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The 26th President of the University of Vermont

President's Report to Board of Trustees Feb 10 2006 President’s Report Board of Trustees
February 10, 2006

President’s Report
Board of Trustees, February 10, 2006


Chairman Lisman, Vice-Chair Heath, trustees of the University, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends, it is a pleasure to have the opportunity once again to report to you on the state of the University and on some very exciting developments for higher education in the State of Vermont, notably Governor Douglas’s visionary proposal of a major and potentially transformative scholarship program to benefit the people of the State. The University has also passed several important milestones since our November meeting, including the achievement of stunningly high record numbers of undergraduate and graduate applications and ratification by the full-time faculty union in mid-December of a contract on which the administration and union negotiators had agreed earlier that month.

Before I launch into the body of my report, however, I want to acknowledge the presence here today of individuals who have gathered to display their deeply felt concern with developments in the Department of Education in the College of Education and Social Services. Welcome. Allow me to express my belief that the administration of the University and those gathered around the room share some very important values. All of us believe that we must maintain and in fact enhance our teacher preparation programs at UVM. Let me assert unequivocally that we will not allow the quality of those programs to slip on our watch. All of us believe that our commitment to teacher preparation is important not only for our students and faculty but also for schools and children throughout our State. Provost Bramley and I—and many of our faculty colleagues—see this commitment as an expression of the Land Grant mission that we believe should suffuse the whole institution: the mission of advancing the educational, social, cultural, economic, and intellectual well-being of the State. We believe, as we have said many times before, that Vermont cannot prosper in all of these vital dimensions without the active engagement of Vermont’s University.

What then is the bone of contention? In a few minutes we will invite a spokesperson to address the Board about concerns on which we are being picketed this morning. From the administration’s point of view, the process under way in the Department of Education has its locus in the College of Education and Social Services and lies squarely within the purview of the Dean of the College and the chair and faculty of the Department. The Dean has made a decision to give notice of non-reappointment to six colleagues in the Department of Education who have non-tenure track, limited-term appointments. Such notice is required under the faculty contract whenever there is uncertainty about the availability of reappointment for instructors on limited-term appointments. The lecturers who have received notice of non-appointment all have due process available to them in the form of the grievance procedures inscribed in the faculty contract. Grievances have in fact been filed. While we will not comment on individual personnel processes and grievances, we have great confidence that the due process procedures available to the affected faculty afford them fair and equitable opportunities for resolution of their grievances, and we believe that those processes must be allowed to run their course.

Had notice of non-reappointment not been given, the new contract would have required reappointment for multi-year terms of at least three and as many as four years, depriving the University of any flexibility to address a very real problem that can be framed in either one of two equally compelling ways.

First, the Department of Education, is number one in the entire University, including the College of Medicine, in having the largest general fund budget of any academic department at UVM, and it is in a College where we spend many more dollars per student credit hour than we do in most of the other colleges and schools, including A&S, CALS, Business Administration, the Rubenstein School, and even such normally high-cost areas as Engineering. Yet the Department of Education has consistently exceeded its budgeted expenditures for many years. Regular, unremitting, and in fact increasing levels of deficit spending are not fiscally responsible. While the issue at hand is not truly a Board-level matter but one that rightly is centered in the College and the Department, were such spending practices to be generalized across much or all of the institution we would without question have a budget crisis that would rise to the level of this Board’s fiduciary responsibilities. The overspending arises from inaction by the Department going back at least a dozen years, to 1994, a failure to adjust spending after the expiration of external grants that had funded a number of activities and positions. That approach to fiscal realities, if generalized would be disastrous for this University and for all of its students, faculty, and staff.

Second, the situation in the Department of Education goes against the grain of a principle on which the administration, faculty leadership in the Faculty Senate, and the faculty union all agree, as do, we believe, the majority of the faculty throughout the University: we want most of our faculty to hold tenure-track professorial appointments. In this large department, with a head-count of more than 80 personnel with faculty status, less than a third of that number—and less than half the instructional faculty—are on the tenure track. United Academics has regularly expressed concern, as has the Faculty Senate, about monitoring the proportion of non-tenure-track faculty appointments in the University.

