There's no getting around it: The University of Vermont is a huge institution. With more than 3100 faculty and staff and an annual budget of $450 million, UVM is now Vermont's third-largest employer. As the university has grown, so too has the number of professionals whose jobs don't necessarily involve direct, daily contact with students.
Whether people say the administration is too big, too small or just right depends upon their own agenda and personal relationship to the university. In recent months, critics of the administration have expressed outrage over the number of senior administrators whose job titles now include the phrase "vice president," as well as the generous compensation packages they command. Not surprisingly, those complaints have grown louder as contract negotiations between the administration and the faculty union, United Academics, enter their 11th month without an agreement.
On the United Academics' website and at recent labor rallies, the union has charged that the salaries and benefits offered to UVM's rank-and-file faculty and staff haven't kept pace with those at comparable institutions around the country. Senior administrators in the university's top 22 jobs saw an average salary increase of almost 35 percent between 2000 and 2004. In contrast, pay raises for faculty members tended to be far more modest over the same period. According to the union, a full-time math lecturer saw a 12-percent raise, an assistant professor in English 15 percent and a full professor in history 16 percent.
Admittedly, salaries from department to department can vary widely. But United Academics President David Shiman points to national figures compiled by Oklahoma State University showing that UVM faculty as a whole are paid about 7 percent below average for comparable institutions. They further charge that UVM has resisted offering more job security and full health- care coverage to all its employees, and has not done enough to keep student tuitions affordable.
Meanwhile, the union complains, the number of senior-level administrators whose titles have been upgraded to the rank of "vice president" has jumped from three veeps in 2001 to 19 today. All but one VP earn six-figure salaries.
In the post-Enron era, allegations of excessive executive compensation gain easy traction in the public and the press, especially when they're aimed at higher education. Last week's issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that, for the first time, five private college presidents are earning $1 million or more; at least 50 earn more than $500,000.
Public institutions tend to pay their presidents less - UVM President Dan Fogel's salary is about $284,000 per year - though executive salaries in the public sector are also climbing steadily. And as the top earners' salaries go up, so too do the salaries of their executive subordinates.
But clearly, the story doesn't end here. This week Seven Days takes a closer look at the 19 UVM administrators whose job titles include the words "vice president," to present a more thorough picture of the work they perform and the climate in which they operate.
Or tried to, anyway. Of the 19 VPs contacted over the course of five days, only nine cooperated. The official explanation: Nearly all the administrators were preparing for weekend meetings with the UVM board of trustees.
Distrust was also an issue. According to UVM Director of Communications Enrique Corredera, many of the veeps were "very skeptical" of our motivations, and saw the article as little more than a bargaining tactic for the union. Corredera says several administrators felt it was "a lose-lose proposition to them." He said the university's policy "is to deal with the union in the right context - at the bargaining table - not to try to resell these issues by getting favorable newspaper articles on our position."
Those who did respond to our inquiry offered edifying insights into the culture of higher education and the bureaucratic demands on a modern American university. For instance, Paul Hale, Associate Vice President for Research and Economic Development and Executive Director of the Vermont Technology Council, points out that UVM has become "a major force" in research, which helps drive economic development throughout the state. But along with the $120 million the university receives each year in federal research grants comes a litany of federal mandates and reporting requirements. Someone's got to do the paperwork.
Ted Winfield, Associate Vice President for Budget and Management, echoes that sentiment and says federal accounting and compliance standards have grown exponentially in such areas as tuition assistance, human resources and financial planning. "In the short time that I've been in this role, the breadth and complexity of this work continues to grow," Winfield says. Regarding federal laws that require financial disclosure statements, he adds, "Those are things you can't not do. You don't get to say 'We don't think that's appropriate.'"
Similar demands affect virtually every aspect of campus life - and the administrators who oversee them. Annie Stevens, Assistant Vice President of Student and Campus Life, says that much of administrators' time must be spent addressing issues such as accreditation, compliance with equal-access laws for minorities and students with disabilities, and reducing the university's exposure to potential lawsuits. In today's litigious society, Stevens says, "Colleges are now getting sued for students who commit suicide. That never happened before."
Other demands on administrators reflect the historical times in which we live, notes David Nestor, UVM Dean of Students and Associate Vice President for Campus Life. The regulatory fallout from the terrorist attacks of 9/11 imposed unprecedented new rules on universities regarding foreign students, the security of research labs and the use of computers. Other cultural and technological developments, such as the illegal swapping of music files, movies, software and other intellectual property, have raised a host of new legal issues and vulnerabilities for the administration to deal with, all of which take time and expertise. As Nestor puts it, "Whatever happens in our society has a ripple effect back to us."
