‘Decision by Emerson College’s Trustees to close Emerson College
12 February 2010
Founded in the 1960s, Emerson College had a flourishing start and enjoyed great success in providing anthroposophically inspired adult education to students from all over the world. As such, the college has had a key influence in many people’s lives. So often we have heard of stories that Emerson College was, or is, the impulse that transformed lives. In recent years, the college has not been able to attract the numbers of students that it needs to run profitably. This has eroded its once sound financial base to such an extent, that we as Trustees, who were appointed in this position between September 2009 and January 2010, now need to focus on our legal responsibility to protect the creditors of the college which include the staff, the pensioners, the bank and other lenders and creditors. Therefore, the Trustees of Emerson College Trust Limited have decided in their meeting on 12 February 2010 to close Emerson College in as orderly a manner as possible, to sell the assets of the college and repay the creditors. We have taken this decision to protect the creditors of the college which include staff and pensioners. We do not see the student numbers rising quickly enough or with enough certainty to continue trading. With losses of about £80,000 a month we would continue to erode the position of Emerson’s creditors which we are not prepared to do. Our balance sheet allows us to continue trading to the end of the academic year in June 2010 and we hope that this is what will happen. However, our liquidity position only allows us to continue trading for two more weeks without getting more cash in from asset sales. We hope to sell 8 Posthorn Lane within ten days which should allow us to continue trading until the middle of April 2010. So, if we want to keep the college open until June 2010, we need to sell more assets quickly or agree with the bank to lend us more to continue trading until June 2010. We have also decided that it would not be correct to ask the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain (ASGB) for financial support as (1) the original plan of ASGB buying the campus is not possible because it would result in negative own funds immediately and (2) we cannot with enough confidence say that with ASGB's money we will succeed to turn the college to profit.
For inquiries contact: Marc ter Kuile, Chairman of Trustees.’
Wikipedia leert dat een trust een Angelsaksische rechtsvorm is:
‘Wie vermogen in een trust stopt (de settlor), vertrouwt het toe aan derden, de trustees. Deze beheerders kunnen een natuurlijk persoon zijn of een rechtspersoon. Juridisch is men geen eigenaar meer, maar is de trustee eigenaar geworden. Dit is hij echter niet voor zichzelf, hij zal volgens de door de settlor opgestelde voorwaarden moeten handelen. Een trust heeft geen rechtspersoonlijkheid. (...)
Bij het oprichten van de trust kunnen voorwaarden gesteld worden aan hoe het vermogen in de trust beheerd wordt en wie de begunstigden zijn. Deze begunstigden kunnen wederom een natuurlijk persoon zijn of een rechtspersoon. Ook kunnen voorwaarden gesteld worden aan de uitkeringen, zoals hoe vaak en wanneer deze uitgekeerd worden. Daarnaast bijv. ook voorwaarden die stellen dat het vermogen dat beheerd wordt alleen bedoeld is om kunst mee te kopen. De volstrekte anonimiteit van de eigenaar wordt als een voordeel van de trusts beschouwd.
De trustee houdt goederen niet voor zichzelf maar handelt volgens de voorwaarden van de trust. Hoewel de trustee eigenaar is, heeft hij in principe geen recht op de vermogensbestanddelen of de daaruit voortvloeiende inkomsten. Hij zal hooguit een vergoeding krijgen voor zijn diensten. Anderzijds kan de trustee ook niet aansprakelijk worden gesteld voor aan de bestanddelen klevende schulden, tenzij deze zijn ontstaan door zijn nalatigheid.
Door de anonimiteit van de trust kan de oprichter zowel trustor (settlor) als begunstigde zijn. Dit maakt de trust zeer geschikt voor het afschermen van activa. De trust biedt ook mogelijkheden om anoniem eigenaar te worden van een vennootschap of het afschermen van vermogen tegen schuldeisers. Tevens is een trust geschikt om “orphan structuren” te creeren, doordat eventuele door de trustee gehouden aandelen niet voor de trustee zelf gehouden worden.’
Emerson College kampt al langer met problemen. – Maar eerst iets meer over Emerson College zelf:
‘Emerson College is an international centre for transformational learning, where students of all ages, and from 40 countries, join an innovative learning community. At Emerson, self-awareness is the foundation for making a difference in your personal life, your career and for the planet. Be inspired, unlock your creativity and explore a new vision for yourself and for society.
Emerson College offers full-time, part-time, short and summer courses in anthroposophy, arts, agriculture, education, storytelling and more.
