Fighting the downsizing of education at the University of Vermont.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


This week begins with staff deeply worried about Phase 2 layoffs and with news from Montpelier that for Vermont to be eligible for federal stimulus money, it must restore to the state colleges and UVM this year's funding cut and keep next year at least at this year's level of funding. Suddenly UVM's projected budget deficit is nowhere near $22 to $28 million. Next year's budget gap would be more in the range of $9 million, easily handled by reducing the size and expense of administration (do we need 26 vice president positions? 29 deans and associate deans?) and also by slowing the pace of dealing with the Fogel administration's overspending on such costly items as PeopleSoft. Yet no one in Waterman has stepped out to say, "We're halting the layoffs. We're looking using the money from Montpelier to restore jobs, positions, and courses."

So two upcoming events--one sponsored by United Academics and Students Stand Up and one planned by students--are well-timed (click on each to view/print the full-size poster):

Remarks at the Burlington Save Our State Rally

It’s only Monday and already this week has seen rallies for gay marriage and against the state budget cuts. In both cases we have the opportunity to reverse inequality in this state. Over the past 30 years, the tax rate for the wealthiest Vermonters has plummeted by two thirds. As Howard Zinn recently put it, we need to put class back into how we talk about taxes. Douglas says the rich pay too much; we should say they don’t pay nearly enough. Douglas says state workers should give back on wages, health benefits, and full-time hours. We should say no concessions, workers have been sacrificing for 30 years with stagnant and declining wages and an eroding social safety net. Douglas is trying to use the crisis to further undermine wages, unions, and social services. We need to use this crisis to reverse gaping inequality in this state starting with preserving jobs, paychecks, and programs and by taxing the rich.

I’m also heartened to witness a brewing fight against state budget cuts because it helps us at UVM in our struggle against budget cuts and our argument that if cuts must be made, they must come from the top and not by refusing to negotiate decent contracts for UE workers and part-time faculty, not by pressuring full-time faculty to open up their contract, and not from shifting full-time staff with full-time work into part-time hours and pay. At UVM we also have a chief executive who’s overseen the upward transfer of resources into the hands and pockets of executives. If the 40 people at UVM who currently make more than $150,000 a year each took just a 5% pay cut, that would restore jobs to the 27 College of Arts and Sciences lecturers who are slated for layoff. If the 21 executives, including Fogel, gave back the nearly $1 million in extra salary and bonuses they’ve secretly paid themselves, that would bring some 100 service and maintenance workers up to the state’s livable wage standard. Likewise if Vermont repealed the capital gains tax loophole so that Vermont’s wealthiest 1% can no longer squirrel away 40% of their investment returns, that would bring some $40 million in new revenues each year.

The math is on our side. Public sentiment is also on our side: At UVM more positions for vice presidents than English professors, money for executive bonuses and not for livable wages: I don’t know a student or a parent to whom that makes any sense. Cutting social programs in the midst of a recession, telling LGBT couples that civil rights are a distraction: that makes no sense to most people beyond Jim Douglas’s small-minded circle. And at the federal level spending $1 trillion a year on war and occupation and another trillion on bank bailouts while saying, “Don’t worry, this time it really will trickle down to the rest of you”—that really makes no sense.

What does make sense? At UVM, stop the layoffs and give back the bonuses; at the state level, stop the cuts and adopt the Save Our State coalition's People's Plan—if the stimulus money isn’t enough, let’s argue for more. And maybe that’s what will finally compel Washington to redirect war-funding and bank-bailouts into the education, healthcare, unemployment insurance, housing, and jobs people actually need.

Monday, March 23, 2009

At the Ira Allen Chapel forum earlier this month, President Fogel defended his UVM compensation package, arguing that he is actually underpaid relative to other university presidents. Not according to the New England Board of Higher Education, Winter 2009:

Total compensation for Presidents of New England Public Land Grant Universities 07-08:

U Conn: Michael J. Hogan $610,000 (28,500 students or $21/student)
UVM: Daniel M. Fogel $417,410 (12,800 students or $33/student)
UNH: Mark W. Huddleston $381,870 (12,315 students or $31/student)
UMass: Thomas Cole Jr. $367,500 (26,359 students or $14/student)
URI: Robert L. Carothers $242,319 (15,000 students or $16/student)
UMaine: Robert A. Kennedy $230,405 (11,912 students or $19.34/student)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Letter of Demands From SSU to the Board and Administration

Over the past few months, Students Stand Up, in solidarity staff and faculty, has stood in firm opposition to the budgetary actions of the UVM Administration. The Administration's approach to reconciling the budget gap has crippled our community with layoffs, will overburden staff and faculty, will make attendance less affordable and will erode the overall quality of our educational experience. Students Stand Up, representing over one thousand members of the student body, has demonstrated these grievances but has been met with little more than condescension and confounding campus-wide emails that skirt the gravity of these proposed cuts. In defending the principles of this university, Students Stand Up advocates for a just and democratic response to the situation. To this end, we demand the Administration of the University of Vermont comply with the following:

1. Revoke all dismissals and non-reappointments thus far issued.

2. Terminate all plans for more layoffs and non-reappointments of staff and faculty.

3. Return positions that have been reduced to part-time back to full-time status.

4. Issue a statement of neutrality respecting the right of staff and faculty to organize.

5. Disclose all budget reconciliation options that were reviewed and considered prior to the decision to initiate layoffs.

6. Disclose all information related to administrative compensation and bonuses.

This includes reasons for compensation beyond base pay salary.

