Burlington College Confirms President's Impromptu Resignation | Off Message

Burlington College Confirms President's Impromptu Resignation


  • Matthew Thorsen
Burlington College confirmed today that its president, Christine Plunkett, resigned last week.

Plunkett told a group of students who surrounded her car last Friday and demanded that she resign that she would leave the college. The president then drove away.

Neither she nor the college's spokesperson, Coralee Holm, would confirm last week whether her impromptu statement constituted an official resignation. Reached by phone Friday, Yves Bradley, chair of the board of trustees, said he thought Plunkett had likely been trying to extricate herself from a difficult situation.

In a press release sent Monday evening, the board of trustees announced that Michael Smith, who was most recently the state president of FairPoint Communications, will serve as interim president. Joining Smith is City Councilor Jane Knodell, who will serve as interim provost, and David Coates, a prominent businessman, who will serve as interim financial adviser.

Smith has twice served as Vermont’s secretary of administration. In between terms, he was human services secretary. Born in Rutland, Smith graduated from the University of Vermont and was a U.S. Navy SEAL before starting his career in business and public service.

Knodell and Coates have similarly deep resumes. In addition to being a longtime Progressive city councilor, Knodell is an economics professor at UVM. In 2009, she was appointed interim provost there; she held the position permanently until resigning in the fall of 2012.

Coates, who is currently a member of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers, was a managing partner of the accounting company KPMG. At different points in his career, he also served as the director of National Life, the Green Mountain Power Company and the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund.

None of the "transition team" members were drawn from the college's board. 

Burlington College is facing severe financial problems and prior to Plunkett's resignation, a number of students, faculty and staff had suggested that her leadership was making the situation worse. Both the faculty and staff union and the student union, which isn't formally recognized by the school, took votes of no confidence in her.

Smith, Knodell and Coates did not immediately return calls Monday evening. The board is holding a press conference tomorrow; Holm indicated questions will be answered then. 

Updated 7:12 p.m. on Sept. 1 with additional information on transition team members.

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