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UVM Profs Rankled by President's Severance Package 

Published July 27, 2011 at 6:09 p.m.

Well, that didn't take long: Today, the union representing more than 800 University of Vermont faculty criticized the pay package granted to outgoing president Dan Fogel.

In a letter to the UVM Board of Trustees, the faculty union said it was "dismayed and profoundly disappointed by the compensation package provided to President Fogel, as he steps down from the UVM presidency."

Fogel announced last week he was stepping down from the presidency a year early due to "deeply personal reasons," largely stemming from an internal UVM investigation focusing on his wife, Rachel Kahn-Fogel, who was found to have had a six-year emotional relationship with a key UVM fundraiser and had tense relations with other top executives.

Fogel's last day is July 31. This week, UVM trustees named former provost John Bramley as the interim president. His first day of work is August 1.

As detailed in this week's "Fair Game," the decision by Fogel to leave UVM will cost the university plenty in terms of a severance package, the hiring of an interim president and the search for a new, permanent president. In all, UVM will shell out about $1.26 million to cover these costs.

Fogel's 17-month leave of absence alone will cost the university more than $600,000. However, it's worth noting that UVM had agreed — as part of Fogel's original contract — to fully pay him for a one-year leave of absence whenever he stepped down. The added cost due to his early retirement is an additional five months of salary and benefits, which includes an $1800-per-month housing allowance, a car allowance, deferred compensation and health care benefits.

Fogel will be paid through the end of 2012. In January 2013 he is scheduled to join the UVM English department as a professor. For that his salary will be $195,000.

Bramley will be paid $320,500 to assume the role of interim president, and UVM has set aside $320,000 to find a new president.

In the letter to the trustees, the union added, "It is disrespectful of UVM's non-represented staff, who have been told they will receive no salary increase next year, as well as UVM's service and maintenance staff represented by UE, who have gone to impasse over the administration's paltry [one half of one percent increase in] salary offering." The letter was signed by David Shiman, president of United Academics.

The union was also critical of Fogel's pay when he returns to UVM as a professor, claiming $195,000 is out of line with salaries paid to comparable faculty.

"His salary will be $80,000 more than the best-paid faculty member in his future department, English, and $60,000 more than the highest-paid humanities faculty member, someone who has taught at UVM for over 40 years," the union noted in its letter.

The union asked UVM's Board of  Trustees to consider some alternatives and cut portions of Fogel's severance package in light of UVM budget pressures in order to hire more faculty members within the humanities.

"The Board of Trustees and President Fogel could send a positive message to the university and larger community by revising the compensation package so that it is still respectful of our retiring president without showing such disregard for the values of our university and disrespect to the people who carry out its missions," the letter concluded.

Last week, UVM Board of Trustees chairman Robert Cioffi defended the board's decision to award Fogel what some consider to be a generous severance package.

"President Fogel already had an employment contract that called for 12 months leave at the president's salary, and the board has determined that an additional five months pay is reasonable under these circumstances," said Cioffi. "Dan has accomplished a great deal as president, and he needs the time not only to retool academically, but to address the serious personal issues he is facing. In addition, he will be available to do work on behalf of the university at the discretion of the interim president in the coming months."

Union faculty aren't the only ones concerned about UVM spending. At his weekly news conference, Gov. Peter Shumlin was asked whether he thought Fogel's severance package was too generous.

"I'm not going to second guess the board," he said.

Shumlin added, however, that he and others need to find ways to lower the cost of higher education so more Vermonters can attend UVM and other state colleges.

The governor noted that he would have preferred to see UVM spend money on building a new engineering school rather than a student center, and see UVM hire new professors at reasonable salaries.

Before he announced his retirement earlier this year, Fogel came under fire for hiring a new dean for the UVM business school at a salary of more than $300,000 a year. UVM is also hiring the dean's wife. Combined,  the couple will receive more than $500,000 in compensation.

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Shay Totten

Shay Totten

Shay Totten wrote "Fair Game," a weekly political column, from April 2008-December 2011.

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