Blurt: Seven Days Staff Blog

NOTE: Blurt has been retired and is no longer updated regularly. For new content, follow these links:

OFF MESSAGE: Vermont News and Politics
BITE CLUB: Food and Drink Blog

« And the Top Chef Is... | Main | U.S. Poet Laureate Headlines Burlington Book Fest »

August 10, 2011

UVM Report Clears President's Wife of Wrongdoing, But Cites Morale Problems

RachelKahn-Fogel Rachel Kahn-Fogel's relationship with a top University of Vermont official violated no university policies and broke no state harassment laws. But her role in university fund-raising — and the preferential treatment she and her husband, UVM President Dan Fogel, provided to some staff — created "an environment negatively affecting morale."

That's the key conclusion of a report issued today that wraps up a months-long investigation into the activities of Kahn-Fogel (pictured) and other top university officials. UVM released the report today following a brief, closed-door session of the board of trustees.

"With respect to this matter, I want to express both my regret that this situation was allowed to continue for as long as it did, and my confidence that we will effectively address these types of issues going forward," said UVM Board of Trustees Chairman Rob Cioffi in announcing the report's results. "Human error and fallibility will always be with us. In an educational community, it is important that we learn from our mistakes and take appropriate corrective action to avoid them in the future, for the benefit of the entire university community."

After the meeting, Cioffi told reporters that he's not sure the board could have acted sooner than it did, though he did admit that it's likely some board members knew some of the details regarding the internal strife between Kahn-Fogel and some staff.

"I don't think the board was completely unaware. People may have been aware of individual pieces of this, but it took this internal review to show the overall picture," said Cioffi. He also admitted that some people likely left the university as a result of the negative morale, or had their job duties altered.

Cioffi said the internal review did look at how much these early separations from UVM cost the university, but he couldn't provide a dollar figure. Nor did UVM reveal just how many people left UVM's employment as a result of the negative work environment.

UVM launched its investigation following Seven Daysinquiries into Kahn-Fogel's influence over the doctoral studies and day-to-day employment of Michael Schultz, the school's associate vice president for development and alumni relations. The university's investigation focused on whether, as a result of the relationship, UVM resources were used inappropriately or UVM workplace policies were violated.

UVM also announced today that Schultz resigned from UVM and accepted a severance agreement (Details on that below).

Read Chairman Cioffi's statement.

Read the full Board of Trustees Report on Reviews August 10, 2011.

The report focused on three key areas:

• Whether the acceptance of a doctoral dissertation authored by Schultz occurred in a manner consistent with the customary standards and procedures of the Graduate College;

• Whether travel and business-related expenditures for President Fogel and his wife, and others, were properly incurred and documented in view of university requirements; and,

• Whether personnel actions were taken with respect to university events planning and development office staff in a manner consistent with legal and policy requirements.

Previously, UVM concluded that there were "no irregularities" related to Schultz's dissertation,“Elucidating the Role of the University CEO’s Spouse in Development, Alumni Relations and Fund Raising.”

Today's six-page report — conducted both by internal UVM staff as well as the law firm of Dinse, Knapp & McAndrew — found no illicit wrongdoing, but did offer some recommendations to avoid similar situations from occurring in the future. Chief among the recommendations is to clearly define the role a presidential spouse should play on campus and as part of the overall executive team.

"Dinse found that as a result of the ambiguity surrounding Mrs. Kahn-Fogel's role, a number of personnel actions related to the staffing of the president and his wife were made based upon the personnel preferences of the Kahn-Fogels, such as comfort level with specific individuals, and not upon an objective assessment of the employees' skills and demonstrated abilities," the report concluded. "Employees favored by the Kahn-Fogels were perceived by others to be protected and advanced by them. This environment negatively affected morale in the development office and created ongoing distractions from the pursuit of the fundraising objectives of the university."

The report also found that none of the workplace contact between Kahn-Fogel and Schultz constituted a "hostile work environment," though it did conclude that her conduct was "clearly inappropriate and imprudent." The report also cleared Schultz of any wrongdoing.

The report also found that $151 of university funds were misspent by either Fogel, Kahn-Fogel or a key aide, Leslie Logan. In all cases, the money was spent on meals that exceeded UVM's daily allowance during out-of-state travel. The money has since been repaid.

Aside from defining the role of the presidential spouse, the trustees also directed UVM to strengthen its oversight of employee and volunteer reimbursements and enact a new campus-wide workplace policy that ensures employees can bring forward complaints without fear of retaliation — even if the complaint involves a senior UVM official.

IMG_2723 The trustees established an ad hoc committee to ensure that the report's recommendations are implemented. That committee will be chaired by Rep. Bill Botzow (D-Pownal). Also on the committee will be Mark Young, Frank Cioffi, David Daigle and Rep. Joan Lenes (D-Shelburne). That committee is expected to come back with a draft proposal detailing the role of a presidential spouse by October, with the goal of a final set of guidelines established by year's end.

As noted in this week's "Fair Game" Botzow was the co-author of a "Dear Colleagues" email signed by all seven sitting legislative trustees and sent to their fellow legislators on Monday. The email was an attempt to respond to criticism from fellow legislators that Fogel's severance package was exorbitant.