At Emerson, there are amazing teachers, a diverse student body and a beautiful location in the English countryside just one hour south of London. Learning at Emerson converges on the fields of holistic education, biodynamic agriculture and sustainability, and social and artistic renewal. In each field there are substantial practical achievements worldwide which draw their inspiration from a common source – anthroposophy and the work of Rudolf Steiner. Emerson College was founded in 1962 by the educational pioneer, Francis Edmunds (1902-1989).
Emerson College welcomes students from around the world. This makes for a hugely diverse student body and with student ages ranging from 18-80 serves to create a truly international and transformational learning community.’
‘Emerson College does not exist alone. Within the Forest Row/ East Grinstead area there is Michael Hall Steiner School, a Christian Community Church, two biodynamic farms, Peredur Centre for the Arts which includes Tobias School of Art and Artemis School, and the Part-time Course for the London College of Eurythmy. There is also an active local branch of the Anthroposophical Society. All of these form a larger community of anthroposophical institutions and interested individuals. There are lectures, workshops, performances and concerts that create a lively cultured schedule of events.’
Op 30 juli 2007 schreef Christian von Arnim van het antroposofische persbureau News Network Anthroposphy:
‘Emerson College is an international centre for adult education based on the work of Rudolf Steiner. It is situated in an idyllic setting in the rolling southern English countryside of Sussex and offers students of all ages from all over the world courses and training in Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture, foundation studies, visual arts, sculpture, storytelling, creative writing, English, puppetry and an orientation programme for 18-24-year-olds.
Yet in recent times the situation within the college itself has not been as idyllic as its setting. Poor management, conflict among staff and rising debt meant that Emerson was finding if increasingly difficult to function effectively. Substantial assets ensured that there was no immediate threat to its existence, but it was nevertheless a situation which could not be allowed to continue.
In a way which has been symptomatic also of some other anthroposophical institutions in recent years, the college had lost its sense of direction and needed to find a new way to structure both its internal relationships and the way it stood in and related to the external world.
It was only when a number of staff left and the college could finally be persuaded two years ago to set up an external board of trustees, which began its work about a year ago, that the process of reversing the downward spiral at the institution could begin.
New staff and a new administrator were appointed and, as John Thomson, a former teacher at the college, now retired, who was instrumental in creating the external board of trustees and is one its members, explains: “Now there is a very different atmosphere, there’s a very positive atmosphere in the college.”
Another important aspect of the change at Emerson, Thomson says, was a complete reappraisal of the role of the college and its task in today’s world: “How does it engage, as a representative of anthroposophical work, with the contemporary situation, with the world today?”
As the final stage of that process of turning the college round, it is now seeking a person to take what it describes as a “leadership role” to guide Emerson into its next stage of development. What this at first sight rather nebulous concept means in practical terms is spelled out by Emerson in its description for the job: “As part of this development, the leadership role will involve networking with other institutions and organisations whose goals are in sympathy with the College and also reaching out to the larger global community.”
At the same time “within the college itself, the capacity to act successfully in a collegial atmosphere is essential.”
A kind of chief executive then? Yes, says John Thomson, up to a point, but in fact the role involves much more than that, creating the space in which the college can flourish, both internally and externally.
Yet as Thomson is keen to emphasise, the college is not looking for a charismatic leader who will tell everybody what to do, but rather someone who can “enable the other people who are working there also bring out their leadership qualities”, who can integrate the work of the different groups within the institution and present the college to the public “in a way that is contemporary and can relate to the huge problems that face society today.”
In the press release for the job, Emerson describes the leadership role as “an opportunity for someone who seeks to present anthroposophy as a real answer to the spiritual, social, educational and scientific needs of the twenty-first century”. But these words might just as well serve as a concise summary of Emerson College’s new-found purpose as it sets out on the next stage of its development.’
Op 19 december 2007 kon Christian von Arnim melden dat ‘Emerson College appoints new director to take it into the twenty-first century’:
‘Emerson College, the international centre for adult education, has appointed a new director. The appointment marks the culmination of a transformation process to make the college fit for the twenty-first century and give it renewed strength and focus (see NNA report, 30 July 2007). Gregg Davis, who will start working half-time from mid-January until he moves fully into the post in August of next year, has just completed his tenure as executive director of Camphill Soltane and president of the Camphill Soltane Foundation in the United States.
In a statement released by Emerson’s board of trustees, the board said Davis had come with “the highest recommendations from colleagues and others able to observe the transformation and renewal he brought to the organisation.” The decision to appoint him had been based on his “vision of organisations as fertile ground in making social, economic and ecological change for people and planet” and his commitment to and work on the basis of anthroposophy.
