Another Opinion, Editorial

Goddard College Faces Challenges

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PLAINFIELD — I have deep concerns about the future of Goddard College, an institution that holds a unique place in liberal higher education history and ethos. As a longstanding beacon of democracy, self-governance, and academic rigor, Goddard faces unprecedented challenges that threaten its very essence.

Founded in 1938 as a response to the looming threat of fascism, Goddard College was envisioned as a radical experiment in higher education, fostering democratic ideals through interactive, self-directed learning.

Over the years, Goddard has remained true to its founding principles, providing students with a transformative educational experience that goes beyond traditional classroom settings. The institution fostered tight-knit communities where curiosity, creativity, and social activism thrived. Students engaged in radical actions both on and off campus, participating in the civil rights movement, opposition to the Vietnam War, and advocacy for reproductive rights.

Goddard’s dedication to social justice and activism transcended its campus boundaries. The college served as a nexus for progressive thought and action, hosting events like the 1970 Alternative Media Conference and aligning with environmental groups like the Institute for Social Ecology.

In-person residencies are ultimately the foundation and crux of forming such communities of learning and change.

Students were not just learners but active contributors to the development and maintenance of the campus itself. They participated in hands-on activities, including designing and constructing buildings, growing food, operating the school switchboard, and even establishing their own fire department, the Goddard College Fire Department, equipped with its own truck for emergency responses.

The institution’s commitment to inclusive education led to the establishment of the Adult Degree Program (ADP) by Evalyn Bates, providing opportunities for individuals who had been historically denied access to formal education. Through the ADP, older learners could receive academic credit for their life experiences, ranging from managing household finances to engaging in independent study, thus democratizing the pursuit of knowledge and empowering marginalized communities.

The institution’s alumni roster is full of trailblazers. Olympic gold medalist Tommie Smith, renowned for his iconic Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics, earned his master’s degree in social work from Goddard, utilizing the platform to deepen his understanding of systemic racism and social injustice. Notable figures such as Rachel Pollack, Murray Bookchin, and Jerry Rubin contributed to Goddard’s intellectual and activist legacy, shaping discourse on literature, environmentalism, and counterculture.

Despite evolving educational trends and societal shifts, Goddard remained steadfast in its commitment to fostering intellectual exploration and social engagement. The institution welcomed diverse perspectives and encouraged open dialogue, serving as a beacon for radicals, intellectuals, and revolutionaries seeking an alternative educational experience.

Yet, despite Goddard’s rich history and unwavering commitment to progressive education, the institution finds itself at a crossroads.

The administration’s mishandling of finances has plunged Goddard into a state of uncertainty, jeopardizing its future viability.

Despite fervent efforts by students, staff, and faculty to propose viable solutions, the administration remains unreceptive to dialogue, pushing forward with plans that threaten to undermine the very foundation of Goddard’s ethos

Moreover, there are disturbing indications that the administration is considering transitioning Goddard to an online-only format. This not only disregards Goddard’s principles of experiential learning but also exposes the institution to legal risks.

Goddard would not only lose its soul as a residency-centered institution for the convening of innovative thinkers and artists, but could soon be facing legal action and financial ruin should it proceed with this ill-conceived strategy. Tuition for online-only schools inherently holds lesser value, and recent lawsuits against universities like Johns Hopkins Univerdsity, which reduced tuition for online-only instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic, serve as a cautionary tale.

To jeopardize Goddard’s future is to deny countless individuals the opportunity to engage in transformative learning experiences challenging conventional wisdom and inspiring social change.

At the heart of Goddard’s philosophy is the concept of radical learner-centered pedagogy, where students are empowered to take charge of their own education.

Rejecting traditional grading systems, Goddard has encouraged students to explore their passions and engage in critical thinking.

As members of the Goddard community and advocates for progressive education, I urge the administration to reconsider its stance and engage in meaningful dialogue with students, staff, and faculty. Instead of succumbing to financial pressures.

Let us work together to explore sustainable solutions that uphold Goddard’s founding principles and ensure its continued success for years to come.

In conclusion, the fate of Goddard College is not just a matter of financial viability; it is a question of preserving our collective commitment to democracy, intellectual freedom, and social justice. Let us stand united in defense of Goddard’s ethos and history, ensuring that future generations have the opportunity to experience the transformative power of a Goddard education.

Sincerely,

Elena Botts

Plainfield

[email protected]

Elena Botts was a student at The Johns Hopkins University during the Spring 2020 Semester when the university transitioned to remote learning and services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In May 2022, she filed a lawsuit, alleging that, among other things, the university breached the terms of the contract entered into with her and similarly situated individuals when it stopped providing in-person and on-campus educational services, as well as access to certain campus services and facilities in March 2020. Botts sought, for herself and all others similarly situated, a pro-rated refund of tuition and fees for the period that Defendant switched to remote learning and services.

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