Below is the full statement issued by Dr. Phillips on April 15, 2014 to the College:
Thank you for gathering today on short notice. The reason for this update is to tell you that VI and Webber International University have reached the joint and difficult conclusion that we do not have a viable model for a merger in July.
This deeply saddens the administration and the Boards of each school, as we have very high regard for one another and we both strongly believe in Webber’s goal of uniting small colleges in order to preserve their identities. Webber President Dr. H. Keith Wade joins me in expressing his personal disappointment and, importantly, in “applauding everyone at Virginia Intermont for keeping their attention precisely and appropriately focused on student success.”
Despite this decision, VI will complete the spring semester, keep scholarship support in place for the semester, and have graduation on schedule. We also expect to offer our 8-week summer session, which concludes on June 27. We have kept the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) informed of our situation, and we are grateful for the Commission consenting to the prior injunction remaining in place until July 1, which will support these accredited activities.
This decision means that we are right away securing “Plan B” for our students. I have talked in general about this with students before – it is called a “teach out plan.” We will talk about this a lot beginning tomorrow and work with all students who are not slated for graduation in May or the summer.
For now, I can tell you simply that “teach out” is a mechanism used by all regional accreditors in the U.S. to protect students in a case like VI’s. It involves VI signing agreements with several schools to “teach out” students so that they can complete their academic programs as planned with all credits transferring to another school.
To be prudent, independent of the status regarding the merger, we began our “teach out” discussions with several schools about a week ago. Our provost and associate provost, Dr. Ward and Dr. Thiers, will ably shepherd the process for the students with significant help from Dean Minton and Coach Holt.
As is normally the case, many schools want to help VI and thus we fully anticipate having multiple “teach out” partners. “Teach out” arrangements normally mean that students transfer to other institutions, and our students certainly will have those options. In addition, there is at least one school that is strongly considering doing the “teach out” on our campus.
We know there are many questions about the “teach out” arrangements, and we will address these thoroughly and also make representatives of our partner schools available to students, faculty and staff.
For all of you and for the thousands of people who love this place, the obvious question is what does all of this mean to VI? Let’s review what we know.
• We know that we do not have a viable merger scenario with Webber for July 1.
• We also know that VI is financially distressed. While this has been apparent for some time, it became significantly worse about two weeks ago due to a slowdown in the receipt of financial aid funds. The past two weeks have been almost unbearably hard for many of us and I am deeply grateful to our staff who have to manage these problems daily.
The Board of Trustees and I have been working to address the financial situation and we are turning immediately to concentrate even greater efforts in that direction. In fact yesterday we had consulting resources made available to us so that we can explore strategies to repair from the delay of our funds while at the same time paying the next round of refunds owed to our students, addressing the needs of our employees and communicating with VI’s partners and vendors.
While we are doing these things we are making no decisions about the future of VI as an operating entity. What we are solely doing at this point is saying that we do not have a viable merger option with Webber for July 1.
Due to this, we are moving with haste to guarantee accredited options for students. We will also immediately call faculty and staff together to discuss plans for operating over the coming months. Of primary importance is that students, faculty and staff who do not want to deal with uncertainty have very clear information so that they can understand their options and can make plans.
This has not been an easy year for all of us. For me, I have felt disconnected from the daily life of the College while the work to develop a July 1 merger has necessarily consumed me. Nonetheless, we have so much to celebrate about our academic, extracurricular and athletic successes – the most recent of which is the national championship achieved by our dressage team this weekend.
As we all know, VI’s motto is Nil Sine Numine – Nothing without Guidance or Nothing without Providence. I do not know why we have this chapter in the life of VI, and I wish with all my heart that we were not going through this. I believe that it is for a purpose, but right now I don’t know what that is.
What I do know is that Virginia Intermont College, our beloved VI, is a special place, and our students are its lifeblood. Regardless of what happens in the months and years to come, VI lives in our hearts and we are blessed to have come this far.
In the coming days while we take care of our students, address the needs of our employees and continue to work on our financial situation, please stay posted for news about meetings and sessions during which we will present detailed information, answer questions and provide assistance. But also remember to enjoy this place and each other. And students, remember – you are extraordinary and you bring great joy to so many lives. For me especially, it is a privilege to serve you.