This development comes at an important time for Emerson and for anthroposophical work, the college said. Questions of a social, spiritual and ecological nature presented an increasing challenge today. “We cannot lightly claim to have answers to them. But they certainly bring an urgent focus to many issues which have preoccupied anthroposophists for a century and which now demand our earnest engagement,” the statement said.
The history and location of Emerson College predisposed it to “pick up the gauntlet”. The time was now calling for greater vision and action. “We have confidence that Gregg Davis has the ability and experience to enable Emerson to realise its future,” the statement concluded.’
In een ‘Emerson News January 2008’ wordt enthousiast verhaald over de plannen. Aan het eind van dat jaar was dat nog steeds zo, blijkt uit de Newsletter van december. Elders op de website schrijft de nieuwe man in een ‘Greetings from Gregg Davis’, ook gedateerd december 2008:
‘Emerson is in a spiritual and practical struggle for its future. It is an exciting, deep and necessary challenge. The key directions are outlined in our June 2008 vision document (see www.emerson.org.uk if you missed it). We are working hard, in many directions simultaneously, to refine, clarify and implement this contemporary vision. We urgently need the help of former students to create a funding bridge from a vulnerable present to a future where Emerson’s “red thread” of transformational learning can be fully integrated with the new and demanding social, economic and regulatory conditions of the next decade. Every small gift matters.’
‘Following Gregg Davis’s resignation as Director of Emerson College, the Trustees are pleased to announce that they have decided to appoint Emilie Salvesen as Acting Director of Emerson College with immediate effect. Emilie will work with an interim Management team consisting of senior management staff at Emerson College and two Executive Trustees. This group will continue the work to revitalise the development of Emerson College that the Trustees initiated with Gregg Davis, and will continue to develop the community framework on which Emerson College’s future is built.’
Onder ‘Other Staff’ wordt zij op de website van Emerson College opgevoerd als:
‘Emilie Salvesen – Joint Acting Director
An MA in Modern Languages from Cambridge University and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Michigan equipped Emilie for the travelling life that lay ahead. She worked in Social Work in continental Europe, then trained at Emerson College in Waldorf education. She taught at Waldorf schools around the world and is now part of the College Administration.’
Op 9 oktober 2009 schreef zij samen met Andrew Edmond, de andere director, het alarmerende bericht ‘Taking Emerson through the Eye of the Needle’:
‘It is 47 years since Francis Edmunds gathered the first group of 12 students at Emerson College, inspired by Rudolf Steiner, Ralph Waldo Emerson and others. Edmunds’ vision and initiative centred on land, community and learning to enable the students to stand their ground with meaning in the modern world. The College soon grew to a student body of well over 200 a year, and students went to all corners of the earth to initiate ventures themselves.
In recent years student numbers have declined substantially. Cost structures were not adequately reviewed, and Emerson College operated a budget deficit form many years, funded by the sale of assets. New strictures imposed by Health and Safety legislation, ageing facilities, course accreditation requirements, immigration laws and a pension fund deficit, all of which had not been issues before, needed to be addressed urgently. By August 2009 they brought Emerson College to a very fragile and precarious state, and with student numbers down again for the academic year 2009-2010, the College’s survival during the coming year was by no means certain.
To address this situation and to transform the College’s prospects for a better future, the Board of Trustees are implementing a radical series of measures to bring expenditure in line with income, deal with the operating deficits, reduce debt levels, refurbish the facilities and work towards a contemporary course programme of both professional and personal development.
This will mean changes to both staff and the Board of Trustees and will regrettably include staff redundancies. Emerson College is most grateful to all those who have left or will be leaving after many years of unstinting service to the College.
Although the Foundation Year course and the Education course have closed for this year, the full-time Biodynamic Agriculture (years 1 and 2) the Visual Arts and the two subsequent Sculpture courses, as well as the 3 months Now of Storytelling course are all running from this September, as will year 2 of the part-time Education course. All short, weekend and summer courses will run as advertised.
We have confidence that these measures will enable Emerson College to pass through the eye of the needle and ready itself for a vigorous start in September 2010 with a number of new courses to rekindle Francis Edmunds’ vision.’
‘The Register holds comprehensive information about every registered charity in England and Wales.’
