Much has been written about Jane Sanders tenure as President of Burlington College (2004 to 2011). Criticism has been especially pointed regarding the $10 million land purchase for a campus expansion she spearheaded in 2010 that ultimately lead to Sanders removal a year later (albeit with a $200k golden parachute) and the College’s bankruptcy and ultimate closure last spring. In a letter to The Chronicle of Higher Education entitled,“What Really Happened at Burlington College,” President Carol Moore wrote that an investigation should be conducted into how a loan of such magnitude was ever approved for a college with such limited operating funds. But what hasn’t been discussed in all the noise about Burlington College’s closure is how Jane Sanders (supported by the same Board of Trustees who approved the land sale) openly funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars from Burlington College’s operating funds to VT Woodworking School?—?a for-profit business started by her daughter Carina Driscoll in 2007.
More than $500k from 2009 to 2012
Last year, Politico described Burlington College as catering to “nontraditional students, such as veterans and adults. It grew from its original 14 students to about 200 in recent years, finding appeal with its small student-to-faculty ratio and degrees in unusual fields including woodworking.” Yet, when Jane Sanders first arrived at Burlington College in 2004 no degree program in woodworking existed. It isn’t until 2009 that public tax records show Burlington College paying Vermont Woodworking School $56,474 for materials, charges and lease of bench space based on student enrollment reflecting what appears to be the beginning of the College’s woodworking program. The college was forced to report this expenditure as it related to a relationship between an interested party (Jane Sander’s daughter, Carina Driscoll) and Burlington College. Over the next four years, funds to VT Woodworking School increased considerably from this original amount to $133,134 in 2010; $138,571 in 2011; and, $182,741 in 2012 (the last year program expenses are reported in the tax filings).