University of Vermont

Board of Trustees

Board of Trustees, Chair's Report

David A. Daigle
UVM Board of Trustees Chair’s Report
May 18, 2018

Good morning everyone, and welcome to our annual commencement weekend board meeting.  As we approach our 217th commencement at UVM, I first wish to sincerely thank all of our staff and faculty who strive to create a positive environment in which our students can excel.

Who are we as a community?  Who do we want to be as a community?  I have been thinking about this a lot this past academic year.  As leaders, we are responsible for a storied institution with a rich and important history within the ranks of higher education.  The culture that we create will be inherited by our successors.  What do we want to leave them?

My hope is that we leave a culture built upon mutual respect, civility, and reason.  We are confronted with multiple challenges, but none that are insurmountable if we embrace these principles and work together.

UVM has faced much tougher tests, and it will undoubtedly survive the current challenges.  Yet how we solve our challenges, how quickly we adapt, is entirely up to the leaders in this room.  I ask each of you to engage respectfully, to put shared goals ahead of your own, and to appreciate that these goals are more significant than our differences.

I would like to focus on two of our current challenges.

Allow me to speak directly to the conversations about diversity that have occurred on campus during this academic year.  One of our shared goals, included in the strategic plan this board adopted in 2013, but developed decades earlier, is to value and promote diversity at UVM.  It is a goal our President and Provost frequently discuss, and one that is unanimously supported by this Board.  We have made progress, and will continue to do so, but we also acknowledge that the potential to improve diversity is significant.

As a community, we need to act with integrity, purpose and diligence if we aspire to advance diversity and inclusion.  Progress will come through a search for effective solutions, not through protests, demands, or intimidation.  “You’re either with us or against us”, a phrase itself rooted in bigotry, will not advance our cause.

The action steps we take must be dictated by reason and judgment; we should consider every proposal, but not every proposal is viable or worthy of adoption.  We need to find effective and durable solutions, and to think creatively about how to overcome some very real impediments, in order to improve diversity at UVM.  If we work together and think creatively, I am confident we will make progress, although it will take time.  To steal Provost Rosowsky’s recent Across the Green title, we can “come together to grow together”.

Another perennial challenge is our budget, and trustees who have been on this board for many years fully appreciate this issue.  As I noted previously, economics is all about allocating scarce resources, which is precisely what is required in our UVM budget.  As leaders, I ask that you appreciate that the sum of all wants is greater than the sum of all resources.

The College of Arts and Sciences has always been the academic core of the University of Vermont.  It is the oldest and largest college at UVM, and the center of gravity of our liberal arts education.  It is central to our mission, and indispensable to the other colleges and schools at UVM.  We are firmly and unequivocally committed to our College of Arts and Sciences.

That commitment does not, and never could, insulate the College from the forces of change.  Adjustments will occasionally need to be made to align resources as student interests and financial circumstances change.  Arts and Sciences is at one of those moments now.  Change is not inherently destructive, and a robust process of allocating scarce resources will ensure that our highest priorities are protected.

It is essential that we defend the academic integrity of our College of Arts and Sciences.  It is equally essential that we do so within the very real constraints of our budget.  These are not mutually exclusive goals, and they are not dependent upon any specific budget model.

I am confident that our academic leaders, Provost Rosowsky, Dean Falls, and faculty leaders, can craft a model for a vibrant, financially sustainable College.  It will require change, and may require faculty reductions in the College.  At my request, we have specifically added this discussion to our agenda today.

Let me close with a comment about President Sullivan and Provost Rosowsky.  This academic year has been a rough one, with personal and public attacks levelled against each of you.  Tom and David, you are dedicated and talented professionals, and I am honored and privileged to have the opportunity to work with you.  I, and many others, are profoundly grateful for everything you have done for this University.

This concludes my chair’s report.

Last modified May 21 2018 10:19 AM