This story was updated at 8:53 p.m.
Jeb Spaulding, the chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges, will submit his resignation to trustees on Wednesday.
The chancellor’s resignation comes after a brutal backlash over his recommendation to close three state college campuses in the wake of the pandemic’s financial fallout.
Spaulding had proposed closing Northern Vermont University, which has campuses in Lyndon and Johnson, as well as Vermont Technical College’s main campus in Randolph. His plan was put on ice following widespread public outcry and pushback from the state’s political leaders.
Key lawmakers have indicated they’ll look for stop-gap funding to keep the colleges afloat as they consider larger reforms. But both top lawmakers and the Gov. Phil Scott’s administration have emphasized they expect big changes to come to the system, which has been on rocky financial footing for years.
“It is with a heavy heart, but firm resolve that I submit my resignation as Chancellor of this incredible organization that I have been so privileged to lead,” Spaulding said in an emailed statement.
“I realize that a fresh perspective and new leadership is necessary to move the VSCS forward in its mission. I will continue to do all I can to provide support in the transition and champion the System’s leaders as they work through the challenges ahead,” he said.
Drivers honked their way through Montpelier in a drive-through demonstration April 20 to protest the chancellor’s proposal, and many cars bore signs calling for Spaulding’s removal. Spaulding’s plan also elicited outrage among the system’s rank-and-file, with both staff and faculty unions taking no confidence votes in the chancellor.
“The reckless proposal he put forward meant legislators no longer trusted him. This was the right decision to preserve the VSCS,” said Linda Olson, a professor at Castleton University and the faculty union’s president.
The chancellor’s office is not the only place in the system that could see turnover at the top. NVU President Elaine Collins announced Monday afternoon she was a finalist for a post in Lansing, Michigan.
Trustees will consider how to fill Spaulding’s position during their Wednesday meeting. Plans are under consideration to appoint VSCS general counsel Sophie Zdatny to lead the system for a short period, until a longer-term interim leader can be selected.
J. Churchill Hindes, the chair of the state colleges board, said trustees “deeply appreciate Jeb’s extended career in service to Vermont and Vermonters” and “valued his contributions as our Chancellor, and we wish him well as he charts his next course.”
Spaulding held his post at the state colleges for five years. He previously served as secretary of administration under Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. Before that, he served five terms as Vermont’s state treasurer. As a state senator representing Washington County, he chaired the Senate education and appropriations committees.
His salary was $218,629 this year, although Spaulding on March 31 requested that it be lowered to $201,629 – his pay when he first took the job – according to VSCS administrative director Jen Porrier.
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