Home News and Features Community Group Tries to Halt $3.4 Million Sale of Goddard Campus

Community Group Tries to Halt $3.4 Million Sale of Goddard Campus

Three people standing in a row holding
From left, Jay Neale, Michelle Eddleman McCormick, Frederick Sawyer, and Brian Tokar in front of the Washington County Court House in Montpelier after filing an injunction to stop the sale of Goddard College. Photo by Tracy Brannstrom.
On July 3, an ad-hoc community group filed a request for a temporary injunction, asking a Montpelier court to stop the sale of Goddard College. 

This action follows a June 26 letter sent to the Office of the Vermont Attorney General in which the college wrote that a $3.4 million sale of the campus is expected to close this July or August. The college did not name the buyer. 

The injunction, filed by a group called the Remake Goddard Alliance and signed by 23 petitioners, essentially asks a judge to investigate whether the sale is in violation of state and federal labor laws, state law that governs nonprofit organizations, and other regulations. 

Frederick Sawyer, a Goddard alum who currently lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, represented the alliance as a volunteer litigant. He said his hope is for the Marshfield-based nonprofit Cooperation Vermont to have a chance at buying the property, but “in the meantime,” he added, “we just want to stop the process. We think there are a lot of improprieties going on with Goddard College, at least since the current board president has been in office, and we feel like there hasn’t been enough scrutiny of that.” 

According to Goddard’s letter to the attorney general, proceeds from the sale will be used to pay off a $2 million loan as well as pay employee severances and other costs associated with closing the school. The letter states that endowment funds and any excess proceeds from the sale would be transferred to certain academic programs at Prescott University in Arizona in order to “extend Goddard’s legacy.”

In 2023, Goddard established a teach-out plan with Prescott College, offering Goddard students the ability to transfer without any loss of academic credits and at a cost that is equal to or less than their fees at Goddard. The letter also states that Goddard is working with Antioch College, Naropa University, and Lesley University as alternative teach-out partners. 

While the college’s letter refers to its plan as an “orderly wind down,” the injunction filed by the community alliance states the college is not adequately fulfilling its obligations to staff and students before the sale goes through.

The injunction also claims the college did not negotiate the sale in good faith, ignoring legitimate offers from community groups such as Cooperation Vermont, which hoped to transition the campus to a community land trust and invite additional worker-owned cooperatives onto the campus. Michelle Eddleman McCormick, the director and lead organizer of Cooperation Vermont, said after her organization made an offer of $3.5 million, the Goddard Board of Trustees went silent soon after, with their attorney notifying the nonprofit that they were under contract with a different party. 

Community members said they have good reason to believe the college is being sold to a private real estate developer — “an absurdity for a place like Goddard College,” according to Eddleman McCormick during a small press conference following the filing of the injunction. 

Community members gathered at the entrance of the Washington County Courthouse in Montpelier that morning discussed how the closure and sale of Goddard is linked to a larger movement across the U.S. to privatize educational institutions and profit from their closures. Eddleman McCormick said many will cite reasons of declining interest in liberal arts education and a lack of financial viability, but “none of that is actually true. When you have interests of capital literally coming after your organizations, you’re under attack.” 

In a narrative submitted by Goddard President Dan Hocoy’s office to the Vermont Attorney General along with the notice of sale, Hocoy wrote that the college’s financial challenges were a result of a demographic decline in college-aged students, exacerbated by concerns about the cost of college education, and mounting skepticism that liberal arts programs would lead to gainful employment.

Greg Gallant, who resigned as the director of alumni affairs at Goddard in January, said the reasons for closure given by Hocoy and the Board of Trustees “seem very misleading.” 

The filing of the July 3 injunction is the latest community effort asking the state to intervene in the sale. In mid-June, community members urged the Plainfield Select Board to send a letter to the Vermont Attorney General, the Governor’s office, and the Vermont Secretary of State, asking them to investigate unlawful conduct with the sale. Select board chair Jim Volz said the town has not heard back. 

“We’re still at it, and our fight will continue even if someone else files a deed,” Eddleman McCormick said at the July 3 press conference. “We will not give up until that campus and that space is restored to the commons, and permanently de-commodified, period.” 

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  • Community Group Tries to Halt $3.4 Million Sale of Goddard Campus