7. Return all administrative bonuses from FY `08 and FY `09 to the UVM general fund.

8. A reduction in administrative compensation has the potential to preserve faculty and staff whose jobs are being eliminated to meet the deficit. Therefore, we call for the administration to return their salaries to the 2002 level.

9. Pursue all legal options to utilize the university's endowment to close the FY `10 operating budget gap.

10. Cap rate of tuition and room and board fee increase at corresponding year rate of inflation.

11. Negotiate with students, staff and faculty a more democratic decision making process by which students, staff and faculty have a decisive role in decisions regarding budget reconciliation.

12. Cap student body population at Fall 2009 levels.

13. Reinstate the varsity softball and baseball teams

In recognition of the fact that we students, along with staff and faculty ARE the University of Vermont, we take on responsibility to protect what makes it special and to maintain and improve opportunities for learning and growth for future students. This responsibility, in the face of the great threat to UVM posed by the administration's recent propositions and actions, justifies the escalation of our tactics to ensure that our voices are heard and that the administration changes its course in compliance with these demands. We do so with no other motivation than to preserve the university we love.

We will commence escalating action until these conditions are fulfilled. Furthermore, we anticipate and will be receptive to direct communication from President Fogel or other Administration regarding the above demands. Should the Administration refuse to meet these demands we will call for President Fogel's resignation.


Students Stand Up

The Cuts Line by Line, or What Cutting from the Bottom Looks Like

The Cuts, Line by Line, or What Cutting from the Bottom Looks Like

During Spring Break, Vice President Cate circulated to some Faculty Senate and United Academics members line-item detail of the cuts proposed by deans and other unit heads. Thanks to a colleague in CEMS for sending these spreadsheets my way and for noting that the proposed savings in the College of Arts and Sciences for eliminating salary and benefits for 27 full- and part-time lecturers (according to the dean's latest tally) is less than the amount that would be saved if the 40 administrators who teach no students but draw base salaries above $150,000 a year would take a 5% pay cut.

Click on each sheet to view it in full-size:

More on the Executive Bonuses, or What UVM and AIG Share in Common

Also about the letter President Fogel distributed during Spring Break, promising that the practice of executive bonus and additional salary spending would end except where the administration is contractually obligated (apparently, taking their cue from AIG!) to pay bonuses to execs already earning about $200,000 a year, BronwynVt writes:

President Fogel said in his recent letter that "/*performance bonuses and other non-base elements of administrative pay will no longer be used at UVM except to honor existing contracts." */It seems reasonable to expect that UVM's leadership would have acted in the best interests of UVM's financial integrity when entering into these contracts by assuring that any compensation agreements pertaining to performance bonuses would not be honored in the event the institution faces financial exigencies like those we face today. The facts as we know them are that UVM is facing a deficit that is requiring us to shed staff and faculty positions and lay off staff with decades of loyal service, even in areas that provide essential services to students, at the same time we are increasing enrollment by another 2.3% and increasing our already high tuition costs to students. Since these are not steps that stand to improve our competitive position among our peer institutions, wouldn't this fit the definition of a circumstance that would necessitate that we could not under any terms be paying out any type of bonus to anyone? If UVM's leadership failed to protect the institution with such basic contractual language, the UVM community and the state of Vermont deserve an explanation from everyone involved and those officers should be held to account for such an oversight.

On Higher Ed Administrative Greed, Incompetence, and Budget Crunches

And thanks to Stephanie and Tricia for spotting the below article from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Twelve of their thirteen examples of the greed, incompetence, and neglect do indeed appear to apply to  UVM. The one that I don't think applies is the charge against faculty for not stepping up to do more teaching: UVM is unique among research universities in its focus on undergraduate education and most faculty--the lecturers on what one concerned United Academics colleague calls the "exploitation track," teaching eight courses a year; the tenure-track faculty teaching the equivalent of five courses a year while also trying to meet intensifying research and publication requirements for tenure--are already burning the candle at both ends, especially in the past six years as the student body increased by 30% but long-term positions increased at less than half that rate. Regardless, instead of allowing our very expensive administration to continue to claim that they are the victim of bad economic circumstances, we should point out with the Chronicle's help that "Smart moves clearly helped some colleges and universities avoid the worst of the downturn." Especially given that UVM started the decade with a surplus, beyond the endowment, of more than $100 million and especially given that nearly $1 million in bonuses and extra paid were paid out at the executive level to attract and retain "talent," UVM's administration ought to be held accountable for its "green, incompetence, and neglect":

13 Reasons Colleges Are in This Mess
How greed, incompetence, and neglect led to bad decisions

The economy may not have hit rock bottom, but the finger-pointing over what went wrong is well under way.

In some ways, higher education has been a victim of the recession — but not a defenseless victim. Smart moves clearly helped some colleges and universities avoid the worst of the downturn. But mistakes have left many others in the lurch.

The downward spiral has brought layoffs, budget cuts, and anxiety to many campuses. With the cuts have come protests and recriminations.

Scores of college presidents have written open letters that describe dire finances and make the case for an era of belt-tightening. But missing in many of those messages are explanations of how colleges landed in their predicaments, and who is to blame.

The Chronicle came up with 13 common mistakes that have put many colleges in the fix they're in. There's plenty of responsibility to go around, in the industry and beyond. And the choices that people made are likely to haunt higher education for years.

1. Took on Risky Investments
David F. Swensen is a rock star among endowment managers, and many colleges have tried to duplicate his success.

With a portfolio heavy on hedge funds and private equity, Yale University's chief investment officer averaged annual returns of more than 16 percent for 20 years. Yale's endowment reached $23-billion last year.

