Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders‘ meteoric rise to progressive mass appeal has recently been imperiled by his wife’s previous tenure as president of the now-defunct Burlington College. Long before Sanders was packing social justice snowflakes into college gymnasiums by peddling his pie-in-the-sky brand of everything-is-free democratic socialism, his wife and top adviser, Jane Sanders, was running hardscrabble institution of higher learning Burlington College into the ground.
Envisioned as a “school without walls” where students could pursue “alternative education” and design their own majors in an extremely intimate setting, the school had limped through several decades of existence, never able to surpass a meager enrollment of 200 students, and seemingly constantly on the verge of losing all accreditation. Enter hard-charging, high-flying Jane Sanders…wife of popular native son Bernie Sanders to right the ship with an ambitious proposal for skyrocketing enrollment and tuition income.
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There was just one problem: like all socialists, Jane Sanders was a notoriously inept financial manager. Her lasting legacy at Burlington College was planning its destruction, while alienating key faculty members and the board of trustees, who ousted her, at considerable expense. (Although the Sanders family delights in railing against executive excesses, they apparently see nothing wrong with Sanders’ $200,000 golden parachute upon being forced out of the college).
Yet, Bernie Sanders says, “When she left, it was in better shape than it had ever been.” This is demonstrably false, and any candidate running against the Vermont firebrand in a senatorial or presidential election, will surely use this outlandish quote against him.
When Jane O’Meara Sanders left Burlington College, the school was, in fact, on life support, almost entirely due to Sanders’ preposterous plan to purchase 33 acres of waterfront property on Lake Champlain from the Catholic diocese, which was reeling from an enormous sexual abuse settlement, and eager for cash.
The Sanders family brand of socialism has been burnished by a clean government image: transparency, honesty, and integrity are its cornerstones, coupled with a relentless pursuit of corruption. Unfortunately, Jane Sanders appeared to forget these key principles as she handled the finances at Burlington College.
The key component of Sanders’ expansion plan was a sizeable loan from Peoples United Bank, which was to provide $10 million to purchase the prime real estate from the Vermont Catholic Archdiocese. Here is where the matter becomes increasingly serious, and, potentially, criminal.
Jane Sanders reported to the bank that she had lined up $2.6 million in donations…funds that would be used to pay the mortgage on the property. In fact merely a quarter of these donations materialized. The FBI has been speaking with the alleged “donors” and found that Burlington College, in its bank filings, had wildly overstated the pledges…using this as a pretext to secure the loan. If Sanders willfully and intentionally overstated pledges, and it appears that she did, in order to secure a loan for the college that they could not realistically pay back, then that is bank fraud.
In the magical world of socialist administration, reality and cold hard facts are of little consequence; what is really of paramount importance is our intentions…and no one knows what is best for us better than big government socialists like Bernie and Jane Sanders.
Just as every human being is entitled to a cradle-to-grave social welfare state offering free food, water, housing, clothing, education, transportation, and entertainment, regardless of financial realities, in Jane Sanders’ mind, when it came to the administration of Burlington College, the facts and figures were of little consequence.
Who cares about defrauding a bank by taking out a $10 million dollar loan that the college could never pay back? The intentions were noble…young scholars unable to receive offers of admission at any of the other dozen colleges in the area, eagerly awaiting to be indoctrinated by far-left professors and administrators and one day turning out to vote for Bernie Sanders. That was the real objective.
The Board of Trustees at Burlington College had every reason to go to the utmost lengths to support Jane Sanders’ vision. After all, she was married to the most enduringly popular Vermont politician in a generation. A powerful man who could pull strings when needed. And that is very likely what happened when Peoples United Bank agreed to grant the risky loan proposal. Federal investigators are currently considering whether Bernie Sanders used his office to put pressure on the bank to grant the loan.
Ultimately, what is not in dispute is that the deal was a disaster for all involved: Burlington College, the Archdiocese, and the bank. The college never expanded its enrollment, as Sanders had promised, fell $2 million short on donations, and lost students and faculty in the wake of Sanders brusque leadership style and economic mismanagement.
Sanders was forced out by the board…only after receiving her juicy $200,000 golden parachute. Strangely, said lucrative severance package was never featured in a Bernie Sanders 2016 campaign ad. I wonder why?
Surely the unquestionably brilliant administrator Jane O’Meara Sanders, was entitled to her just deserts for running Burlington College into the ground.
Sanders’ sad saga at Burlington College should be a teachable moment for all: put socialists in charge of anything, and you are headed for disaster.