Daaronder uiteraard ook ‘The Emerson College Trust Limited’. Onder ‘Financial history’ zijn de belangrijkste cijfers te vinden, alsmede de jaarverslagen. De op een na oudste, aangeleverd op 31 januari 2006, is ‘Trustees’ Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 2005’. Daarin staat te lezen op bladzijde 4:
We began the year in crisis, with deep divisions amongst staff and an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion. The Council was similarly affected, and so the old Council was dissolved and a smaller Council elected specifically to be able to work as a team to carry the College out of the crisis. At this time we recognised the necessity of getting outside advice from a consultant and subsequently George Perry took up all of the consultation work both as a mediator and working with the Council and the staff to help the organisation forward, and a number of staff development days was held. Discussions were held concerning the way we are paid and the need for a new salary structure, which takes benefits such as housing into account. We also discussed the need for a body of independent trustees. We are in communication with the Charity Commission on this and related issues. In October 2004 we sold a College house to help our financial situation, as the forecast overdraft had materialised, and our cashflow was under threat. There have been a number of staff changes, which have had a beneficial effect on the budgets of some courses.
During the year the long-held aim of giving away Tablehurst Farm was finally achieved as we completed the transfer to the St Anthony’s Trust, who already own Old Plaw Hatch Farm. This step realises the original vision for the long-term stewardship of the farms, and allows a clear relationship between the farms, the businesses which operate them and the co-op.’
Dat is niet best. De cijfers zijn navenant. In de jaren daarna gaat het niet veel beter. Het meest recente jaarverslag gaat tot 30 juni 2008, ontvangen op 29 april 2009. Op bladzijde 2 lees ik onder ‘Achievement and Performance’:
Important staff changes will come into place in preparation for the next academic year. Martin Hardiman and Angela Querido become part-time teachers retaining their responsibility for the part-time teacher education courses and relinquishing the full-time course to Elan Leibner, an experienced Waldorf teacher from the USA. Emilie Salvesen is appointed to head the administration and will take up the post in August, 2008. Yvette Dellsperger will move from that appointment to take charge of facilities and housing. Simon Floyd and Katerina Mimica who shared these tasks have left. Simon Couldry, responsible for finance, has resigned and will leave in August. The Foundation Year course has experienced a new sense of purpose and stability under the direction of Chen Atid.
The summer course programme which expanded last year is attracting even larger numbers. Again volunteers are keen to join the College for the summer period to give essential support to the house and kitchen teams.
The appointment of Gregg Davis as director has been a significant step in the restructuring of College. Commitment to round off his previous responsibilities has prevented him from being present full-time in the College before August 2008. Nevertheless he stepped into the task in January with irregular but vigorous visits which have already made a clear impact on College life. He set up a vision and strategy group to bring to consciousness the history of the College, its founding intentions, social, pedagogical and financial difficulties that belong to the recent past and to sketch a strategy for forward movement. Review and publicity procedures have been developed. The British Accreditation Council has confirmed the provisional reaccreditations of the College until December 2008. Yhe College has to meet all the statutory obligations for fire and health safety and this will involve much labour and expense.’
En meteen daarna, onder ‘Financial Review’:
The college has no cash reserve funds at this time. The college’s projected deficit for fiscal year 2008-09 is ₤ 123,000. The deficit will be met through a combination of fundraising initiated by the new director and through increases in student numbers. The deficit budget is based on zero net increase in students. As of this writing the projected increase in student fees equals ₤ 86,000.
Investment policy and objectives
The Trustees have unlimited investment powers and currently the charity has unlisted investments as detailed in the notes to the financial statements.
The statement of financial activities on page 5 of the financial statements shows net outgoing resources of ₤ 464,829 (2007: Net becoming resources ₤ 44,428). The net outgoing of resources of ₤ 464,829 is arrived at after an exceptional item (pension deficit of ₤ 434,000 being taken into account). Although the pension deficit has to be recognised in the 2007/8 results the payment will be made over the next 10 years.
The financial results for the year 2007/8 excluding the exceptional item of ₤ 434,000 and unrealised gain of ₤ 2,121 on Fixed Assets shows a deficit ₤ 32,950 (2006/7 127,408 deficit pre realised gain on sale of fixed asset) an improvement of ₤ 94,458 in the operating deficit. Incoming resources were ₤ 1,273,757 (2006/7 ₤ 1,023,758) an increase of ₤ 249,999. Voluntary income increase by ₤ 199,429. Although student fees showed a modest increase, income from boarding increased by ₤ 43,823.
Resources expended (excluding exceptional item, pension liability mentioned above) increased by ₤ 155,541 over 2006/7 financial year.
The Trustees consider that the charity’s assets are available and adequate to fulfill its obligations.’
Kortom, de verliezen worden opgevangen door onroerend goed te verkopen. Zoals ook vermeld wordt in de mededeling van Marc ter Kuile, die ik aan het begin weergaf. Dit jaarverslag, maar ook de voorgaande jaarverslagen, geven een weinig rooskleurig beeld. Zodat de mail van de voorzitter van de Board of Trustees van Emerson College niet uit de lucht komt vallen.