Times have changed. Yale officials say a quarter of the value of its investments have evaporated. The university is considering layoffs and delaying construction projects.

The pain will be deeper for most imitators of the Yale model, who have far less cushion.

Mr. Swensen has said the diversity of his model will pay off in the long run. But he acknowledges that most colleges lack the resources to have properly followed his lead.

2. Sloughed Off as Trustees
By most accounts, the glory days of rubber-stamp governing boards have passed. But the shocking tale of Bernard J. Madoff and J. Ezra Merkin, two trustees of Yeshiva University who allegedly defrauded the institution — and many other investors — suggest that some boards are still nodding off on the job.

Trustees are fiduciaries, responsible for ensuring that colleges have sound finances. They must push back when administrators take on risky debt or allow an institution to become too tuition-dependent. That clearly has not happened at many colleges. Even worse, some board members (Mr. Madoff was treasurer of Yeshiva's board) continue to have conflicts of interest.

3. Relied on Cheap Credit
Colleges have assumed tens of billions of dollars in new debt over the past decade in pursuit of better facilities and expectations of growth. Many of them saved millions in interest payments with the bond-market equivalent of adjustable-rate mortgages. But when the credit markets seized up last fall, those low-interest bonds and loans, on which they had banked their futures, suddenly became a lot more expensive to carry. Institutions with healthy reserves have managed their way through — though certainly at a price.

Even under the best of circumstances, there are costs to refinancing variable-rate debt and unraveling complicated "swap" agreements. Some institutions, like the Colorado School of Mines and Simmons College, with fewer resources to fall back on, have seen their credit ratings downgraded. The price of cheap credit may soon be measured in program cuts and job losses.

4. Failed to Play Well With Others
Millions of workers have lost their jobs in recent months. But tenured professors are hard to fire. And some powerful faculty unions have resisted when colleges asked their members to teach more classes, despite what seemed like reasonable requests.

The faculty union at Kean University, for example, balked last year when administrators tried to require professors to teach on Fridays and some Saturdays. The public university, located in New Jersey, was facing a $4.5-million cut in the state's contribution and was trying to get more use out of classroom buildings.

Faculty members considered the proposal an assault on their autonomy and a retaliation for a previous squabble with administrators. Since then Kean has postponed several construction projects and raised in-state tuition by about 8 percent.

5. Overbuilt
For more than a decade, colleges have had a tremendous appetite for building. According to Sightlines, a company that analyzes space utilization on more than 200 campuses, 14 percent of those colleges' buildings have been built in the past 10 years. Among research institutions, the proportion is even higher.

Many motivations have led to this building boom, but often a key driver is the quest to impress prospects, whether faculty members or students (and their parents). Energy-intensive research buildings. Swanky residence halls. Climbing walls. Olympic-size swimming pools. They are like the expensive cars that real-estate agents drive — they project an image of success.

What kind of future have these colleges built for themselves? A burdened one. The bulk of the cost of any building comes after it is built — in the energy needed to run it and the maintenance needed to keep it functioning. Those happen to be costs that well-heeled donors are unlikely to support, whether their names are on the buildings or not.

Deferred maintenance is already a problem in higher education, running into the hundreds of millions of dollars at many institutions. In the building boom, many colleges have merely added to infrastructure they already cannot support.

6. Bowed to Boosters
Many voices stoke lofty gridiron ambitions. Trustees and politicians often clamor for a good football team, particularly at flagship public universities. Even governors have been known to meddle in coaching decisions.

But big-foot boosters like Philip H. Knight, at the University of Oregon, and T. Boone Pickens, at Oklahoma State University, often call the shots. Viewing themselves as majority stockholders in a company, some high fliers browbeat administrators into making accommodations for king football.

Scores of fancy facilities were built on donors' pledges. But with the donors' bank accounts taking a dive, it's the universities that will pay.

7. Stumbled at the Statehouse
Even in good times, competition for state money can be tough, as some lawmakers charge that colleges waste tax money on pretty buildings and underworked faculty members.

It can be much worse during economic downturns, when higher education must compete for scarce dollars against elementary schools and health care for low-income families, among other needs.

More colleges are finally waking up to a well-known reality: Politics is the art of compromise. The University of Arizona hopes to appease state lawmakers by consolidating more than a dozen colleges and eliminating dozens of majors that produce few graduates. The university has also assembled a team of economists and policy experts to present budget alternatives to lawmakers.

Not so in neighboring Nevada, where the university system's chancellor, James E. Rogers, has waged a bitter public battle with Gov. James Gibbons over his proposed 36-percent cut to the system's budget. While legislators may not go along with the governor's entire plan, Mr. Rogers's fiery rhetoric may leave hard feelings after he steps down this year.

8. Led With Unchecked Ambition
Building booms and hiring sprees can be fine during flush times. But a recession requires a president who can say no, not one who pads his résumé at the college's expense.

Some observers say an abundance of ambition helped bring down John D. Petersen, who last month announced his resignation as president of the University of Tennessee. The system is facing a budget deficit of up to $100-million, which it says could result in 700 layoffs. Apart from Mr. Petersen's commitment to the university, some critics say he was too focused on research and expensive growth.

"We are really struggling to meet core competencies," says John Nolt, a professor of philosophy on the flagship campus, in Knoxville, and chairman of the Faculty Senate.

9. Failed to Find a Niche
Small private colleges that have failed to differentiate themselves will face increasing obstacles as the student population shrinks.