The budget of the Department of Education is not being cut. It has increased significantly each year under our administration. It will go up again next year. Some of the 81 new tenure-track faculty positions included in the Strategic Financial Plan, moreover, will be going into the College of Education and Social Services. Nevertheless, measures are clearly in order to correct the persistent deficit spending in the College of Education and Social Services and to adjust the faculty demographics within the department so that there is a better balance between tenure-track and non-tenure track faculty. We fully support Dean Fayneese Miller as she develops these measures in consultation with the faculty and chair of the Department. The Dean has asked for, and as far as I know is still awaiting, submission to her by the Department of a satisfactory long-term plan to achieve the necessary adjustment of budget and faculty composition. I have confidence that once she has that plan, she will make decisions thoroughly consonant with the commitment of this administration and this Board to the highest levels of academic excellence. And now, Chairman Lisman, I would ask that you recognize Professor David Shiman, President of United Academics, as spokesperson for the assembled demonstrators. After David’s remarks, I will resume my report. . . .

Thanks very much to both of our speakers for their moving and thoughtful remarks. I want to turn now to Governor Douglas’s proposal for Vermont Promise Scholarships. The proposal is simple, it is powerful, and, as we have said in many forums around the State, it is visionary, an all-too-rare example of comprehensive long-term thinking about public policy. We fully support the Governor’s analysis of the demographic crisis facing the State of Vermont and the solution he has fashioned in the form of a scholarship program that will encourage Vermonters to pursue post-secondary education in our State and to stay here after graduation. The Governor’s plan is for the State to fund about 1,000 undergraduate scholarships a year for between 25% and 50% of tuition for Vermont residents to attend college in the State of Vermont. He proposes that a third of the funding go to UVM, that a third go to the Vermont State Colleges, and that a third be available as scholarships for students attending any institution in Vermont, including our private colleges (at private colleges the scholarship would be capped at a maximum of $5000/year). If students do not stay in the State for three years after graduation, half of the scholarship becomes a loan that must be repaid. If they do stay in the state, the entire scholarship remains a scholarship, with no repayment required.

The Governor has proposed the Vermont Promise Scholarships to combat what he calls a quiet crisis. The elements of this crisis feed off each other, silently compounding their destructive effects. Vermont has the nation’s lowest birthrate. Our population is aging more rapidly than that of any other state. The school-age population is dropping more sharply than anywhere else in the country. And we are number one among the fifty states in the percent of high school graduates who leave their state to go to college—and who, for the most part, will not make Vermont their home again in the course of their working lives. That Vermont has not been able to match most other States in affording residents low-cost, high-quality opportunities for going to college is without question a factor in the destructive pattern of out-migration of college-bound high school graduates, and that out-migration in turn is one of the key drivers of Vermont’s demographic tailspin.

Vermont’s negative demographic trends have been building for a long time. Right now the trend lines are projected to stretch far into the future. In the last decade of the twentieth century, Vermont lost 19% of its 20 to 34 year-olds. In 2005, the U.S. Census Bureau released a population pyramid that gives us a snapshot of expected population changes in Vermont over the course of the first three decades of the new century, from 2000 to 2030. You can see that the pyramid thickens dramatically at the top: a major increase of senior citizens, most of whom are no longer working. And you can also see a conspicuous morphing of the pyramid in the middle and at the bottom: these sections of the pyramid, conspicuously smaller in 2030 relative to the upper segment, represent those from ages 20 to 64, who are in their prime working years, and those 19 and younger, the next generation of workers and the seed corn generation of Vermont’s future. [PowerPoint Slide] That shrinking middle represents a proportionally much smaller working population faced with the burden of supporting a proportionally much larger population of older people (and a much larger total population of dependents, the sum of those under 20 and those 65 and over).

