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13 posts categorized "University of Vermont"

August 01, 2012

Mayor Weinberger Holds Photo Op, But Not a Question Op

Photo Op

Updated below with apology from mayoral assistant Mike Kanarick.

On Monday, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger's office alerted the local press to a "photo opportunity" that would take place on the back steps of City Hall at 9:40 a.m. the following morning. The occasion was the prelude to the mayor's first formal meeting with both Fletcher Allen Health Care CEO Dr. John Brumsted and the recently installed University of Vermont president, Tom Sullivan.

Photo ops are not a common occurrence in Vermont. They're staged publicity events more associated with the president of the United States than with the mayor of Burlington. Two other reporters in attendance — Joel Banner Baird of the Burlington Free Press and Greg Guma of VTDigger.org — said they had no recollection of a photo op in these parts.

Sure enough, though, the trio of local VIPs showed up on schedule with smiles for the cameras. Trying to follow up on last week's story about UVM's disinclination to construct more student housing, I asked Sullivan a question about why the university does not require juniors and seniors to live on campus — as, for example, St. Michael's College does.

Sullivan replied that in providing campus accommodations for 60 percent of its student body, UVM has already done more in this regard than have many other institutions of its kind. But before Sullivan could field a followup question — "Will UVM commit to building more student housing?" — mayoral aide Carina Driscoll intervened to announce that this was a photo op, not a press conference, so further queries would not be appropriate.

The White House press corps, by contrast, is sometimes able to get answers from the president to questions asked at "photo ops."

Weinberger, Sullivan and Brumsted then climbed the steps to city hall, paused for a few more clicks of cameras, and headed inside for their private discussion.

**Update**

Mayoral assistant Mike Kanarick, who was not present at the photo op, called soon after it ended to apologize for its abrupt ending. Kanarick said he wants to emphasize that "the mayor has an open-door policy." Kanarick also arranged for Seven Days to conduct a half-hour interview with Weinberger early this afternoon. A Blurt on the mayor's remarks during that session will be posted soon.

Photo credit: Kevin J. Kelley

March 30, 2012

Obama Ba-Rocks Vermont (VIDEO)

DSC02189President Barack Obama didn't milk a dairy cow or take a dip in the Connecticut River hot springs on his swing through Vermont on Friday. But he did give thousands of screaming fans at a Burlington fundraising rally a show well worth the $44 price of admission.

On his first trip to Vermont as president, Obama sought to rekindle the magic of the 2008 campaign that catapulted him to the White House. He headlined a $7500-a-plate ($10,000 for a couple) luncheon at the Sheraton hotel, then zipped by motorcade across the street to University of Vermont's Patrick Gym, where a standing-room-only crowd of more than 4000 greeted him with defeaning cheers.

"It is good to be in Vermont," Obama said to the adoring masses, many of them decked out in red-white-and-blue Obama attire. "Out of all 50 states, Vermont has gone the longest without a presidential visit. The last time a president stopped by was President Clinton in 1995. So we decided today we're hitting the reset button."

Obama also offered condelences to the family of murder victim Melissa Jenkins, whose memorial service was scheduled for later Friday afternoon.

"This is a woman who, by all accounts, devoted her life to her community and helping to shape young minds and I know that Vermont is heartbroken," the president said.

Obama was on friendly soil in Vermont. A Castleton State College poll in February found that 56 percent of Vermonters approved of the job Obama is doing. Nationally, Obama's job approval rating hovers around 47 percent, depending on the poll.

(Video clips from speech after the jump)

Continue reading "Obama Ba-Rocks Vermont (VIDEO)" »

March 20, 2012

Start Your Seeds Struggle Free at the UVM Greenhouse

Photo(2)Aromatic purple tulips, tiny sprouting seedlings, pale-green pilot tomatoes, and hanging, spiky cacti contribute to the wondrous botanical array inside the University of Vermont Greenhouse these days. While most of the greenhouse is dedicated to ornamentals, there is banana and avocado arboriculture, too, and even a “fruit cocktail” tree — a grafted combination of peaches, plums and nectarines.

Visitors might be surprised by something else inside these transparent walls: that anyone in the community can lease greenhouse space here and start springtime seedlings for their home garden. 

Last Friday, I escaped the gray, slanting rain to tour the Main Campus Greenhouse, one of three that the university owns and operates. This branch — the only one routinely open to the public — serves an educational and social purpose that is not widely known.