Tuition-driven private colleges that have not established a firm identity will lose prospective students to those that have staked out a clear market position, as well as to lower-cost public universities, community colleges, and for-profit institutions, which are nimble at marketing.

Pamela Fox, president of Mary Baldwin College, says the key to staking out turf is doing it within the college's mission. For Mary Baldwin, that means adding a personal touch to both a traditional women's campus and adult education centers. Colleges must clearly show that they add value beyond their liberal-arts core, she says: "That's the gravy that goes with your meat and potatoes."

10. Ignored Customers' Needs
Dormitories and the campus quad are images of America's higher-education past that now apply to only a minority of students. Today's college students are older, often have jobs, and are less likely to be white. Many are not interested in a traditional residential experience.

What's more, as the nation's population growth has shifted to the South, the numbers of potential students who can pay full freight are now more often located in hot spots like suburban Dallas and Atlanta.

Colleges that have paid close attention to those shifts are generally in decent shape. Leading that pack are for-profit institutions, most of which have healthy bottom lines despite the recession.

The colleges that succeed in this evolving new world will be the ones that aren't afraid to try new ideas, like setting up out-of-state branch campuses, spending more on strategic advertising, and building partnerships with community colleges.

11. Built Duplicative Centers
Universities love nanotechnology laboratories. Biotech ones, too. And while some of those labs may reap benefits for the institutions and for society as a whole, it's a safe bet that the country has many more nanotech and biotech facilities than it can support.

So, too, with a host of other research ventures, many of which quickly prove redundant or unproductive. With fewer federal grants available, these centers are often a drain on a university's finances, drawing resources that could be used for student financial aid or faculty raises.

12. Overcommitted Their Budgets
Much of higher education lived high on the hog for the five years before the credit implosion of 2008. Endowment returns averaged 17.2 percent across the industry in 2007, and state budgets were flush.

While few budget planners could have foreseen the scope of this financial crisis, those who set money aside in recent years are much better off today.

Experts say the most serious mistake colleges made was to commit almost every dollar of their projected income to capital and operating expenses. Institutions that made overly optimistic building plans and other commitments are much likelier to be laying off employees or slashing budgets now.

13. Stymied Accountability Efforts
When the Bush administration's Commission on the Future of Higher Education aimed to bring more accountability to colleges and universities, the only member of the panel who refused to sign the document was David Ward, who represented the nation's biggest higher-education group.

It was a clear act of defensiveness.

College lobbyists eventually succeeded in killing the commission's proposal to develop a national system to track the progress of each student in the country. They also resisted efforts to make the accreditation process more open and to establish a consumer-friendly database that would allow parents, students, and policy makers to compare institutions. Instead, the higher-education associations decided to build their own online tools — except they couldn't agree on a model. So the public colleges created one system, and the private institutions another.

Left unchecked, college costs have continued to rise, along with student debt. Some for-profit lenders pushed loans that few students understood while some financial-aid officers stood silently by. New York's attorney general later accused dozens of colleges and alumni associations of taking kickbacks, and financial-aid officers of accepting consulting fees and stock options from lenders.
Section: Money & Management
Volume 55, Issue 27, Page A1

Friday, March 13, 2009

Priming the Pump

As students and many faculty return to campus from Spring Break, here are some recent news developments and analyses from the around the country to "prime the pump" as students, staff, and faculty at UVM consider our next steps in the struggle to stop the downsizing of education at UVM by administrators who refuse to be accountable for their mismanagement and who insist on hanging onto salaries that are two, three, and even four times those of full professors--and many more times the salaries of the staff and lecturers they seek to lay off:

First, suggested by BronwynVt, from the Huffington Post's Phillip Slater, "Money Doesn't Attract Talent, It Merely Attracts Greed":

When the banking and auto industries claimed they needed their exorbitant executive salaries to attract 'talent', we all laughed to think the 'best and brightest' were needed destroy the global economy. What actually did the job was greed, which is, after all, what money attracts.

Whereas the average ratio of CEO to worker salaries is about 20 to 1 in the rest of the industrial world -- and was about that in America only a few decades ago -- it has ballooned to 400 to 1 in recent times. Does this mean American corporate and banking executives are not only 20 times smarter than those abroad, but also 20 times smarter than the American executives who ran our economy before 1980?

Not very likely. But they're certainly 20 times greedier.

James Surowiecki points out that these overpaid executives were notable for making mergers, two-thirds of which ended up destroying shareholder value. Eighty percent of the new products they introduced lasted less than a year. As he points out, "the business landscape of the last decade is littered with CEOs who went from being acclaimed as geniuses to being dismissed as fools".

If American executives were willing for a century or more to work for reasonable salaries, what other than an obsessive greed makes it necessary to overpay them today?

Bach never got rich, Mozart died in a pauper's grave. Money didn't attract Cézanne, van Gogh, Rembrandt, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, etc., etc., the list is endless. You don't have to starve to be great at what you do, but money doesn't seem especially relevant. Nor is this lack of connection restricted to the arts. Einstein worked in the Swiss patent office to survive while he came up with his major contributions to science, and most of the authors of major inventions were poor before they made them. Small firms come up with 24 times more inventions than large ones with fat R and D budgets.

The truth is, money has nothing to do with talent in any field. The biologist Lewis Thomas once said that the need to feel useful, to make a contribution, is fundamental to human beings. People crave challenges, like to exercise their abilities. They also like to eat. But our culture -- or at least the least evolved elements of it -- have distorted this need by using money as the only criterion of worth, which has elevated some of the least valuable members of society to the most valued. Huge sums of money attract only the most neurotic members of society -- those who feel empty, who have nothing to give, who are sick with greed. The decline of America in the world is due largely to this failing. We can only hope Obama will inspire a reversal of this pathological trend.

