To Whom It May Concern,
I am writing to offer my thoughts on the potential closure of the Northern Vermont University campuses in Johnson and Lyndon and the Vermont Technical College campus in Randolph. In the interest of avoiding repetition and having everyone on the same page, I am emailing the VSC board and my Franklin County and Franklin-5 legislative representatives together. I’ll also be reaching out to Gov. Phil Scott and Vermont’s federal delegation as well. I am certain you’ve received plenty of feedback from a wide variety of folks and seen the same data repeatedly, so I’ll share a few personal thoughts. I’ll try to be brief.
I am a graduate of NVU-Johnson (Johnson State College at the time). I am the first member of my family to attend college, as well as the first college graduate. I grew up on a farm ten minutes away from campus, and even as a middle school student, I was keenly aware that JSC was my best option for higher education. My first attempt at college was unsuccessful – largely due to poor choices on my part – and when the time came to try again, this time with a wife and baby boy, JSC was once again my choice. My small family lived in married student housing on campus, and I was able to excel at this second attempt, focused on a bachelor’s degree in journalism, with a poli-sci minor. My time as editor of Basement Medicine, the college newspaper, turned into an internship with the Stowe Reporter. In turn, the internship became a full-time job after graduation, and from there I went on to being hired as editor of the County Courier in Enosburg Falls. Life has taken me away from newspapers, but I still use the skills acquired at JSC to effectively work in communication-based fields as an autism behavior interventionist, running a blog, and recently completing my first novel.
I shudder to think of the kids out there now who are in similar situations to mine, some of whom have already been accepted to NVU-Johnson, NVU-Lyndon, or VTC-Randolph, only to be faced with their only option being taken away. Some of them, undoubtedly, will decide that this is the last straw after the economic impact COVID-19 has had on their low-income families, and higher education will no longer be a pursuit for them. Or maybe there are better options in other states.
As I write this, my daughter – a high school senior – is taking classes at NVU-Johnson through the early college program. From the moment she expressed interest in doing this, I’ve wondered what my college experience would have been like if such an option had been available to me at her age. When my daughter’s junior year finished, she was ready for college, and she has consistently risen to the challenge. She loves the early college experience, and it’s been incredibly motivating as she prepares for the coming years. She an example to her peers, some of whom previously did not consider college a viable option.
With whatever weight it carries, I passionately urge you to either delay the vote on closing these important VSC campuses or turn down the option outright. This is an option that impacts more than the VSC system. This is a vote on the future of Vermonters, Vermont as a whole, and the very lives of at least three of the state’s small towns. This should be a thoughtful, deliberative process, not a thumbs up or down consideration. We are collectively dealing with unprecedented circumstances and a sea change in how we function as a society, but let’s not be so quick to return to the oversimplified days of Roman gladiatorial combat. No one has been appointed emperor. Not yet, anyway.
I request that the VSC Board of Trustees, the Vermont Legislature, and the Governor work together to appoint a Blue Ribbon Panel to examine the challenges faced by the Vermont State College system from a variety of perspectives and present at least three options that can be considered not only by the VSC Board and the Legislature, but also the people of Vermont. The state has $1.25 billion in stimulus funding coming its way. Surely, slightly less than one percent of that can be used as a stop-gap until a more reasonable solution can be reached.
If you have not already read it, I request that you read the piece written by my JSC mentor, Tyrone Shaw, and consider that as you approach making a decision. You can find that piece on my blog via the following link: https://ethandezotelle.com/2020/04/18/keeping-vsc-colleges-open-is-vital-to-students-residents-state/.
Thank you for your time. Please do not hesitate to contact me at (contact info redacted for blog). As I am temporarily unemployed, I am free to talk at any time.