In recognition of the growing outrage over Fogel's severance package — which adds up to the equivalent of more than $35,400 a month for 17 months — the trustees today ordered a review of executive compensation at the university. That will be conducted by a subcommittee of the board. The review will focus not just on presidential compensation, but compensation of other top administrators as well.

"I recognize that presidential compensation has been on people’s minds lately in light of Dan Fogel’s resignation and severance arrangements. Certainly I have heard a significant amount of anger, frustration, and second-guessing around this situation, and I completely understand the reasons for those views," said Cioffi. "I recognize that it’s a lot of money, but in the national marketplace for university presidents it is not at all out of line. The board made a very careful, deliberative business decision in the best interests of the university, which is our fiduciary responsibility."

Cioffi reiterated that when Fogel announced he was stepping down earlier this year, that the board committed to paying him through June 2013 — a total of 24 months' pay — regardless if he stepped down early. If Fogel had been fired, that would not have been the case. In the end, Cioffi noted, UVM is only paying Fogel 17 months' severance.

Cioffi told reporters that Schultz had left UVM's employ earlier this morning, agreeing to a severance package that will see him paid through the end of 2012 and provide him and his family with additional benefits — including free, in-state tuition for his three children. If Schultz finds work before Jan. 1, 2013 he won't receive health benefits, but will continue to be paid a full salary based on his most recent pay, which is more than $155,000. The university also agreed to pay Schultz's attorney, Burlington lawyer Richard Cassidy, $15,000.

In response to the reports and the board's actions, Dan Fogel released the following statement: "It is good to have reached closure on this unfortunate matter, and I regret the distractions it has caused the university. We have many opportunities and challenges ahead, and they demand our full focus and attention," wrote Fogel. "I have every confidence that UVM will continue its successful ascent of recent years, and I will enthusiastically assist in whatever way I can."

I have no issues with Fogel's salary. What I have issue with is that he chose to resign early and we are paying for that.

Now with Fogels new salary when he starts teaching the union will properly want all members compensated in the same manner. The same education at a higher cost.
Frugal Fogel has now become a failure in improving education at UVM.
Hopefully over the next many months he will rethink his future employment at taxpayer cost, and get out of the state.

Taking the Total cost o all this severance, extra housing costs, free tuitions etc, how many students, Vermonters and others might we have given free education to? This is grossly unjust and it is unwarranted, but what happens behind closed doors usually is. Shame on Vermont for encouraging and allowing this and I suggest that our governor, male or female, past and present and future, start taking the time to sit in on these meetings. After all, UVM is a state institution of education. WE have state colleges that are part of our educational system that are madly searching for much needed funds. Fogel does not need all the funds he is receiving.

Sukie: If you tally up all of his severance package costs, along with the cost to hire an interim president and find a new one, you could give 55 in-state students full tuition, room & board for a year.

"I recognize that it’s a lot of money, but in the national marketplace for university presidents it is not at all out of line."


Don’t ask Vermonters to “pay up” just because there’s a national marketplace out there. Of course it can’t compete in the “national marketplace”. Don’t ask us to do so. We don’t have the industry to pay what New York or Illinois or California can!

Part of the compensation of coming to UVM is taking part in the special culture of Vermont which cannot be valued in terms of money. It can’t pay as well as other states exactly because it’s not as cut-throat as the rest of the US, and there’s a value in that.

People are suffering out there and I don’t like how these educational elitists can demand such high salaries in these hard times. It’s not right. Are these people royalty or something?

And another thing - “Elucidating the Role of the University CEO’s Spouse in Development, Alumni Relations, and Fund Raising.” – If that’s the title of a doctoral thesis, then I think there needs to be some serious re-evaluation of what constitutes a doctoral thesis. What kind of value is being given back to society in such a study?

In other words, I can smell b.s. from here!

1. Seriously there is no one on staff at UVM who is not qualified to be President? Not one man or woman?

2. If not, why not?

3. As a working person, I know what the answer is if I walk into a job interview and ask for California wages: "You want that much, move to California, this is Vermont."

Let's admit the truth, UVM President is membership in the Aristocracy, a social and economic elite: we can't ask them to wipe with common paper: they deserve lace and gold leaf.

"along with the cost to hire an interim president and find a new one"

What does that have to do with anything? Are you suggesting that the search for Fogel's replacement should be deducted from his severance?

I agree with all the frustration and anger expressed in these posts. I am a native Vermonter and, unfortunately, a '69 UVM grad. This school has gotten totally out of hand. I am equally disgusted and outraged with Fogel, his wife and the Board. He should have been terminated, with nothing, long ago. A new President should be hired from within and be someone with common sense and decency - not some out of state "hot shot". But, maybe, the Board should be abolished, with the Legislature selling off the University to a private enterprise.

"I think there needs to be some serious re-evaluation of what constitutes a doctoral thesis. What kind of value is being given back to society in such a study?"

Navel gazing passes for study at UVM.

Yes, looking at that thesis title makes me think it should have been titled 'wink, wink, nod'. It makes the six years or more needed to earning a PhD in science at UVM a joke. What really bugs me is all this money is being given out left and right while the real story is being ignored. That long time UVM employees will be losing the health care benefit promised to them because 'they can't expect that kind of benefit in this day and age'. While these sickening payouts are going out left and right. Just like the banking scandal. Criminals walking off with cash leaving the lower classes even lower.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

All Rights Reserved © Da Capo Publishing Inc. 1995-2012 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802-864-5684