Next, an example of how teachers, students, and parents facing downsizing elsewhere are indeed inspired by our current invigorating political climate to say no to cutting education in a country that's still funding Wall Street and war,  a video of a protest and sit-in by teachers in Los Angeles:

And for the fuller story by a Los Angeles teacher:

Finally, check out UVM professor Tina Escaja's essay, in Spanish and in English translation, on bringing the spirit of Pablo Neruda into the struggle for UVM's future:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

This Week in the Fight Against Downsizing at UVM--And the Truth about Class Sizes, Updated

This week saw two "My Turn" columns calling on the administration to dramatically reduce itself as a better solution to addressing much of next year's $10.8 million shortfall than lay offs of people who serve students and programs. Seven Day's Shay Totten wondered if Fogel will go the way of the previous presidents who couldn't grasp the mood, and the values, of the campus. We also learned that UVM has two more executives earning more than $150,000 a year--bringing the total to 40, for a small state university with 9,000 undergraduates.

But the week also brought to light more of the hidden layoffs--the full-time lecturers who did not receive contract renewals by the March 1 deadline, the part-time lecturers who thought they had Continuing Ed courses until the dean of Arts and Sciences reportedly called on chairs to pull those courses, the staff who have received notices that they're slated for round-two layoffs later this Spring. The Channel 5 report on yesterday's speak-out ended with Vice President for Finance Richard Cate claiming that these layoffs are in motion and can't be stopped--and also that next year's bigger student body won't notice the difference of fewer faculty and staff. Here's the Channel 5 report, followed by an updated table (with the most recent class size data sent  by the Registrar to all chairs and directors) showing the very noticeable shift that will take place next year from a small to large and super-size-me classes. (Click on the table to see it full size.)

My Turn: Administrative costs hurt UVM

By Nancy Welch

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 $641,543.

Today, the number of top-tier earners is 40, including the president, provost, and various vice presidents, vice provosts, deans and directors. The total spent on their salaries, not including benefits, is $7,312,381.

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 percent for faculty, staff and service workers. Consider:

The dean of UVM's modest-sized College of Engineering, Math, and Statistics received a 9 percent raise, bringing his salary from $220,964 to $240,182. lists the U.S. median salary for an engineering dean in 2009 as $192,149.

When two midlevel professors were promoted to associate dean, their salaries were boosted from $65,698 and $69,026 to $110,000 and $120,848 respectively. lists the median salary for an associate dean of undergraduate education as $84,194.

As we look ahead to lean years at UVM -- 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 $6.5 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 percent 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.

My Turn: UVM should cut pay before jobs

By Joanna Grossman

I was completely baffled this morning when I read your editorial titled "UVM facing down difficult choices" (Feb. 24). You say that "Those who protest the cuts without offering realistic alternatives cling to the unrealistic notion that the university can somehow escape the harsh economic realities that afflict nearly everyone outside of academia." As a matter of interest, the word "alternatives," like "choices," implies many options -- look it up. Now, if the protesters weren't offering alternatives, that might have been counterproductive.

However, if you had attended, or had even read about, the protests on Feb. 20, then you know that those protesters are promoting the same measures being used largely "outside of academia." Companies and organizations, such as the state of Vermont and Hewlett-Packard, are creating executive pay cuts that allow a small number of comfortable people at the top to make a modest sacrifice to save the livelihoods of many others.

President Fogel has made something of a show of insisting that his executives be treated with private-sector-style panache. A good example is the nearly $1 million in bonuses he paid them over the past four years, despite UVM's nonprofit status.

According to UVM, it spends $6,931,241 on salaries over $150,000. Let's say the average UVM job being cut pays $30,000. Now let's say that benefits cost 40 percent of that, which is $12,000. That means that, under said conditions, a one-year executive pay cut of:

5 percent could save eight-plus jobs.

10 percent could save 16-plus jobs.

15 percent could save 24-plus jobs.

This is not even considering the fact that many jobs cut on Feb. 20 weren't even entitled to benefits, so they come cheaper. Nor does it consider the numerous recent executive vacancies, or even other points in the pay scale where cuts could begin.

So, when it suits him, President Fogel does what the private sector does. But when it's inconvenient, he'd rather not. In fact, President Fogel says he'd leave if UVM cuts executive pay. Exactly what kind of leadership is a hypocritical and self-serving ultimatum?

You can say that you think it's more important for 38 executives to clear $150,000 than for 24 people to keep their jobs. It won't endear you to this community, but you can say it. But you should know that it's factually inaccurate to say that those who protest aren't offering a realistic alternative. They are offering the most realistic alternative.

Published on Seven Days (
Fogel's Folly
Fair Game
By Shay Totten [03.04.09]

Divestiture from South Africa. Diversity. Livable wages. Union organizing. Hazing. These are some of the issues raised by staff, faculty and students that have tested University of Vermont presidents — and eventually brought down three of them.

Today’s question is: Can UVM Prez Dan Fogel [1] avoid the mistakes that sank his predecessors, as calls increase for top university execs to take pay cuts to avoid layoffs?

Fogel is UVM’s sixth president since the late 1980s, when the popular Lattie Coor stepped down amidst tumult over diversity and divestiture after 16 years at the helm.