This disturbing shift will require a huge increase in the tax burden on working Vermonters. And even with tax hikes of 50% and more, the State will be unable to maintain at current levels programs important to Vermonters: public investment in transportation, rural and urban community development, agriculture, social welfare, medical care, education, and environmental protection and stewardship will have to be cut or eliminated because the ratio of workers to the dependent young and old will have become so unfavorable that Vermont will be in deep trouble. The problem in Vermont will be significantly more severe than the problem created by similar but less acute population shifts in other states.

We see the Vermont Promise Scholarships as a potentially decisive response to this threat to Vermont’s well-being. For UVM, the scholarships will allow us to attract more of the most talented and deserving students in the State in a period in which we are aiming to increase Vermont enrollments in defiance of the downward trend in Vermont high school graduates, which are projected to drop from about 7,000 annually in 2001 to just a little over 5,000 by 2017-2018. For the institutions that comprise the Vermont State College system and for Vermont’s independent colleges, all of which have extraordinary economic and social importance in their communities, Vermont Promise gives hope of continuing viability in the face of a very stiff challenge.

If you have been following the present political season in Vermont, you know that the proposed source of funds for the Vermont Scholarship Program has become highly contested. It is in truth not our role as educators to enter the fray on fiscal and tax policy in the public arena. Our part is to focus on our mission in service, research, economic development, and above all in the education of our students. All of these roles are in fact encompassed in the Vermont Promise proposal and in the closely linked initiative to create a world-class cluster of environmental enterprises to ensure the long-term economic competitiveness of the State. The Governor’s proposal to draw on new dollars flowing into the State through the Tobacco Settlement has much to commend it in providing the predictable source of funds that students and families must have to plan financing for college educations over the course of four years. We appeal to our colleagues in the public arena to work together to finance this wonderful proposal for investment in Vermont’s future, in our students and families, in our vital human capital infrastructure. The Governor deserves great credit for his vision in putting forward the Vermont Promise proposal; in the end this program will belong to all of the people of the State of Vermont and will be an essential ingredient in securing the future prosperity and well-being of the State.

We know that the Vermont Promise Scholarships will only be an empty promise if we do not create attractive jobs that will allow college graduates to build careers and raise families here. As you know, for the last year we have been promoting a vision for the future of Vermont’s economy based on job creation around a robust economic cluster that would establish our State as a global leader in environmental technologies, businesses, and services. That vision, which has been developed in large part through conversations among members of this Board, would leverage the expertise of the University in environmental science, engineering, and policy to define and promote niche areas in which Vermont can lead the world in environmental enterprises. It is a vision very resonant with Lieutenant Governor Dubie’s call to create a “Green Valley” in Vermont. And it was resoundingly amplified in the Governor’s State of the State address last month as he called for Next Generation Investments to support the creation of environmental enterprises.

Support for Next Generation Investments and the Vermont Promise Scholarships is already widespread, drawing enthusiastic responses from legislators, higher education, economic development agencies, business leaders, and many other Vermonters. As I speak with community and business leaders around the state, I find everywhere a great hunger to make this vision a reality. I am confident that the research infrastructure and workforce development capacity at UVM and other Vermont colleges, in partnership with the private and public sectors, can generate the innovation and economic activity needed to create a robust, globally competitive, environmental technology sector. That is precisely why we have established advanced sustainable technologies for northern communities as the theme of our National University Transportation Center.

I spoke at the beginning of this report of important milestones the University has achieved since the last Board meeting. The National University Transportation Center is a key facet of one of these milestones, over $12 million in directed federal appropriations to the University in the 2006 fiscal year ($19.5 million if we count appropriations we requested for highway improvements around the eastern entrance to the campus addressing the I-89 exit and improvement of the jug-handle), compared to only $4.25 million just four years ago. At the same time, grants and contracts through our Office of Sponsored Programs—a testament to the scientific, scholarly, and creative power of our wonderful faculty—are running some $3.2 million ahead of last year’s level. And while we are running the numbers, the mission-critical enrollment management engine is in high gear: as of yesterday, we had a record 17,616 applications for undergraduate admission, up more than 4,600 from last year’s final total, with a stunning 63.4% increase in ALANA applications, from 1,001 on this day last year to 1,636 yesterday! Earlier this week, applications for graduate study had also reached record levels, with 1,424 logged as compared with 1,175 on the same date last year. Meanwhile, the north complex of the stunning new residence halls at University Heights have opened, inaugurating the Honors College Living/Learning Community, with two new living/learning communities, the environmental GreenHouse and the international Global Village, slated for launches in the fall; the new Carrigan Wing of the Marsh Life Science building has opened, proving to be an immediate functional and aesthetic home run; and the construction of the Dudley H. Davis Center speeds apace, abetted by the unseasonable warmth this winter.

