Fighting the downsizing of education at the University of Vermont.

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.

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