As for the large salaries paid to the VPs, the argument that the union makes for higher faculty salaries also holds true for administrators. Specifically, several VPs note that if UVM wants to remain nationally competitive as an institution of higher learning, it must offer its senior executives salaries commensurate with their profession. Yes, the salaries of many VPs have gone up, but as President Fogel says in an email, "Looked at functionally, there has been zero growth in the number of positions for many years, going back to previous administrations." (Fogel declined to be interviewed further for this story, citing the current contract negotiations.)
Is the administration bloated or lean? Unfortunately, there's no easy way to measure how UVM stacks up next to comparable universities. There are 65 associations in Washington, D.C., alone that deal with issues affecting colleges and universities; apparently, none has compiled statistics on the relative sizes of university administrations. And since job descriptions and titles vary widely from campus to campus, it's apples and oranges.
That said, some trends are worth noting, according to John Curtis, director of research at the American Association of University Professors. From 1976 to 2001, the number of people in full-time "executive, administrative and managerial" positions on all college campuses increased by 55 percent. Over that same time period, the number of full-time faculty rose by only 45 percent.
There are many possible reasons colleges seem to be spending less on teaching students than managing them, Curtis explains. Some of those increases are in the cost of information technology, which largely didn't exist 30 years ago. Other spending on "non-faculty professionals" includes jobs such as librarians, counselors and academic advisors, who are not faculty per se but still benefit students.
Then there is the host of people who oversee the business side of the university, from compiling annual campus crime statistics - now a federal mandate under the Clery Act - to managing on-campus parking. Nationally, between 1976 and 2001 the proportion of campus expenditures that went directly to instruction decreased slightly, from 34 percent to 31 percent.
"That's not a huge decline," Curtis admits, "but if you think of instruction as being the core component of what colleges and universities are all about, it is troubling."
UVM's Vice Presidents: Who, What and How Much?
Associate Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students
2005 salary: $134,628
Contact with students: Daily. "It would be very easy not to have any contact with students. But it's very important to me, because I need to hear firsthand from students what their experiences are, what's working and what's not . . . I got into this business because I love spending time with students. I have found, as time goes on, that I have to make certain there's time in each day that I'm spending with them."
As dean of students since 1994, Nestor oversees a number of different departments, including Career Services, the Center for Health and Wellbeing, the Center for Student Ethics and Standards, Student and Community Relations and the Residential Life Program. Though his "vice president" moniker is only three years old, the dean of students position has been around for decades, and his duties have grown.
Nestor identifies three areas as his biggest challenges. First, he deals with an enormous number of legal issues on a daily basis, from reviewing speakers' contracts to providing due process for students accused of academic dishonesty to meeting the various federal mandates for health- care privacy. "It just seems as though so many of our interactions have a legal component," Nestor says. "It just pervades everything in our lives. I feel that although I didn't set out to become an attorney, I've [practically] had to become one."
Second, Nestor says that, compared to earlier in his career, parents and students see themselves more as consumers now and can be more demanding about the services they receive. Sometimes, he says, those demands draw time and resources away from the core mission of the university, which is education and learning.
Finally, Nestor says far more students arrive on campus today with complex physical or mental-health issues. He sees many students who suffer from depression, are on prescription medications or have other serious medical conditions. "Overseeing and managing that has become much more time-consuming and complex," Nestor says. "You want to do it right."
As for the size of the administration, he says, "I think the University of Vermont is fairly lean. I think the institution really has tried very hard to not just automatically add people for every little thing we're trying to do."
Assistant Vice President for Student and Campus Life
2005 salary: $120,996
Contact with students: Daily. Stevens works directly with students and parents who have complaints about the food program, are having academic problems or mental-health issues, or are in need of other types of advising or counseling services. She also meets regularly with student leaders about addressing their needs and concerns.
Stevens' job, which she's had for four years, is to directly oversee the departments of Residential Life, Student Life, Dining Services and Student Health Services. Her division was expanded when President Dan Fogel reorganized the administration in 2002, though her position has existed for a number of years.
Stevens points out that her job description doesn't fit neatly onto an organizational flow chart. Her biggest challenge, she says, is "the amount of work. Because we're constantly working with students, you're not sure on any given day what issue may arise that you have to attend to.
"I see a huge trend across the country and at UVM around students at risk," she adds. "They're coming to college with so many more complex issues than ever before that our health services and residential life programs really have to be prepared and knowledgeable of how to help these students."