After Coor came George Davis, who lasted just one year — his demise was accelerated by a month-long takeover of his Waterman office by students pressing for more racial diversity and multicultural teachings. At one point, Davis climbed a ladder to his office window in an effort to negotiate with the student occupiers. The humiliating image brought down his presidency.

Vermont Governor Tom Salmon filled the gap until 1997, when Judith Ramaley, UVM’s first female president, was hired. She resigned in early 2001 after a hockey hazing scandal rocked the school and made national headlines. After Ramaley, former airline exec and Burlingtonian Ed Colodny stepped in as an interim prez. He was eventually succeeded by Fogel.

Fogel quickly embarked on a “build it and they will come” strategy to make UVM a premier, small-scale research and environmental school. And build they have.

But that growth hasn’t done enough to boost UVM’s bottom line.

Last month Fogel eliminated 16 vacant staff positions and laid off 16 others. He will also leave unfilled 18 tenure-track faculty slots and four new faculty positions. At least 12 full-time lecturers will not be offered new contracts, along with a larger number of part-time lecturers who teach one or more courses each year. The baseball and softball teams are history. Fogel is also freezing salaries for non-union employees earning more than $75,000, along with other measures, to trim $10.8 million from the university’s $284 million general fund budget. More cuts are likely in April.

Some students and faculty are urging Fogel and his top administrators to take pay cuts, and for the school to dip into its endowment as a way to avoid eliminating people and sports programs.

Fogel has so far balked at those suggestions. But more recently, UVM Communications Director Enrique Corredera told “Fair Game” that the prez is considering whether it’s possible to streamline some top administrative functions.

Union members point out that since 2002 the number of administrators at UVM making more than $150,000 a year has jumped from four to 38, and their total collective compensation tops $7 million annually.

If that weren’t enough, UVM paid out nearly $900,000 in bonuses to many of these top administrators — including Fogel — since 2006, including $264,196 in the current fiscal year.

Yikes. First Wall Street, now College Street.

At a campus forum last week, Fogel addressed the crowd gathered at Ira Allen Chapel: “I understand very acutely, however, how in the wake of today’s news report on executive pay that anger is running very high, and I want to begin by addressing that, because I do not think it will be good for our students, our faculty, our staff or the State of Vermont for us to begin to tear ourselves apart as a community.”

Fogel said there would be no bonuses this year, noting past pay bumps were performance based.

“He could have won a section of the room and instead he just reinforced a sense of a divide on campus,” said Nancy Welch, an English prof and active member of the faculty union [2]. “His defense seemed out of touch with the anger over these bonuses.”

Faculty, students and staff aren’t the only ones fired up about the extra compensation.

“The new data on bonuses and salary adjustments, if true, further confirms indefensible systems of privilege, power, inequity and injustice, borne on the backs of some of our most vulnerable staff and faculty,” said Betty Rambur, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, who announced her resignation two weeks ago. She claimed to suffer from “increasing moral distress” over the cuts she was being asked to make.

Another top official has resigned, too. Provost John Hughes is on his way out, but not before putting a key dean on administrative leave.

Students were told last week that Larry Forcier, dean of the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, was stepping down. But, in an email to students obtained by Seven Days, Forcier claimed he was stripped of his title and received no written explanation — only told that he “scared some people” and was “creating a hostile work environment for them.”

As one grad student told Seven Days, “I can say, amongst a large majority here at the university, that from personal experience that this … just doesn’t seem right.”

This student also said the dearth of information about Forcier’s ouster in the wake of budget cuts across the campus was giving students “reason to suspect that something larger is at play.”

They may be on to something.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Speak-Out Against Layoffs Tomorrow!

Join UVM Faculty for a
12:30-1:30 pm
Sponsored by UVM United Academics

The campus has heard President Fogel claim

* the layoffs and hour reductions could not be avoided
* nonrenewals of lecturers are routine and, with the elimination of vacant professor positions, bring the colleges into line with
"agreed-upon" student/faculty ratio targets
* the bonuses he and his executives received were for extra responsibilities

Now the campus needs to hear from faculty. United Academics, the union representing most faculty at the University of Vermont, invite staff and students to join faculty for a speak-out on the steps of Bailey-Howe, Wednesday, March 4, 12:30-1:30 pm.

* How many lecturers--full and part-time--have been laid off? How many vacant positions are being eliminated? How many of our programs have lost vital staff?
*What will these lost jobs mean for our personal lives? For our departments and programs? For academic quality, student experience, research and scholarship, service to the community and state?
* What are the extra responsibilities we and colleagues have already shouldered--without any additional compensation--as the student body and programs grew faster than long-term positions? How will those extra responsibilities be borne by even fewer people next year?
* What does the increased student/faculty ratio mean for class sizes and class offerings?

Welcome, too, are students and staff who want to share their stories of the impact of layoffs, FTE reductions, rising tuition and fees, and student body expansion.

Help us put together and publicize a fuller story of the academic and human consequences of President Fogel's budget-balancing approach--as we continue to urge him not to downsize education at UVM!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Video of February 16 "Emergency Protest Against Staff and Faculty Layoffs"

Thanks to Tricia who found this in a remote corner of the Burlington Free Press website. If you missed the mid-February protest of the layoffs, this video gives a good sense of what it was like to be there--and how strong the arguments are for giving back the bonuses and taking back the layoffs:

Business Week: Colleges Need to Spend--Not Hoard--Their Endowments

Thanks to bronwynvt for alerting me to the below article from Business Week that adds to our "Tap the endowment" argument.