The successful conclusion of contract negotiations with the full-time faculty union is another milestone worthy of celebration for many reasons: among others, the collegial nature of the relationship between the administration and the bargaining unit; the very material advance over the life of the three-year agreement that we will be making in the competitiveness of faculty compensation; the incorporation of the faculty into a unified UVM health plan; and some real improvements in that plan developed in large part through the negotiation process.

Two critical searches are currently under way. Three outstanding candidates for the position of Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations are completing campus visits this week. Next week, campus visits begin for five candidates to succeed John Bramley as Provost and Senior Vice President. Visits by Provost candidates will be completed by mid-March, and we have every expectation that appointments to both of these critical posts will have been made by late March or early April. The quality of the applicant pools in both of these searches attests to the very positive light in which UVM has come to be regarded in the higher education community. In both searches, we are focused on finding colleagues who will play major and indeed indispensable roles in advancing the academic quality and diversity of the University. For the Provost candidates, the first two open campus forums have been scheduled: next week, on Monday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. in the Billings North Lounge, the campus community will have an opportunity to meet Virginia Sapiro, Interim Provost at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is the Breckinridge Professor of Political Science and Women’s Studies. The following week, on Friday the 24th, from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. here in the Waterman Memorial Lounge, there will be an open forum with Uday Sukhatme, Professor of Physics and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Information about the three following open forums will be posted on the Provost Search web site, linked through the President’s home page, as scheduling is completed.

Early last month, finally, a senior leadership retreat including the vice presidents and deans as well as representatives of the Faculty Senate, the Staff Council, and the Graduate Student Association (but lacking, unfortunately, SGA representatives, who were unable to attend) met for two days to discuss next steps in the campaign to advance UVM as the nation’s premier small research university. Topics addressed included enrollment management, assessment, and the improvement of administrative and customer service. In my eyes—and I know in those of many other colleagues—the highlight of the meeting was John Bramley’s penetrating exposition of the intellectual and ethical legacy of the University represented by James Marsh, Justin Morrill, and John Dewey, concluding with an outline of measures that might be pursued to re-energize and renovate that legacy for the twenty-first century. An intensive, highly participatory, and very rich discussion ensued. At the end of that discussion, I told the group that I thought they had generated enough good ideas for John Bramley and me to begin to draft, on behalf of the group, a new academic vision statement for the University.

We are now well into the drafting of that vision, which focuses on creating the university of the future, concentrating on the education of accountable leaders through rigorous interdisciplinary curricula and research grounded in problem-based learning communities and the application of validated knowledge to the solution of real-world problems. It is our hope that once we have completed a rough draft it will be shaped further through review by the members of the retreat group who are in a very real sense its co-authors, that a second draft can then be circulated for review, input, refinement, and further revision by the whole campus community, and that a penultimate draft will be further shaped in mid-spring by the hand of the provost-designate, so that a finished document can be brought before this Board in May, as a product of the high aspirations of this wonderful community of faculty, staff, and students at the University of Vermont.

Finally, I cannot close these remarks without a sad notation. We lost, this past week, another member of the University community, Valerie Ann Moore, a cherished colleague, an inspiring teacher, and a penetrating scholar of sex and gender, race and ethnic relations, and the sociology of youth and children. Chairman Lisman, I would ask for a moment of silence in Professor Moore’s memory before we move on to your report.

Last modified February 11 2006 07:43 PM

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