Her biggest accomplishment? "I think we're doing a really good job with the new residence halls that are coming on line soon, and the new student center the students will have soon. Just seeing the campus change and working with the students directly, and getting their input about what is needed on campus and what will make their experience so much better. That to me has been great."
As for the complaint that the administration has gotten too large, Stevens suggests considering the historic context. "We have got to continue our efforts around creating a campus that truly is diverse and respects all the individuals that make up our community," she says. "And that takes time and attention and training and education. A lot goes into that . . . I think folks don't even realize what is mandated for us."
Associate Vice President for Budget and Management
2005 salary: $192,750
Contact with students: Limited. Winfield says he occasionally gets calls from students who want an explanation of how the budget process works, from business students who are working on projects, and from the Student Government Association asking about their finances.
Winfield manages the office responsible for oversight of the UVM budget, which totals $450 million. His duties include tracking budget results from previous years, planning for future expenditures and preparing and presenting the Budget to the board of directors. His previous title, Budget Director, was made into a vice-president position with President Dan Fogel's reorganization of the administration, and was accompanied by a large salary increase over that of his predecessor. Winfield attributes the raise to his level of experience and expanded responsibilities.
The focal point of his work has been building the university's strategic plan. His biggest challenge, Winfield says, is "to make sure the institution is being prudent and smart about the revenue that we have and where that money comes from, and being responsible about how we generate it and how we spend it."
Winfield identifies his greatest accomplishment as UVM's strategic financial plan, which is a 10-year picture of what the university is doing financially to address its growing student and faculty population and capital-improvement program. "We believe there are not that many institutions of higher education of this size around the country," Winfield suggests, "that have that particular complexity of a forecast to work from."
He says some of the growth in the administration is due to federal mandates that go along with accepting more than $100 million in federal money. The rules that govern tuition assistance and financial planning change rapidly, are increasingly complex and time-consuming and require a high level of expertise.
A. JOHN BRAMLEY
Senior Vice President and Provost
2005 salary: $204,000
Contact with students: "I work very closely with students individually and through SGA [Student Government Association], and with the faculty senate," Bramley writes in an email. He also holds faculty appointments in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Medicine, and supervises a graduate student.
Bramley describes his job in an email: "The Provost is the number- two official to the President and reports directly to him. I am . . . accountable to the President and the Board of Trustees for all academic programs, all colleges and schools, the hiring and evaluation processes for Deans and most Vice Presidents, the approval of all faculty searches and the appointment, tenure, reappointment and evaluation processes of all university faculty, and all academic operations and procedures.
"In addition to being responsible for the quality of the academic programs that our students enjoy, I also oversee all aspects of student success and well- being through campus, residential and student life, the registrar, libraries, admissions, international education, continuing education, Institutional Studies and ROTC . . . the research operations also report through Vice President Fran Carr to me. I am also responsible for the development, implementation and administration of the university budget."
Bramley also maintains a USDA-funded research grant.
In a salary table on its website, United Academics notes that when Geoffrey Gamble held the Provost position in the 2000-2001 academic year, he earned $165,500. As of April 2004, Bramley's salary went up 20.8 percent. He did not respond to an email asking him to account for that pay differential.
Vice President for Student and Campus Life
2005 salary: $156,560
Contact with students: Gustafson oversees student clubs and organizations, including athletics.
Gustafson, 52, is the university's longest-serving administrator. He started out working in the UVM residence halls 27 years ago. In addition to student organizations, he oversees Residential Life Programming and is the Director of University Communications. The Director of Police Services also reports to him.
Prior to 2002, Gustafson says his title was "Vice President for UVM Relations and Operations," a position that included oversight of the budget and UVM facilities. "It was a little bit nuts," he says. In 2002, President Fogel created a new vice presidency to take charge of those two functions - Vice President for Finance and Administration, a job now held by J. Michael Gower.
Gustafson is also serving as the interim Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations, a job vacated this year by Ian deGroot (now Special Assistant to the President). Gustafson predicts the university will fill that position next spring.
His biggest accomplishment in the past three years has been making progress on the new student center, scheduled for completion in fall 2007. "We're one of the very few flagship state universities without a really functional student center," Gustafson notes. He says it's tempting to focus solely on college students' classroom experience, but his job is to improve their "entire experience" at the university. "They have a life as well," he says.
Vice President for State and Federal Relations
2005 salary: $131,860
Contact with students: Meyer spends much of her time off-campus, dealing with legislators and groups such as the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, but she also consults with the student government and supervises student interns.