My tour guide was UVM greenhouse manager Colleen Armstrong, who's had the job since shortly after construction of the building in 1992. She caught the “botany bug,” she said, at the University of Michigan, where she was the first female employee in her alma mater’s greenhouse program. 

Continue reading "Start Your Seeds Struggle Free at the UVM Greenhouse" »

February 03, 2012

Art Handler Union, Students Occupy UVM Board Meeting

DSC03067For Julian Tysh, a typical workday is spent among masterpieces.

An art handler by trade, Tysh shuttles priceless art and artifacts between Sotheby’s auction house in Manhattan and the estates of its one-percenter clients. His colleagues have handled everything from decommissioned space shuttles to a copy of the Magna Carta, and he himself once hung a Warhol print he estimates was worth well north of $20 million.

But Tysh hasn’t had a typical workday in a while.

Last July, Sotheby’s locked Tysh and 41 other members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 814 out of its facilities, fearing a planned strike would disrupt operations at the auction house. The two sides were deadlocked in a dispute over whether to reduce the handlers’ work week and increase the number of temporary, non-union workers.

Since then, Tysh has found himself on picket lines, in Zuccotti Park and — on Friday afternoon — at the University of Vermont’s Davis Center.

Joined by three fellow art handlers and a ragtag crew of 30 UVM students, faculty members and assorted Occupiers, Tysh spoke out at a press conference demanding the resignation of Sotheby’s CEO William Ruprecht from the university’s board of trustees.

“An attack on working families in New York is an attack on working families in Vermont and injustice in New York is injustice in Burlington,” he told the group. “Folks here are outraged by the fact that this university, which strives for these higher ideals, would let themselves be brought down to a less decent level by these actions that are happening in the name of the board of trustees.”

Continue reading "Art Handler Union, Students Occupy UVM Board Meeting" »

December 12, 2011

Sanders and Sandia Announce New $15 Million Energy Lab at University of Vermont

Sandia presser photoBy the summer of 2013, Vermont will be the first state in the nation to have near-universal electrical smart-grid coverage — and Sandia National Laboratories is setting up shop at the University of Vermont to make it all happen.

That was Sen. Bernie Sanders' announcement at a press conference in his Burlington office this morning. Gov. Peter Shumlin, Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell, UVM President John Bramley and Sandia Vice President Rick Stulen joined Sanders to announce a three-year, $15 million commitment to open the first-ever national laboratory in New England in Burlington. 

The new lab, dubbed the Center for Energy Transformation and Innovation (CETI), will make as the centerpiece of its work the rollout of smart meters throughout the Green Mountain State, enabling all the state's utilities to better manage energy consumption and better integrate renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, into the power grid. The $15 million commitment comes in addition to the $69 million already allocated to Vermont from the federal government to roll out smart meters statewide.

Continue reading "Sanders and Sandia Announce New $15 Million Energy Lab at University of Vermont" »

October 25, 2011

Q&A: University of Vermont Robotics Researcher Josh Bongard

BongardHow and why did life on earth evolve in the myriad ways it did? Would creatures evolve in the same ways, and with the same anatomical structures, if we could rewind time and replay evolution over and over again? And, can humans create robots that not only evolve and learn but eventually become sentient?

These are just a few of the heady questions that University of Vermont robotics researcher Josh Bongard wrestles with every day. Little wonder, then, that on October 14, Bongard was one of 94 winners of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. The White House honor came with a $500,000 research grant. (And in case you're wondering, no, that's not Bongard's Lamborghini parked outside of Votey Hall.)

This week, the 37-year-old Toronto native took a short break from his research in UVM's Morphology, Evolution and Cognition Lab to talk about his work and the future of "computational evolution." (For visual depictions of Bongard's work, check out the media link on his site.)

Bongard is one of 11 speakers at this Friday's TEDxUVM event. Registration for the Oct. 28 event is full but the seminars will be streaming live from the TEDxUVM website.

SEVEN DAYS: Did President Obama recognize you for one specific scientific breakthrough or discovery, or was it your entire body of work thus far?

Continue reading "Q&A: University of Vermont Robotics Researcher Josh Bongard" »

October 18, 2011

Did Occupy Vermont Suppress Free Speech in Goldman Sachs Protest Controversy?

Goldman-sucks-sign Jeff Ares, a University of Vermont alumnus who now works for Goldman Sachs, was scheduled to speak to business students at the school on Friday. Given Goldman Sachs's sizable role in the financial meltdown, this didn't make Vermont's contingent of Occupy Wall Street supporters too happy.

