Letter to the Editor defending Wolk

This letter to the editor was submitted to the Spartan Editorial Staff by an alumnus, as a response to an opinion piece run last week.

Dear Spartan Editor,

As a former managing editor of The Spartan, as well as former student, employee and current donor to Castleton University I feel the need to address last week’s opinion piece, “Scolforo deserves better.” While I admire, and often miss, the fervor of what it is to be a young writer, there are some points to this piece too glaring to be overlooked. 

Yes, on April 17, VSC Chancellor Jeb Spaulding did propose a plan that would close the Northern Vermont University and Randolph campuses to combine the schools with Castleton University. Yes, apparently this plan slated NVU President Elaine Collins to take over the reins of Castleton. 

However, Spaulding withdrew this proposal on April 22 and announced his resignation on April 28.

Castleton President Karen Scolforo’s resignation followed all of these events on April 29. The true reasons behind Spaulding’s decision to replace President Scolforo may never be known by the public. Likewise, President Scolforo’s complete reasons to resign remain only hers to be known. She was a finalist to be president at another Vermont college, after all.

You say, Scolforo “dedicated her life” to Castleton. However, her two years and eight months at the helm is actually less time than most students spend on its campus. One might even argue her resignation came at a time when strong leadership and consistency are most needed. Because let’s not forget that the root of Spaulding’s proposed changes to the VSC came as a response to a pandemic that’s currently plaguing every corner of the globe. Overnight this crisis upended education systems throughout the world and its effects are most certainly felt by each Castleton student, faculty and staff member as well as the widespread alumni community. 

‘Uncertainty’ is a trite word currently being overused to describe the future of the world at large. It should not be one applicable to leadership responsible for sculpting young minds.

I say this with confidence having been a student and later employee during President Dave Wolk’s 16-year tenure at Castleton. President Wolk did not just embody the Castleton Way, he created it. 

Under his leadership, Castleton enrollment increased by more than 75 percent and with nearly $100 million invested in infrastructure improvements, expanded academic offerings and co-curricular activities, what was once a “suitcase campus” transformed into a vibrant center of culture and education. 

What’s perhaps most notable about many of these investments is their impact to the surrounding regions and greater New England area. Take for example the 2009 Castleton Student Initiative, a $25.7 million project and the largest investment in both Castleton’s and state college system’s history dedicated to reinvigorating campus life. The project touched nearly every aspect of student life and its crown jewel, Spartan Stadium, which was aptly renamed Dave Wolk Stadium in 2018 has been the epicenter for tens of thousands of visitors to campus each year who otherwise would never be introduced to our favorite campus. 

One of the most significant claims to his lasting legacy was shepherding Castleton through its historic transition from a state college to a university. Further proof that in his 43-year career in higher education and nearly two decades at Castleton, President Wolk dedicated his life to not only education, but to the advancement of it.

Isn’t that what leadership is about? The drive and commitment to push yourself and those around you forward, regardless of the external circumstances?

For the last 233 years that is exactly what Castleton has done. It has survived pandemics, economic hardships and leadership changes before. The small university with a big heart has endured and prevailed and always emerged on the other side as a stronger community.

We’re starting a new chapter, not closing the book. We should focus on the opportunities Castleton now has with Dr. Jonathan Spiro as interim president and the advantages the students will see with the $8 million in grants secured by faculty and staff in this fiscal year alone. 

Molly DeMellier

I believe in the university that built the foundation for my career and played such a pivotal role in shaping the woman I’ve become. I believe in its ability to withstand the challenging road ahead and to continue being a home for young minds to take form. What I don’t believe in is forgetting our roots and kicking a community when it’s down. 

So if defending a 16-year legacy of constant growth and a more than 200-year history of putting countless students on a greater path forward is the cross I need to die on then, please, start sanding the wood.

-Molly DeMellier ‘14

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