The executive team received the following anonymous letter and was asked to post it on the website to share. The letter is not from anyone on the executive team or negotiation team.
To my fellow members of the DelVal Community,
DelVal is full of potential. As such, I remain hopeful. I believe we can, once again, be a place of refuge for those seeking to learn, connect, and work towards a world of social and economic mobility. We can overcome all barriers in the way of this return home to our mission.
This year we are celebrating 125 years of working to make Rabbi Krauskopf’s vision become reality. The mission of The National Farm School was to “improve the social and economic lives of those who came here to learn the science and practice of agriculture.” Over the last century we have worked to fulfill that mission by teaching and learning the skills of critical engagement, science with practice, and experiential learning. And yet, while we all worked to fulfill this mission, the Board of Trustees has repeatedly steered DelVal into negative net revenue in 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. These annual losses resulted in a cumulative deficit of $11.6 million over those seven years. A common thread across every recent year is Majid Aisayegh sitting at the top of the Board’s executive committee.
Legally, DelVals’ Board of Trustees has three fundamental duties. They are 1) duty of care, 2) duty of loyalty, and 3) duty of obedience. Of those duties, I want to focus on the second two. Duty of loyalty requires the Board to consider and act in good faith to advance the best interests of the university—the Board should not authorize or engage in transactions except those which provide the greatest benefit to the organization. Duty of obedience requires the Board to be obedient to the University’s mission.
The Delaware Valley University Mission Statement states that we prepare “undergraduate and graduate students to meet the challenges of a complex global environment” and that, “We provide students with the requisite skills and a spirit of inquiry that enrich and inform their lives.” Our primary stakeholder is the student population. We aim to serve them by preparing them to meet the complex challenges that society is facing. That is the mission of this educational nonprofit – prepare and provide for the students. Yet the Board, who is responsible for overseeing this mission, continually makes unilateral choices to get rid of the necessary resources to prepare and provide for our students.
In our 125th year, the Board of Trustees has turned their backs on what Rabbi Krauskopf was attempting to correct. The National Farm School was built to provide the land and resources for those who wanted to learn about the science and practice of farming. But, instead of investing further into what DelVal was founded to do, the Board is doing the opposite by attempting to develop a housing complex on our major crop production farm, Farm 7.
This development planning is being spearheaded by the new VP of Finance and Administration hired by the Board, Randy Barfield, who has no connection to DelVal, its community members, our founding, or even the region – he lives and works in Wisconsin. Furthermore, not a single student has been consulted or surveyed about the educational and experiential impact of developing our on-campus farm. No faculty have been consulted about the impact to teaching or research, and the staff member most heavily involved with the crop production on campus was eliminated at the start of the semester.
While agriculture is certainly not our only discipline, it’s pretty difficult to experience field crop production, forage harvesting and preservation, and grain processing when the fields have a housing complex and asphalt masking the soil. Developing a housing complex on Farm 7 is devoid of the intended purpose of our 501(c)3 status as it does not provide any advancement of education or science. It also does not connect to our mission, our vision or our motto, “science with practice,” despite the interim President’s false claims in a campus-wide email that, “the opportunities that exist for us to utilize Farm 7 [are] in a manner that is consistent with our mission.”
The executive committee of the Board of Trustees continues to fall short on their duty of loyalty and duty of obedience as noticed most recently in their push to develop Farm 7. But this is our school too and we have a voice the Board of Trustees cannot silence. We can unite and demand shared governance through shared decision-making. Farm 7 is not theirs. It’s ours. It is a tool and a resource for experiential learning, and today, 125 years later, our silence allows power and choice to rest with a few executives on the Board of Trustees and not in the hands of the primary stakeholder – students, or the front-line workers and those necessary to support the mission, faculty and staff.
For the Board of Trustees members and administrators who may be reading, I invite you, in the spirit of the high holidays of our Founder, to take time to reflect on how far you’ve taken us from our founding and our mission.
A concerned, but hopeful, community member.