Last fall, when the University of Vermont (UVM), located in Burlington, and Vermont Law School (VLS), located in Royalton, announced that they were developing a joint degree program, UVM's Vice President for Administration and University Relations explicitly denied that a merger was on the table: "It’s not on the table at all. We're not talking about a merger." But concerns about a merger and relocation—which Royalton residents say would adversely affect the local economy—have nevertheless persisted, and indeed have been rekindled this year. In January, the UVM Board of Trustees convened an ad hoc work group, which last met in closed door session on February 27, "to explore the university’s relationship with VLS." According to Vermont Public Radio, "at least three UVM trustees [who declined to go on the record] have confirmed that the possibility of UVM acquiring VLS outright is one of many scenarios the work group is examining."
Those three trustees presumably do not include Vermont Rep. Sarah Buxton, D-Tunbridge, who cited the possibility of a merger in her decision to resign her position as a member of the UVM Board of Trustees on February 20 after serving just one year of a six-year term. Buxton felt that she faced a potential conflict of interest between her role as trustee, should UVM decide that absorbing and relocating the law school was in its interest, and the role she has held since 2010 as state legislator, where she represents the Royalton residents who are increasingly uneasy about rumors of a merger. Incidentally, Buxton is a 2010 graduate of the law school and, until May of 2013, also held a fulltime position there as assistant director of community relations and alumni affairs. That position, however, which accommodated her annual four-month stint at the state house, was eliminated in May as part of the law school's various layoffs and buyouts amid declining enrollments and Buxton was forced to file for unemployment while she searched for a similarly accommodating job elsewhere. (It's unclear from her Wikipedia page whether she has been successful in her job search.)
In response to the upsurge of merger rumors following Buxton's resignation, UVM President Thomas Sullivan and VLS President and Dean Marc Mihaly released a joint statement implicitly denying that a merger is on the table. They said that "programmatic and academic opportunities between the institutions," including joint degrees and clinical and research collaborations, "represent the full extent of what the two institutions are exploring and discussing." Asked for a more explicit statement about whether a merger and relocation is a possibility, law school spokesperson Peter Glenshaw was somewhat more circumspect than UVM's Vice President for Administration and University Relations had been last fall. "At this time," Glenshaw said, "there is no plan to relocate, and we intend to continue building our strategic academic partnerships with UVM."
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