Some background: Under President Fogel, UVM has aspired to follow the example of the country's elite private colleges that fund big portions of their operations through investment revenues from massive, multi-billion-dollar endowments. In the below Business Week article, however, the elite university model is called into question. Instead of hoarding a university's resources in endowments, the article's author argues, a university should put gift money to work right away for benefit of students and to meet a university's current needs. What does this mean for UVM?

* We would be better off following the example of other public universities, such as Cal State Long Beach mentioned below, than trying to model ourselves after elite private universities whose addiction to the financial markets has led to greater financial crunch and instability than public institutions are experiencing. (Consider: Middlebury and Dartmouth are laying off faculty and staff; SUNY, UNH, and UMass/Amherst have announced no layoffs.)

* Far from being financially prudent for UVM to be protecting what's left of its endowment (some $200 million) now, it is imprudent not to use as much of this money as possible to stave off further tuition and fee hikes and safeguard student experience so UVM has students who can enroll here, graduate, and very possibly go on to be grateful alums who give back to the university.

TOP NEWS March 1, 2009, 6:49PM EST
Academic Endowments: The Curse of Hoarded Treasure
Universities are cutting budgets and shortchanging today's students to risk what's left of their endowments in financial markets

By Peter Coy

Something seems wrong with the way elite U.S. universities finance themselves. The problem: They're addicted to multibillion-dollar endowments. When the endowments suddenly shrink, they can seem more like curses than blessings. Harvard University, the richest institution of higher education on the planet, gets about one-third of operating funds from its endowment.

Now that Harvard is expecting a roughly $11 billion endowment decline over the current academic year—30% of the total—the university is in such a financial squeeze that it has frozen faculty salaries and offered early retirement to 1,600 employees. Princeton is even more addicted to its endowment, which provides about 45% of its operating budget. Princeton Provost Christopher Eisgruber warned in February: "We are beginning to live in the 'new normal' and we should not expect to go back to how we operated in the last 10 years."

Is there a better way? There could be. Here's an idea: Maybe rich universities should act more like companies, which somehow manage to operate without endowments. Universities could raise just as much money from wealthy alumni and other donors as they do now, but they wouldn't hoard it in a great big piggy bank. They'd spend it as it came in, the way companies spend their revenue on current needs.

Most universities that aren't super-wealthy already do behave like companies because they have little choice: They don't pile up endowments because they have urgent current needs for the money. Take California State University at Long Beach, where about a third of undergraduates are first-generation college students. The school does raise money from alumni and other sources, but it puts most of the proceeds to use right away for such purposes as scholarships. In a Feb. 27 interview, President F. King Alexander said: "Our students need that money. We're not wealthy enough to sock it away when we have so many needs on our campus right now."

Any ordinary company that followed the money-hoarding strategy embraced by such institutions as Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Stanford would soon receive an inquisitive letter from the likes of raider Carl Icahn, who would want the CEO to explain why he or she couldn't find anything more useful to do with the money than stash it away. It's a fair question, both for companies and for universities.

The most frequent argument for having a big endowment is that it's supposed to tide schools over tough times. It sure isn't working out that way. True endowment funds can't be spent even in an emergency; only the cash income and capital gains from them can be spent. (Does anyone remember what capital gains are these days?) So-called quasi-endowment funds can be drawn down if necessary, but universities seem loath to do so even in the current circumstances, as if preserving capital is a higher priority than preserving academic programs.

Harvard compounded its problems by investing in exotic assets that it can't now sell at any reasonable price, but other schools are down as well. Between July 1 and Nov. 30 last year, endowments at 435 surveyed schools lost 23% of their value, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

Sure, the bad economy is also walloping universities that don't have endowments, as strapped donors cut back. But a big endowment tends to tie a university's fortunes closely—probably too closely—to the vagaries of the financial markets. In 2007, when markets were still flying high and schools were loaded, BusinessWeek printed an eye-opening article called "The Dangerous Wealth of the Ivy League."

Writer Anthony Bianco cited examples of lavish spending on facilities such as Whitman College, a student residence at Princeton University funded by former eBay (EBAY) CEO (and Princeton alum) Meg Whitman. Each student room has triple-glazed mahogany casement windows made of leaded glass, Bianco wrote. The dining hall boasts a 35-foot ceiling gabled in oak and a "state of the art servery." The Ivies, along with Stanford University and other well-heeled schools, were able to snatch top faculty from public universities, creating a brain drain and engendering ill will. Now, of course, they're back to watching pennies—a wrenching change.

By force of circumstance, some richer schools may be coming around to the virtues of spending the money as it comes in instead of socking it away. They have always solicited donations for the "general fund," but this could become a higher priority. Cornell University President David Skorton, at a lunch meeting with reporters on Feb. 27, said that when he tried to hit up one generous graduate recently for $1 million to endow a scholarship, the alum said that all he could commit to was giving $50,000 per year for the next four years. That's equal to the income that $1 million would throw off at a 5% return. Not a bad alternative to an endowment gift, really, especially if it's renewed.

Yale Law Professor Henry Hansmann anticipated the current questioning of endowments nearly 20 years ago in an article called "Why Do Universities Have Endowments?" that appeared in the January 1990 issue of the Journal of Legal Studies. The article runs through 14 justifications for endowments and raises questions about all of them. For example, it's often said that endowments help future generations of students, and that's true. But Hansmann points out that by saving donations rather than spending them now, universities are giving advantages to future students at the expense of current ones.

