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Lawsuit To Stop De-Naming of Middlebury College ‘Mead Chapel’ Can Go Forward, VT Judge Rules

Lawsuit To Stop De-Naming of Middlebury College ‘Mead Chapel’ Can Go Forward, VT Judge Rules

Mead’s estate wants the agreement establishing the chapel name honored. The Judge’s ruling clears the way for the case to move toward discovery.

Last Friday, the Mead family estate scored an important early win when Vermont Superior Court Justice Robert A. Mello ruled its de-naming lawsuit against Middlebury College can go forward.

A copy of the full decision is at the bottom of this post.

In September of 2021, Middlebury College stripped the iconic Mead Memorial Chapel of the name of its benefactor, former Vermont Governor John Abner Mead, because of his “instigating role” in the eugenics movement. Mead’s estate, led by another former Vermont governor and Middlebury alumnus, James Douglas, sued Middlebury over the de-naming this past March.

Background on the case, which we’ve covered from the beginning, is here:

Friday’s ruling came just two weeks after the judge heard the parties’ oral argument on whether to grant Middlebury’s motion to dismiss the case.

The Mead estate argues that Middlebury and Governor Mead had an agreement to erect and complete the “Mead Memorial Chapel.” The school breached that agreement when they removed the family name, they say, and the descendants are entitled to proceed with their lawsuit.

In its motion to dismiss, however, Middlebury argues there was no contract between the parties. They say there was a gift and that Mead did not condition his gift on perpetual naming rights. And even if he had, the Mead descendants would not have standing to challenge the de-naming; only the state Attorney General has that authority in Vermont.

The court was unpersuaded that there was any problem as to standing. It focused instead on the nature of the transaction between the parties—gift or contract—and the heart of the matter: whether perpetual naming rights to the chapel existed at all.

To decide those questions, though, the court said it needed a more developed factual record. In this early stage of the lawsuit, it has only the allegations in the complaint to consider:

From the decision [p.4]:

Given the subtlety and nature of the issues and the procedural posture of the case … the court cannot now simply assume that the recitation of the evidence in the complaint, extensive though it may be, is fully exhaustive of what exists to be found and then attempt to rule as a matter of law based on that universe of facts.

Getting access to those facts has been a sticking point for the plaintiffs.

As we reported here, when one of the Mead descendants asked the school for documents related to John Abner Mead’s gift, they told him there was “simply no evidence” of such an agreement:

But the family later uncovered numerous contemporaneous writings showing that there was. They are attached as exhibits to the original complaint and collected at the website.

And when Douglas asked about the “careful and deliberative process” that led the school to remove the Mead name from the chapel, Middlebury’s lawyer told him both the task force report and minutes of the trustees’ meeting were confidential. Under the school’s records retention policy, they would remain so for 75 years.

Judge Mello’s ruling now clears the way for the plaintiffs to proceed with discovery. That means Middlebury will be required to turn over all relevant materials, regardless of their internal policies. And while the universe of facts they contain remains to be seen, the plaintiffs now have the court’s green light to discover it.



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My alma mater — what a total disgrace. I regret the paltry sums that I had donated to it, years prior to this utterly obnoxious, vindictive and Maoist/Stalinist retroactive ideological cleansing.

I had fun there and learned a few things, but, I promise you my kids won’t be attending this den of iniquity and ill repute.

    guyjones in reply to guyjones. | August 8, 2023 at 3:09 pm

    And, the disgraceful incident in which Charles Murray and his professor escort were set upon by a mob of students, with zero punishment imposed upon the culprits by the school’s administrators, is still fresh in my mind.

    henrybowman in reply to guyjones. | August 8, 2023 at 8:33 pm

    You should ask for your donations back, because of Mead’s instigating role in the “woke Marxism” movement.

    MAJack in reply to guyjones. | August 9, 2023 at 8:47 am

    I’ve written off my alma mater as well, cut off the funds to these Marxist indoctrination centers.

Meanwhile is stuff that matters, Trump has more of a defense for his 1/6 trial:

    JR in reply to MarkS. | August 8, 2023 at 8:23 pm

    If you believe anything that Gateway Pundit posts, then you are so stupid to believe that anything Alex Jones posts

      MarkS in reply to JR. | August 8, 2023 at 8:39 pm

      are you assuming that it made up the police report it reported on?

      What has the GWP or Jones posted that is false?

        How about the outright and deliberate lie that Dominion’s CEO was once Pelosi’s chief of staff, and that Feinstein’s husband is a major shareholder. That brazen liar Joe Hoft held you and his other gullible lapdogs in such contempt that he actually linked to “evidence” which clearly showed his claims to be false, trusting that you would never bother looking at it, or that if you did you were too stupid to understand it.

Louis K. Bonham | August 8, 2023 at 5:16 pm

Checkmate. Once the heirs see the task force report and committee minutes, I suspect it will be game over.

The college out and out lied. The attorney should be referred to the disciplinary counsel.