The Free Press editorializes that University of Vermont employees and students are unrealistic in pressing the Fogel administration to pursue alternatives to faculty and staff layoffs. An examination of publicly available salary data suggests a different conclusion: President Daniel Fogel has shown excessive devotion to increasing the size and salaries of upper administration whose expense a state university cannot realistically bear. Consider:
• In 2002, four UVM administrators (not including the College of Medicine) drew salaries above $150,000 a year for a total of $641,523.
• By 2008 this number of top salary earners had jumped to 25 for a total of $4,727,685.
• One year later the number of top-tier earners is 38, including the president, provost, and various vice presidents, vice provosts, deans, and directors. The total spent on their salaries, not including benefits, is $6,931,241.
The published salaries for top executives is only part of the story. Raises and promotion increases for individual administrators this year far outpaced the salary increase pools of 3.8 to 5% for faculty, staff, and service workers. Consider:
• In addition to a bonus of $21,000, the dean of UVM's modest-sized College of Engineering, Math, and Statistics received a 9% raise, bringing his salary from $220,964 to $240,182. Salary.com lists the U.S. median salary for an engineering dean in 2009 as $192,149.
• When two mid-level professors were promoted to associate dean, they received promotion increases of $44,302 and $51,822, bringing their salaries to between $110,000 and $121,000. Salary.com lists the median salary for an associate dean of undergraduate education as $84,194.
Through UVM's "boom years" of 2002 to 2008--when, according to UVM Sourcebooks, tuition revenues increased by nearly 50%--the increase in the size and cost of administration came at the expense of academic programs. The pool for unionized faculty salaries as a share of tuition revenues fell by 12%. According to Sourcebooks, the majority of new faculty brought in to teach the 30%-bigger student body were given contingent rather than long-term, tenure-track positions.
As we look ahead to lean years--and consider how we will meet the educational needs and expectations of students who will take care in deciding where to spend their tuition dollars--it is time for UVM to reassess the unrealistic size and expense of its administration. For instance, through salary reductions and position cuts at the top, the administration could return to its 2002 salary pool for top executives, realizing an immediate savings of more than $6 million annually.
Or--taking President Fogel at his word that we should use the financial crunch as an opportunity to imagine a better UVM--consider this proposal: that no administrator draw a salary more than 30% above what the Sourcebook lists as a full professor's average salary. Such a proposal would bring down the president's base salary from $322,563 to $130,000--and would have the added bonus of pulling down all other administrative salaries that have soared with the president's in the past six years.
True, our current president and many in his administration might choose to pack their bags. True, UVM would not be offering salaries that are competitive on the national higher-ed administration market. But maybe that's what UVM, valued by students for the attention faculty and staff give to undergraduate education, needs: Not career and corporate-oriented administrators but faculty and staff who, after years of commitment to UVM, serve in a downsized administration for modest pay increases, then return to the classrooms, labs, and academic support offices where a university's people are most needed.