Breaking News: a Consensus President at Goddard

With rare faculty support, board extends contract of the college's chief executive.
August 25, 2005

Shhh -- let's try not to jinx it. But for the moment, Goddard College has a president everyone seems to like.

That hasn't happened often in the unusual institution's recent history. When Goddard's Board of Trustees named Mark Schulman as president in the fall of 2002, the Plainfield, Vt., college for adult learners had been through a half-dozen presidents in little more than a decade. Chief after chief had run afoul of the faculty, and no-confidence votes were as frequent as foot-deep snowfalls on the campus. 

"I'm entering my 11th year here, and I've lost count of how many presidents there've been," says Ralph Lutts, a leader of the Faculty Council who coordinates Goddard's M.A. programin interdisciplinary environmental studies.

Goddard hired Schulman shortly after college officials reportedly halted a series of talks with other institutions about a possible merger, and shuttered its residential program for financial reasons, leaving in place a program in which students spend a short period of time on the campus and complete their studies individually at a distance.

Upon his hiring, the new president, board members and faculty leaders all expressed cautious hope that the years of conflict would end.

And Monday, after what Goddard officials said was a new type of review that involved councils of faculty and staff members, students and others on the campus in assessing the president's performance, the board announced that it had extended Schulman's contract for five years.

"Mark is a visionary educator who has united the entire faculty, staff and student body," Bob Wax, the board's chairman, said in a prepared statement. "He has created an atmosphere of expansive thinking and challenged us to let the world know that Goddard is back."

Francis X. Charet, a professor of religious studies, is chair of Goddard's faculty council, which was asked as part of the review process for what he called "feedback on various aspects of Mark's role as president. Charet said in an e-mail message that "over all, Mark's presidency has been greeted enthusiastically by the faculty and he has brought hope and renewal to Goddard." He added that others at the college "feel similarly, and this is reflected in the extension of his contract."

He noted in a telephone interview that the college and its faculty union had just successfully negotiated a new contract, "a significant development." And Schulman has "rebuilt the governance structure so students, faculty and staff have a real voice in decision making," says Lutts.

Peter S. Burns, who returned to Goddard as dean of enrollment management and external relations this spring nearly a decade after he left as admissions director, said he "came back very cautiously" after concluding that the trustees had "got it right this time" in choosing the president.

Adds Burns: "It is exciting that we're coming out of the ashes one more time."


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