Occupy Vermont participants planned a "showdown" at the talk to protest Goldman Sachs and to urge business students to take up careers away from Wall Street. Talk of a protest led Goldman Sachs to request that the event be canceled, according to the AP.

The AP story includes a quote from a notable free speech advocate, who appears to condemn Occupy Vermont for their role in getting the plug pulled:

Continue reading "Did Occupy Vermont Suppress Free Speech in Goldman Sachs Protest Controversy?" »

October 13, 2011

UVM Policy Would Heighten Scrutiny of Presidential Spouses

UVM_Old_Mill_building_20040101The University of Vermont is one step closer to creating a first-ever policy to govern the volunteer activities of presidential spouses.

On Wednesday, a committee of UVM trustees unanimously approved a draft policy that would put stricter oversight on a president's spouse who wishes to raise money for UVM, coordinate alumni events or engage in other aspects of university life.

The policy was created as result of the revelations that the wife of former UVM President Dan Fogel — Rachel Kahn-Fogel — had a years-long relationship with a high-level UVM staffer assigned to work with her on fundraising events. Fogel stepped down from his role as president in early August, almost a year ahead of schedule.

In the wake of the news and a subsequent internal investigation, the UVM Board of Trustees created a special ad hoc committee and charged it with crafting a policy to better spell out the roles and responsibilities of the university, and the spouse, if he or she chooses to volunteer.

Chaired by Rep. Bill Botzow (D-Pownal), that committee met Wednesday afternoon in the Waterman Building and voted to bring the draft policy to the full board of trustees for a vote on the weekend of October 21-22.

"This policy provides some practical, realistic parameters for all parties so the spouse can volunteer for the university effectively," said Botzow.

Continue reading "UVM Policy Would Heighten Scrutiny of Presidential Spouses" »

September 01, 2011

UVM Employees and Allies Threaten "Takeover" If Labor Contract Isn't Settled

UVM A battle is brewing at the University of Vermont between administrators and unionized maintenance workers who say they're "pissed off" about the golden parachutes and salaries handed out to former President Dan Fogel and other university leaders.

At a rally outside the Waterman administration building Wednesday, the head of UVM's maintenance union told 100 supporters that, "The people in this community are pissed off too."

"The trustees have become morally bankrupt," said Carmyn Stanko, an electrician and president of United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 267. "Giving out millions of dollars to Fogel and their friends while sticking it to the workers."

With talks stalled on a new three-year labor contract, some at the rally threatened that UVM students, faculty and staff would "take over" the Waterman building if they didn't get a fair contract, meaning stage a sit-in. The sides were scheduled to meet with a federal mediator today in hopes of breaking the impasse.

UVM is asking its lowest-paid workers to contribute more toward health insurance premiums and accept a salary increase that works out to 1 percent stretched over three years. Meanwhile, union leaders expressed outrage at the $600,000 and $500,000 severance packages afforded to Fogel and another top university official, and the combined $500,000 salaries paid the new dean of the business school and his professor wife.

"Is that the kind of university we want?" Stanko asked the crowd.

"Hell, no!" was the immediate response.

Continue reading "UVM Employees and Allies Threaten "Takeover" If Labor Contract Isn't Settled" »

August 11, 2011

Outgoing UVM President Shuns Governor's Advice to Return Severance Pay

Fogel04 During a weekend phone call, Gov. Peter Shumlin urged outgoing University of Vermont president Dan Fogel (pictured right) to give back a portion of his more than $600,000 severance package as a way to dampen the outrage that some leading politicians and the public have had over his golden parachute.

"I told him that I would like to see him set aside a portion of his severance pay that he'll receive to set up a scholarship program that would allow more Vermont students to attend UVM," said Shumlin during a lunchtime meeting with Seven Days. "I though that this would help put him, and the university, back in the good graces of Vermonters."

There has been increased anger directed at UVM's board of trustees, in particular the legislative trustees, for granting Fogel the equivalent of a $35,400-a-month severance package that will last 17 months. At the end of that time period, Fogel is anticipated to return to UVM as an English professor, earning $195,000 a year — $80,000 more than the next-highest-paid professor in the department.

Shumlin told Seven Days that he talked to the former president on Sunday.

"I really feel it would be the right thing to do, to undo the damage to his legacy and to the university," said Shumlin. The pair spoke for close to half an hour, the governor said.

So, how did Fogel react?

Continue reading "Outgoing UVM President Shuns Governor's Advice to Return Severance Pay" »

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