Palo Alto, CA (PRWEB) March 14, 2014
Sofia University, formerly known as The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, may be on the brink of being acquired by Silicon Valley investors. Sofia Interim President Frank Ellsworth yesterday announced, “After much deliberation, the Board has authorized me to sign a letter of intent with a group of Silicon Valley investors, which allows for further negotiations toward a purchase agreement”.
Earlier this year, there was major speculation about the fate of the school. Sofia’s executive management team, Board of Trustees, staff, faculty and alumni have worked tirelessly over the past few months to come to a mutual decision as for the future of the school.
Discussion of a possible acquisition has been in the works for a number of years, dating back prior to the arrival of Neal King, who has been deemed Sofia’s former “embattled university president”. Current faculty members recall these discussions taking place when the beloved Tom Potterfield was President in 2010.
Sofia’s Recent History:
In April 2012, despite some opposition by students, faculty and staff, The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology was renamed as Sofia University; however the mission statement and the transpersonal focus never changed. There was much angst toward a marketing and branding effort to have a tagline posted on the schools website. The tagline read “The Spirit of Silicon Valley” and was intended to help Sofia capitalize on its Silicon Valley location.
In November 2013, 7 board members resigned over the course of just a few days, after a 100% vote of no-confidence by faculty, King announced his resignation, effective December 31, 2013. Following this announcement, on a day dubbed “Bloody Thursday” by some members of the community and the local media, King laid off 12 faculty and staff, including the school’s Founder, Robert Frager. Robert Frager, has since had lunch with current Interim President Frank Ellsworth. Ellsworth gave Frager his key to the school and invited him back to teach his aikido class. Frager currently teaches aikido on a voluntary basis in the dojo.
In early 2014, the students at Sofia circulated a petition calling for the school’s continued independence, and gathered over 1,000 signatures in just a few days. In a failed attempt to get attention, a student physically confronted Ellsworth and cornered him in the hallway. The student was extremely hostile and demanded that Ellsworth sign the petition. This situation caused quite a stir and in fact, the student refused to leave the premises until the staff threatened to call the police. Since his arrival, Ellsworth has met with hundreds of students and listened to all of their concerns; however, in this particular situation, he refused to be bullied into signing a petition.
The week of March 3rd, Ellsworth presented 3 options to keep Sofia open in a survey circulated to students, alumni, staff and faculty. The options were outlined as follows:
Option 1: A “teach-out”, meaning the school closes and current students complete their degrees under the umbrella of another university. The university being considered for the teach-out was the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
Option 2: An offer by an unnamed technology company to merge with Sofia. The company offered a strategic partnership in exchange for an extended line of credit to keep Sofia afloat for the next few years.
Option 3: A group of Silicon Valley investors that will acquire the school and in exchange provide $5M upfront and a credit line of another $5M over the next 5 years and Sofia will operate as a for-profit corporation, with a small non-profit arm dedicated to research. ITP would become the non- profit entity and remain a 501c3 whereas; Sofia would become the for-profit corporation. Small portions of Sofia’s revenue would be funneled back into the non-profit (ITP) for scholarships, research and other student resources.
There was a 4th option presented by ITP founder Robert Frager and a small group of current and former faculty members. This option was seriously reviewed and considered by Ellsworth, the board of trustees and the executive management team. The proposal seemed to be an excellent vision statement; however, there was no mention of providing funding to the school. A series of questions and criteria were co-developed with WASC (Sofia’s accreditation agency) and sent to all suitors for a response. After several failed email attempts and a “no-show” at a meeting (scheduled by Frager himself), the 4th option was taken off the table.
After almost 40 years as an independent, specialized organization, Sofia is looking forward to seeing what transpires with the Silicon Valley investors. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the deal is expected to close and be finalized in a matter of weeks. This agreement with the investors ensures that Sofia can continue all programs and continue the mission of transformative and transformative education.