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Former Burlington College President Blames Closure On Land Purchase

A federal investigation into a land deal made by Jane O'Meara Sanders while she was president of Burlington College is ongoing as of a month ago according to reporting this week by Seven Days.
Taylor Dobbs
VPR File
Moore has maintained a large land purchase was to blame for financial problems that led to Burlington College's closure in May.

Dr. Carol A. Moore, the former president of Burlington College, has spoken out about the college's closure earlier this year in a letter to the editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

In the letter, titled "What Really Happened at Burlington College," Moore blames the school's financial trouble on former board members and a large land purchase authorized when Jane Sanders was president of Burlington College.

"BC’s fate was set when its former board members hired an inexperienced president and, six years later, approved the imprudent purchase of a $10 million piece of property for campus expansion, Moore wrote. "Enrollment that year was about 195 and the budget just over $4 million, less than half of this ill-advised investment. What were they thinking? Where was the Finance Committee when these decisions were being made?"

Moore went on to question why Burlington College got approval for the loan.

"More interestingly, what bank lends a small, private, unendowed college of that size and financial status an amount that so obviously outweighs its ability to repay?  People’s United Bank of Vermont.  And  the collateral?  One planned gift of a revocable trust, payable upon the death of the donor, and the “promise” of another million-dollar gift," wrote Moore. "But, alas, no written record of such a “promise” could be found, anywhere in Burlington College’s records."

In an interview with VPR in May, Moore said she saw the land deal as the primary cause for the closure.

Jane Sanders told VPR last year that she was disappointed the school didn't follow through on her plans for the college. "Unfortunately, there was a kind of a quick change in leadership and we just didn't — we had different visions for the future of the college," Sanders said.

But in her August 31 letter, Moore questioned whether Sanders' husband, Sen. Bernie Sanders, had influence over the land purchase.

"Who is to blame for this appallingly inappropriate business deal? Perhaps a board that steered clear of the tough questions which needed to be asked," wrote Moore. "Or a bank in the state of an influential senator — a senator, as it turned out, with bigger ambitions?"

Neither Moore or Jane Sanders immediately responded to interview requests from VPR.

Annie Russell was VPR's Deputy News Director. She came to VPR from NPR's Weekends on All Things Considered and WNYC's On The Media. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School.
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