Meyer spoke with Seven Days in a brief phone interview. She came to UVM in 2002, as chief-of-staff for Interim President Ed Colodny. She took her current job cultivating university relationships with state and federal officials in 2003. Lawrence Forcier, her predecessor, was a Senior Advisor to the President. Though the position was restructured as a vice president, Meyer makes only $2000 more than Forcier earned five years ago.
PAUL D. HALE
<Associate Vice President for Research and Economic Development, Executive Director of the Vermont Technology Council
2005 salary: $85,567, half from UVM, half from the VTC.
Contact with students: Hale doesn't teach, but has some interaction with graduate student researchers. He also helps place student interns with Vermont companies.
Hale, 46, grew up in Burlington, and earned his undergraduate degree at UVM. He returned to Vermont after earning his PhD in chemistry elsewhere, and worked as a private lab director for Biotech Industries in Winooski. Hale was hired by then-President Judith Ramaley in 1999 as her Special Assistant. In 2002, his job title changed to the current one but his responsibilities remained "exactly the same," Hale says.
The associate veep works half- time for UVM and half-time for the Vermont Technology Council. "It's 70 hours a week, whatever you want to call it," he quips. Hale notes that UVM receives about $120 million from the federal government for research. His job is to "keep some of that technology in Vermont."
Hale explains that when the university discovers or invents something in the course of research, it is required to register for a patent. UVM then licenses the patents to companies, which brings revenue back to the school. Hale helps link UVM with Vermont companies, using the university's research to help create jobs in Vermont.
For him, this aspect of his job is particularly important; Hale was the first in his family to go to college, and he wants to help grow the Vermont economy, particularly the science and high-tech sector. "That can help everybody, including students," he says. "This is just extension beyond the old agricultural model."
DAVID S. DUMMIT
Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies
2005 salary: $127,500
Contact with students: Dummit teaches a graduate-level abstract algebra class and is supervising a Master's thesis. He also handles graduate school grievances.
Dummit joined the faculty in the UVM Math Department in 1984. He became an administrator - or, as he puts it, "went over to the dark side" - in 2003, to become the Interim Dean of the Graduate College. He tried to refuse the position, but took it after a persuasive phone call from President Fogel. When Frances Carr came on board as Vice President for Research and Dean of Graduate Studies, she asked him to stay, and he did.
Dummit says he has two responsibilities - he oversees all graduate school offerings, and reviews the school's policies and procedures. On the day he spoke with Seven Days, he had an afternoon meeting to approve a new PhD program in neuroscience.
Dummit also finds grant and research opportunities, helps write them, and assists faculty members in managing the money. Last spring he won a $132,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to recruit minority students at UVM into faculty positions, and then he helped faculty and student groups use the money. He's also on the steering committee of the University's Advanced Computing Center.
But Dummit remains committed to his own research. He'd like to make it up to Montreal every two weeks for an algebraic number theory seminar. But he can't always go, he says, because his job keeps him too busy.
CHRISTOPHER J. MCCABE
Assistant Vice President for Marketing and Business Development
2005 salary: $131,510
Contact with students: McCabe is a guest speaker in the UVM Business School and supervises student interns. He also consults with faculty and student groups on marketing campaigns and licensing projects, and works with and sees student athletes "often."
Christopher McCabe, 37, played lacrosse for UVM and graduated in 1991. Before returning to the university in 2002 - the year his position was created - he worked for Fox Sports and with World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., formerly the World Wrestling Federation.
McCabe is in charge of UVM's brand development and usage, and the university's licensing program, which amounts to "any and all usage of our intellectual property." Whenever student groups want to print UVM T-shirts or merchandise, he works with them and a professional licensing firm to ensure that all vendors conform to UVM standards. "It's really more than just dotting the i's and crossing the t's," he says. "It's getting the work done by somebody we know is a tried-and-true vendor." McCabe is the first UVM administrator to work with a professional licensing firm.
He has also expanded UVM's corporate sponsorship: Since he's been at the school, sponsorship has expanded fivefold. McCabe attributes this in part to the school's athletic success, but says some of the increase has to do with actively cultivating relationships with sponsors such as Nike, TD Banknorth and the Sheraton.
He notes that his position is actually a revenue generator for the school. The money from sponsorships and licensing agreements goes back into the university, some into athletic and nontraditional scholarships. In defense of his position, McCabe says: "I think the president and the administration recognized the need to maximize the positive experience and revenue opportunity that athletics can bring to a campus."