Vermont economy reopening begins tomorrow; college campus closure vote delayed

By Guy Page

April 19, 2020 – Saturday, President Donald Trump announced at a press briefing Vermont and Texas will be the first two states to reopen for business, beginning this Monday. 

Friday, April 17 Gov. Phil Scott ordered the following business activity re-opened on Monday, April 20:

  • outdoor businesses and construction operations with crews of two or less
  • single-person low contact professional services, such as appraisers, attorneys, realtors and others
  • more retail operations may operate through phone-in or online ordering, and curbside pickup or delivery

Some Vermonters are demanding the restrictions end now. Similar to protests in Michigan, New Hampshire and other states, a grassroots demonstration on the State House lawn urging a return to normal has been planned for Wednesday. Gov. Scott has repeatedly promised he will reopen the economy  “the spigot a quarter turn at a time,” making data-driven decisions. As of 1 pm Friday Vermont has seen 793 Covid-19 cases and 35 deaths.

Not all of the national news about Vermont has been positive. Fox News Sunday night covered Vermont State College (VSC) Chancellor Jeb Spaulding’s plan to close three Vermont state college campuses due to Covid-19 enrollment losses suffered this year and projected for next year.

Spaulding announced Friday his plan to keep the state college system afloat by closing campuses in Lyndon, Johnson and Randolph. 

Negative reaction and grassroots organization was strong and swift. Former Democratic House Majority Leader Floyd Nease, a former Johnson resident and son of a college president, noted in a Facebook post that six of the 13 Vermont State College trustees live in Chittenden County and none live in any of the endangered campus host towns. 

Protest Vermont State College Closures,  a Facebook protest group organized by NVU professor Ben Luce, had 3600 followers as of Sunday afternoon. 200 demonstrators in Johnson cheered an announcement that Gov. Scott opposes the closures and wants the Legislature to find a solution. A VSC trustee vote on Spaulding’s plan set for tomorrow has been postponed

Luce called for a doubling of VSC’s appropriation. Scott opposes closures and burdening Vermont taxpayers. He urged the Legislature to find innovative solutions that cost-effectively prepare students without closing campuses.

Photo credit: from Fox News broadcast today, Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) opposes planned closing of three Vermont state college campuses, including the Lyndon campus of Northern Vermont University.