If we assume that living standards continue to rise, that amounts to taking from the poor to give to the rich. Hansmann is also skeptical of the idea that universities need to smooth out their spending by putting the occasional, very large gift into the endowment fund rather than spending it all at once. He writes that while it might make sense to bank a big gift and spend it over a multi-year period, there's no need to book it as permanent, untouchable capital.

Human foibles may be a better explanation for the accumulation of huge endowments, Hansmann seems to conclude. On the supply side of funding, he writes, "many donors restrict their gifts for use as endowment, not to advance education and knowledge, but to purchase a bit of personal immortality."

On the demand side, boards of trustees may solicit funds for endowment rather than current spending simply because they like the idea of presiding over a big pile of money: "It may be that, consciously or unconsciously," he writes, "university trustees tend to focus on the size of the university's retained earnings (that is, its endowment) as a measure of the success of the management of the institution." That amounts to collecting money for money's sake. Adds Hansmann: "One sometimes has the sense that universities compete among themselves to have the largest endowment."

Memo to the board of trustees: You're supposed to be running a service business here, not piling up treasure.

Coy is BusinessWeek's Economics editor.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Past Week's Headlines: Fogel Under Fire for Exec Bonuses, 100s Critical of Fogel's Leadership

This week finally saw the local press run with the story that UVM's President Fogel had rewarded himself and 20 other administrators with bonuses and extra pay totaling nearly $900,000 over the past four years. In the Free Press (story below), Fogel defended the bonuses as compensating administrators for taking on "extra responsibilities." And where was the compensation for lecturers who had scores of additional students added to their classes and advising added to their workloads and for staff who received no overtime for logging in extra hours trying to figure out where into the PeopleSoft system their department operating budgets had gone?

When Fogel faced angry students, staff, faculty, and UVM's softball and baseball teams at Thursday's "The Future of UVM" forum, his handling of the issues wasn't any better: Instead, he stressed over and again, that all of his decisions are to keep UVM "nationally competitive." He doesn't seem to understand that national competition--over student experience, access for Vermonters, and social and economic justice--is not a UVM community value.

WPTZ's "UVM Students Speak Out, Hundreds Critical of Fogel's Leadership":

Free Press story on the bonuses:

February 26, 2009
Faculty decry administrators' bonuses
Fogel expected to face tough questioning today

By Sam Hemingway, Free Press Staff Writer

Leaders of the faculty union at the University of Vermont charged Wednesday that UVM administrators have paid themselves nearly $900,000 in bonuses and extra compensation since 2006, including $264,196 in the current fiscal year.

“The juxtaposition of administrators getting additional pay and bonuses when people are losing their jobs just sticks in my craw,” said David Shiman, an education professor and head of the United Academics union.

UVM officials announced last week $10.8 million in budget cuts and a layoff of 16 staff workers in response to declining revenue projections. The cuts also included a number of full-time and part-time lecturers who will not have their teaching contracts renewed.

Union officials said they obtained the administrative bonus and extra pay figures from an anonymous whistleblower who Shiman described as “quite reliable.” The numbers, if true, show that 21 administrators received extra pay and bonuses over the past four years.

The top recipient of the additional money, according to the figures released by the union, was UVM President Daniel Fogel, who received $161,809 in extra pay and bonuses over the past four years, including $38,536 in fiscal 2009.

Provost John Hughes collected an extra $133,850 in the four-year period, and Marcus Diamond, vice president of development and alumni relations, received $85,000, the figures show. Hughes and Diamond recently disclosed they are stepping down from their posts.

Enrique Corredera, UVM spokesman, said Wednesday night the extra pay and bonus numbers released by the union appeared to be generally accurate.

“One thing to keep in mind is that the bonuses that are in effect this year were decided on early last year, months before the financial meltdown and the recession we are now facing,” Corredera said. He said the extra pay was given to administrators in instances where extra responsibilities were added to their workload.

Shiman and Nancy Welch, an English professor and a union spokeswoman, said the union plans to confront Fogel about the extra pay and bonus issue today at a forum titled “The Future of UVM” set to begin at 4 p.m. in Ira Allen Chapel.

“The sensible thing to do would be to have the administrators give back the bonuses and take back the layoffs,” Welch said.

According to a statement released by the union, the number of administrators at UVM making more than $150,000 a year has jumped from four in 2002 to 38 today. The union said the money paid to employ UVM administrators has increased tenfold since 2002, to nearly $7 million annually.

“All kinds of spending has to be looked at,” Welch said. “UVM can’t afford to lay off the bulk of the people doing the teaching.”

Corredera said UVM has frozen the pay of all administrators making more than $75,000 in the coming year but is not inclined to reduce salaries. “We have worked very hard the past few years to improve compensation for all UVM employees,” Corredera said.

Fogel might also face questions at today’s forum about claims by the outgoing dean of UVM’s well-regarded Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources that he was forced out of his post by Hughes.

Lawrence Forcier, in an e-mail to Rubenstein School students widely circulated on the UVM campus Wednesday, said he was put on administrative leave, effective immediately, based on what he said were false accusations that he had created a hostile work environment at the school’s Aiken Center.

“I have served many years in academic leadership roles at UVM and have tried to reinforce the need for higher education to set an exceptionally high bar for integrity, justice and fairness,” part of Forcier’s e-mail said. “I intend to challenge any effort to cause me to ‘step down.’”

Corredera said he would not comment on the circumstances that led to Forcier’s removal as a dean. “It is a personnel matter I am not at liberty to discuss,” Corredera said.

He said UVM is hoping to name a new, permanent dean for the Rubenstein School soon, possibly within a month.

Forcier and Hughes did not respond to requests for interviews Wednesday.

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