University of Vermont President Dan Fogel is stepping down from his post next year, exactly 10 years after he took office.
Fogel, the university's 25th president, plans to teach English at UVM in 2013. He will officially step down from his presidential post on July 1, 2012.
Prior to Fogel's arrival, UVM was churning through presidents almost as fast as undergrads — four of them in less than 15 years.
How does Fogel think he'll be remembered in years to come?
"I worry people will think about the bricks and mortar, but we have done so much more to attracting wonderful professors, creating the lecture series, the transdisciplinary research initiative — truly a focus on academics," Fogel told Seven Days. "I also think we have seen a rise in standing of the university in the hearts and minds of Vermonters."
Many Vermonters, and certainly most Burlingtonians, are indeed likely to remember Fogel's tenure for UVM's physical expansion. According to UVM, Fogel expanded the university's footprint by more than one million square feet — making it 25 percent larger than when he arrived. That includes the purchase of the Trinity College Campus, the construction of Jeffords Hall, University Heights Residence Halls, the "greening" of Aiken (to be completed this year), and the opening of the massive Dudley H. Davis Student Center.
To sustain its physical growth, the university has had to increase its enrollment. UVM, which used to receive about 9000 applications a year, now receives more than 22,000.
Fogel's tenure as president, like that of most of his predecessors of the past two decades, has not been without controversy. A growth in the number of administrators with six-figure pay packages has also increased under Fogel — much to the dismay of the faculty union, students and staff. He also came under fire for dismantling the university's baseball team. As a result, one lawmaker tried to hold back $900,000 in funding for Groovy UV.
In a letter to the campus community Fogel touted several academic initiatives that he and others at UVM worked on: the creation of the Honors College, of the Burack President's Distinguished Lecture Series and the Marsh Professors-at-Large program, the six-credit diversity requirement, and the UVM Transportation Research Center as well as new programs that are still evolving, such as the Transdisciplinary Research Initiative, General Education, and UVM's growing partnership with Vermont's electrical utility industry and the Sandia National Laboratory.
Some of those initiatives have been criticized by faculty, however, who believe investments in some of them have harmed undergraduate studies by increasing class sizes and downsizing non-research faculty.Just this morning, Professor Dave Shiman, president of United Academics, issued a statement to the UVM community critical of Fogel's proposed budget plan and its cuts to academics. The union and administration are in contract talks.
The proportion of UVM's budget that goes directly to academics has dropped from 51.4 percent in FY 2005 to 47.8 percent in the current year, the union claims. "The continuing underfunding of academic activities threatens our ability to deliver an excellent education," Shiman noted.
In an interview with Seven Days later in the day, Shiman was more generous in his praise for Fogel's leadership and his ablity to guide the university through tough national economic times.
"Compared to a lot of higher education institutions we are in not in as bad a shape financially. We have budget issues, but if you look around the nation and compare us to other schools, it's not been as devastating here," Shiman said.
"There are areas of growth in terms of enrollment, buildings and programs that are very positive and there are a lot of very good things to point to that President Fogel has accomplished. I would say, however, that under his leadership there has been a turning away from the commitment to undergraduate eduction to become a true, topflight research institution." That has angered some faculty, said Shiman, who feel they have not been included by Fogel's administration in key decision-making. "Some times we are heard but not listened to. Other times, we are simply disregarded. I think that created some real issues in terms of the confidence of his leadership among faculty."
Fogel counters that some of the university's investments in buildings were designed to boost academic offerings and lure more students, not simply to build buildings for building's sake.
"Faculty are the heart and soul of this university," said Fogel. "I do have to say that our investments in the physical plant are very prudent and guided by a very wise board policy that our investments will not exceed 5 percent of the budget, and they do not. And, I would argue that investments in buildings like Jeffords Hall, which is largely for faculty research labs, is an investment in academics."
Board of Trustees Chair Robert F. Cioffi said Fogel has helped to raise the profile of the state's only public university — both in state and out of state. And with that came the ability for UVM to raise millions of dollars from outside groups and alumni.
"Clearly any discussion of UVM's ascendancy must begin by acknowledging Dan Fogel's leadership as its central element," Cioffi said. "He has, on so many fronts, set in motion initiatives that are transforming this institution."
With Fogel staying on for another 15 months, UVM will have plenty of time to conduct a thorough presidential search, Cioffi told Seven Days. He said he intends to appoint a presidential search committee prior to commencement in May with the aim of hiring someone in the months before Fogel retires.
Fogel said after a decade at the helm it was time to let someone else guide the school into the next decade. And, he wanted to give the university time to prepare for his departure.
"This university hasn't always done leadership transitions well," Cioffi noted.
True enough. Fogel's predecessor, Judith Ramaley, was all but forced out by UVM's board of trustees. In the late 1980s, UVM President Lattie Coor was ousted after students took control of the school's administration building.
The time is also right for a leadership transition, noted Cioffi, because UVM is embarking on a new capital campaign to raise more than $300 million. Fogel felt it important for the next president to see that campaign through from start to finish. Under Fogel's leadership, UVM raised more than $250 million in its last capital campaign — $28 million more than anticipated.
Aside from wrapping up his duties at UVM, Fogel is also working on two books — one on Henry James and the other a book of essays celebrating the nation's land grant colleges and universities. That book is slated for publication during the sesquetennial of land grant colleges in 2012. U.S. Rep. Justin Morrill, a Vermont Congressman, sponsored the original land grant legislation.
In a letter to the campus community, Fogel looks back at his ten-year tenure with no regrets.
"It has been my great good fortune to be a part of Vermont's extraordinary university, and Rachel and I plan to continue to be a part of this exceptional community for years to come," Fogel wrote. "In my first statement as UVM's president-elect, in January of 2002, I said that service as president of the University of Vermont seemed to me to be the opportunity of a lifetime. A little more than nine years later, I feel that more than ever."
UVM by the Numbers During Fogel's Tenure
2002/3 (Vermont tuition).: $8,320
2002/3 (out-of-state): $20,810
2010/11 (Vermont tuition): $12,180
2010/11 (out-of-state): $30,744
Fall 2002 (Vermont): 2,869
Fall 2002 (out-of-state): 4,732
Fall 2002 total: 7,601
Fall 2010 (Vermont): 3,495
Fall 2010 (out-of-state): 6,966
Fall 2010 total: 10,461
(Source: UVM Communications)
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