she led us well through some difficult budget times by working with her team to balance the budget, and really encouraged and empowered the campus faculty, staff, and students to be innovators,” she said. “She is certainly an innovator herself.”

In an email to students, faculty and staff, Scolforo confirmed her resignation and gave a heartfelt message. She apologized for the initial announcement of her decision coming from the media and talked about what her couple years at Castleton meant to her.

“Our faculty has inspired me to be a better leader. They have held me accountable while holding themselves to the highest standards on behalf of our students. Our staff has provided the guidance and support our students need to be successful. This is the most dedicated team of professionals I have ever had the honor of serving,” she said.

It was rare to see Scolforo around campus without a smile on her face. She made an effort to attend as many events as she could to support the students, something she will miss.

“I will always remember your performances, your athletic achievements at Dave Wolk Stadium and Spartan Arena, open mic nights and other club events, gatherings at Huden, Fireside and Coffee Cottage. But most of all I will remember the way you treated each other, and the kindness you showed me,” Scolforo said.

Spaulding’s proposal was withdrawn after heavy backlash. Seven Days reported that Scolforo was informed that she would be fired and replaced with Northern Vermont President Elaine Collins. Soon after, she was removed from email lists.

Both students and faculty members were upset with how Spaulding treated her. Junior Patrick Lucey was one.

“I was genuinely shocked with her resignation, but honestly not surprised due to the way she was treated. I believe we have a backwards system with the Vermont State Colleges and that is something that needs to be addressed,” Lucey said.

Reilly Knipes, Castleton’s student government president, said she couldn’t blame Scolforo for resigning either.

“I can’t imagine the heartbreak she is experiencing. When you are working so hard for an institution and they treat you like are disposable,” Knipes said. “Though there were times that we maybe didn’t always see eye to eye, I sympathize with her and support her decision. “She gave her heart and soul to Castleton these last three years.”

Junior Alex Fernald also understood Scolforo’s decision, questioning Spaulding’s plan to fire her.

“It seemed like she was the second option for if they merged so why be the second choice for anybody,” he said.

Once Spaulding withdrew his proposal, he asked Scolforo to remain as president. She initially accepted. But the damage had already been done.

“Unfortunately, it was too late for her and I wish her nothing but the best in her future path of endeavors. Our University just took a hit,” Lucey said.

Preston Garcia, associate professor of biology, agreed with Lucey.

“I was extremely disappointed to hear about President Scolforo’s resignation.  The disappointment is not in her decision, as she must do what is right for her, but rather in the loss to the university,” he said. “Castleton has benefited tremendously from her leadership, drive, passion, and vision for the future.”

Although the shock and sadness remain, professors are looking forward to what the future has to offer. Andre Fleche, associate professor of history and Faculty Assembly Chair, is not concerned about the current state of the university.

“I am confident the Castleton community will pull together and get through this difficult time,” he said.

Garcia agreed.

“I know Castleton will continue to succeed, as a university is bigger than a single person; however, President Scolforo will definitely be missed,” he said.

Interim Provost Jonathan Spiro has been named interim president by the VSC Board of Trustees and will begin June 1 and serve until a search committee chooses a permanent replacement.

Spartan Copy Editor Caton Deuso contributed to this report.

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