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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dear Alumna,

This summer, when the Wilson College Board of Trustees revised the Articles of Incorporation—also known as the College's Charter—and submitted them to the PA Department of Education (PDE) for approval, they not only eliminated the College for Women, they submitted other changes that raise serious questions. The PDE is reviewing the altered Articles/Charter and is also considering protests from 40 people who oppose the proposed revisions. Most of the protests were submitted by alumnae who believe Wilson has produced an Articles/Charter that does not reflect state law, and has admitted traditional-age male students before it is legal to do so.

Noted in a recent letter from PDE to the forty protesters, this matter has been assigned to Deputy Secretary for Postsecondary & Higher Education Jill Hans. According to a communication from the PDE, a “public hearing” about the proposed revisions will be held. Despite the College's insistence, actions taken by the PDE are not “simply a formality.” Public hearings are not automatically granted. The protests have been reviewed and the issues raised have been deemed not frivolous. As soon as we have information about the hearing, we will share it with you. In the meantime, members of Wilson College Women are raising money to cover the legal costs associated with working through these administrative channels. For more information, please click here.

Wilson's Articles of Incorporation define what the College is and how it operates. Wilson currently operates under its 1993 Articles/Charter, which has been ratified by the Board of Trustees numerous times. In their proposed changes, the Board of Trustees not only made Wilson coeducational across all programs, they also revised other sections of the Articles/Charter that present specific concerns.

For example, in the proposed changes to the Articles/Charter, a section that stated “The Corporation shall maintain a faculty consisting of at least eight regular professors who devote all their time to the instruction of its higher education classes…” was removed entirely. Not revised. Deleted. Yet PA state law requires that private, non-profit colleges like Wilson maintain a minimum of eight full-time faculty. When we checked with Wilson's faculty, they were not aware of this proposed change to the Charter. There is in academia today a battle being fought against employment practices that propose the increasing use of adjunct instructors, who—because of their status—cannot be expected to have the same level of commitment to the College as do full-time professors. Whether intended or not, does the deletion of this section of the Charter requiring a minimum number of full-time faculty leave a door open to a practice that is harmful to the academic integrity of Wilson as a liberal arts college?

The Board of Trustees also revised the section concerning the minimum endowment required under PA law. The current 1993 version of the Articles/Charter states, “The Corporation shall maintain a minimum protective endowment of at least $500,000 beyond all indebtedness and assets invested in buildings and apparatus for the exclusive purpose of promoting instruction.” The proposed revision reads, “The corporation shall maintain at all times an unencumbered endowment of no less than five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000.00).” In the new wording, the term “unencumbered endowment” is not defined, and the wording alters the intent of the original phrasing. It fails to protect College assets needed for instruction, and does not take into account debts or assets of the College that pertain to the use of endowment funds necessary to keep the institution protected and solvent.

Why would the Board of Trustees deliberately weaken the Articles/Charter? In these uncertain times, why step away from what the state requires? When asked at the Alumnae Association Board meeting in September, Trustees indicated that the College is simply complying with new PA rules and regulations. Although individual Trustees may believe this to be true, it is incorrect. There are no PA rules or regulations that call for the deletion of charter language requiring a minimum number of faculty. Similarly, PA has not issued any new rule or regulation requiring revision or deletion of charter language concerning protective instructional assets beyond $500,000 in endowment. In fact, the language in Wilson's 1993 Articles/Charter that the Board of Trustees deleted and revised this summer appears on the PDE website that shows state requirements for colleges like Wilson.

We repeat: the actions of the PA Department of Education in response to the many letters of protest filed against the proposed changes to Wilson's Articles of Incorporation are not a formality. Without the approval of the PDE, we believe Wilson College is now acting in violation of its 1993 Charter.

We wait to see what actions the PA Department of Education will take next, and will keep you informed. If you have questions or want more information about any of the above, we look forward to connecting with you via the Call Center.

Firmly pledged to love and honor...

Deborah Barnes ’71
Melissa Behm ’76
Kendal Hopkins ’80
Nicole Noll ’03
Carol Noon ’87

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