HomeHigher EducationHigher Education ResourcesInside the final, chaotic days of Goddard College

Inside the final, chaotic days of Goddard College

Longtime education faculty member Diana Waters found out from a student that Goddard College was closing. 

When Waters heard this, in April, she told the student: “No, no, no — you’re mistaken. They’re closing the campus, not the college.”

Earlier this year, the Vermont college’s board told faculty that the financially struggling college — which contemplated pivoting to online-only instruction — would close its campus, a move officials said then would be temporary. 

Hence why Waters,who has worked at the college for almost three decades, thought the student had conflated the closure of the physical campus with that of the entire 86-year-old institution. 

But after reassuring the student that the college itself was safe, Waters’ phone started blowing up with calls. 

“I put them on hold, and I looked at my email. As I was looking at my email, the announcement to faculty popped up,” she said. 

Goddard — the college itself — was folding at the end of its current semester. 

Waters was far from alone in her surprise at the abruptness of the April 9 announcement. Maike Garland, a nearly 30-year faculty member in the education program and a Goddard alumna, first learned of the closure through an email notice sent to alumni. 

When she saw it, she thought, “This must be a mistake.” But then came Goddard’s official announcement confirming the news.

Like Waters, Garland had anticipated a closure of the physical campus. On-campus faculty and staff had been told to vacate their offices in March, and by April a locksmith was on campus to change the locks, Garland said. But there was not a hint that the institution would close entirely and permanently. 

“There was no heads up,” Garland said. 

Leading up to the announcement were years of leadership turnover, falling enrollment and deep tensions between administration and rank and file. Since April 9, faculty and students have scrambled to get more information and wind down their careers, responsibilities and studies at Goddard in its final days. 

‘Students were panicking’

The institution’s final spring cohort of students had enrolled just days before the announcement, according to Otto Muller, a faculty member at Goddard since 2008.

“We were in the middle of figuring out people’s curriculum for the semester,” Muller said. “Not only were we given no advance warning, but they didn’t even think to reach out to faculty that were actively setting up semester plans with students to check in about what we should tell students.”

Up even until the day before the closure announcement, Garland said, the admissions office had asked her to evaluate prospective students. 

“It seemed absurd,” she said.

Even after the announcement came, information from officials remained scant.

“Students were panicking,” Waters said. “They didn’t know what to do, and nothing came out telling them what to do. It just said: More information will be revealed.”

What faculty wanted and needed were the details of how the college would close — the process. 

“I have struggled to get clarity for the sake of my students,” Garland said. 

In the absence of information, Muller said faculty had to reach out to their dean and college provost to essentially demand a meeting. 

Even by mid-May, the college’s president, Dan Hocoy, hadn’t communicated directly with faculty about the shuttering, Muller and other faculty noted. “Which is messed up,” Muller said, “to close that institution and to not even speak to its community.”

Hocoy did not respond to multiple requests since April for an interview or comment by email, LinkedIn and phone. Goddard’s board chair, Mark Jones, also did not respond to multiple requests for interviews.

Among other things, faculty were scrambling to get details of Goddard’s teach-out agreement with Prescott College, in Arizona. The deal was noted in the public closure announcement, but the release was short on details. And those specifics weren’t coming out in other channels either, according to faculty Higher Ed Dive spoke with.

“The few administrators that are left on campus are doing their best to put together the details of a teach-out plan,” Garland said in early May. “It’s not together yet. But they are doing their best under these conditions.”

What closure plan was in place at the time contained aspects that Garland “strongly disagreed with,” she said. She pointed in particular to the suspension of program extensions offered as accommodations to comply with American with Disabilities Act rules. She knew of students who had planned to use extensions to finish theses.

By mid-May, mixed messages and lack of clarity still abounded around whether certain Goddard programs — including its interdisciplinary master’s of fine arts and bachelor’s of fine arts in socially engaged art — would have parallel programs at a teach-out institution, Muller said. 

Even for programs are offered at Prescott, the two colleges aren’t twins. 

Rizwan Ahmed
Rizwan Ahmed
AuditStudent.com, founded by Rizwan Ahmed, is an educational platform dedicated to empowering students and professionals in the all fields of life. Discover comprehensive resources and expert guidance to excel in the dynamic education industry.


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