Goddard Group Seeks to Re-establish Residential Program

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(Host) Last month, Goddard College trustees voted to do away with the College’s on-campus residential programs. Board members cited the expense of maintaining the campus and the difficulties in meeting accreditation requirements for residential programs. Now, a small group of Goddard supporters wants to use the idle campus to breathe new life into the College.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Clo Pitkin is well aware of the stereotypes that exist about Goddard College. She first came to the small liberal arts college in Plainfield as a student in 1949:

(Pitkin) “When I was a student here, I came to the campus in a taxi the first time and the cab driver said to me, ‘There it is, little Moscow on the hill.'”

(Zind) Pitkin says Goddard has always been viewed by some with skepticism because of the College’s progressive politics and it s unorthodox approach to learning, an approach developed by her father-in-law, the late Tim Pitkin. It’s what drew Marie Lovrod to Goddard a year ago as an interim faculty member.

(Lovrod) “Because we are structured in a democratic way. Because decisions are reached in learning in a collective manner really helps people to think about, how is my well being caught up in your well being?”

(Zind) Lovrod and Pitkin are part of the Renaissance Group. Last month the group argued with the trustees not to cut on-campus programs. Now that they’ve lost that fight, they see the trustees decision as an opportunity. They’ve embarked on the Renaissance Project. The project has two goals: to raise money to fix up the campus and to develop new programs for Goddard. They say the programs will bring the college more in line with Tim Pitkin s ideals.

(Lovrod) “And at the same time, I think it’s important to recognize that in many ways, this is a revitalization of the original mission of the College. We’re absolutely committed to the liberal arts, democracy, sustainability, global responsibility.”

(Zind) Clo Pitkin says the Renaissance Group has made it clear to trustees that it hopes to return a residential program to Goddard within the next three years.

(Pitkin) “They know, and we have made it clear that our intention down the line is to reestablish a campus program.”

(Zind) Pitkin’s group is working with the blessings of, if not always in agreement with, the Goddard Board of Trustees. Stephen Friedman is vice chair of the Board. Friedman says while trustees welcome the group’s help and input, he doesn’t think the College has strayed from Tim Pitkin’s vision. Friedman says he has no interest in returning residential programs to Goddard:

(Friedman) “I’m sure there are people who still think it ought to be about restoring a traditional 30 week-a-year residential program. I know there are people who still feel that way, but I don’t feel that way.”

(Zind) Friedman says in the past, on-campus students accounted for only a quarter of all Goddard students. He says the college remains vibrant because most students are in low residency programs. Friedman says he supports the Renaissance Group’s efforts, but points out any proposals will have to be approved by trustees.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Plainfield.

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