Home » Burlington Free Press » Knodell’s 18-month paid transition at UVM—Burlington Free Press—02/19/2013

Knodell’s 18-month paid transition at UVM—Burlington Free Press—02/19/2013

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Ex-UVM provost’s paid leave terms precede recent policy changes

Tim Johnson, Free Press Staff Writer. Original article: February 19, 2013


When Jane Knodell stepped down Dec. 31 from the position of provost at the University of Vermont, she began an 18-month period of transition toward resumption of regular faculty duties as professor of economics.

For the first six months, she’ll continue to receive her provost’s salary ($270,000 a year) on a prorated basis. July 1, she’ll begin a 12-month paid administrative leave at a professor’s salary of $150,234, which includes an adjustment of about $8,000 in recognition of her administrative service.

The terms are spelled out in a Nov. 14, 2012, letter from President Tom Sullivan accepting her resignation. Knodell’s resignation was announced in November. Late that month the Free Press asked UVM for details of her post-provost employment. Sullivan’s letter and her earlier letters of appointment and promotion were provided last week.

Knodell will be paid at her provost’s rate through June 30, Sullivan wrote, “In consideration of your willingness to assist me, as I have requested, with special projects during a transitional period through the balance of this fiscal year …”

In a phone interview, Knodell was asked what special projects she is working on. She replied that she answers questions from the administration, and questions have been put to her every week since she stepped down. The balance of her work time, she said, is devoted to her research. Asked if she is working full time, she said she is.

Since Jan. 1, the UVM provost’s position has been occupied on an interim basis by Robert Low, an emeritus professor and a former provost himself. A national search is under way for a permanent replacement. Sullivan has said he expects that final candidates will make the rounds on campus in late April or early May, and a new provost will be in place by fall.

Asked the rationale for continuing to compensate Knodell at the provost’s salary level, Sullivan replied in an email that he had decided to implement a transition in leadership, including installation of an interim provost, before Knodell’s annual contract was up on June 30. He said that after various time frames were considered, “Jane agreed to step down before her annual contract had expired and she agreed to remain available for special projects and advice. I was grateful that this would permit the University to move forward more quickly.”

The length of time UVM administrators receive in paid leave after they resign came under scrutiny when Dan Fogel left the office of president in summer 2011. Fogel’s transition agreement, approved by the Board of Trustees, provided for 17 months of paid leave at his presidential salary, to culminate with his assuming the duties of a professor of English. Critics complained that leave was excessive.

At the time, UVM’s common practice was to give long-serving sub-presidential executives one year’s paid leave at their administrative salary, which is typically higher than their faculty salary.

Following the Fogel outcry, trustees ordered a review of executive compensation policies and ultimately amended the policy covering the paid leave for administrative officers who step down to return to the faculty. The new policy, adopted in May 2012, provides for six months’ paid leave at the officer’s faculty salary for those officers who have served more than three years. (Separate terms apply to Sullivan, but his February 2012 contract stipulates that his paid leave will not exceed 12 months.)

Knodell’s appointment letter, signed by Fogel in December 2010, preceded that change of policy. That letter stated that after completing her service as provost, she would be eligible to receive 12 months’ leave at her professor’s salary, which Fogel pegged at $135,239 in fiscal year 2011.

Sullivan honored the 12-month-leave commitment for administrative leave, which he called “a separate matter” from the six months at the provost’s level. The administrative leave, he said, is “time provided to her to prepare to return to her faculty role. Her role in supporting special projects was designed to assure an orderly transition between her and her successor. That is now successfully under way.”

Knodell’s 2011 faculty salary was increased to $150,234 for 2014, owing both to pay hikes called for in the faculty’s collective-bargaining agreement and the adjustment made by Sullivan “in recognition of experience gained serving in various administrative roles and services rendered …” Her faculty salary this year is the highest in her department, owing to the administrative adjustment.

Knodell was named interim provost July 1, 2009, following the resignation of John Hughes. No national search was conducted to fill the position, and she assumed the post under Fogel on a permanent basis about 18 months later.

She joined the UVM faculty in 1986, was promoted to associate professor in 1992, and beginning in 2003, held a series of administrative posts. She was promoted to full professor by Hughes on his last day in office, June 30, 2009, upon the recommendation of the Professional Standards Committee and other faculty members.

Teaching, research and service are key criteria for faculty promotions. Knodell, who last taught in the fall of 2003, said she was able to make a strong case for her upgrade. She said she had received exemplary teaching evaluations in the past. From 2003-09, holding down administrative duties, she published two journal articles and two book chapters, and her administrative work easily met the service expectation, she said.

Knodell’s research expertise is in financial history. She said she has begun work on a book about the Second Bank of the United States, a precursor to the Federal Reserve. She said she has been invited to submit an article based on a conference she attended, and she’s also working on two conference proposals.

Last month, Knodell announced her candidacy for a City Council seat in Ward 2 as a Progressive. She previously served as a Progressive on the council for 14 years, from 1993 to 1997 and from 1999 to 2009.

Asked if she could both work full-time at UVM and handle campaign or council duties, she replied she had done just that during her past council service.

Sullivan was asked if his handling of the Knodell transition contradicted his stated goal of cutting costs, particularly including administrative costs in the next fiscal year.

“I do not consider this decision in anyway contrary to the need to cut costs,” Sullivan wrote. “We must both honor the legal contractual obligations owed to her and make responsible business decisions that provide for the short-term transition, and the long-term progress of the University.

“Quite simply,” Sullivan continued, “the plan outlined to address the budget reductions does place a greater burden on administrative units, but I am confident that the present arrangement is consistent with both short- and long-term goals and the best interest of the University.”

Comments

Cheryl Andersen · Castleton State College
In this day and age, I do NOT understand why, when one resigns from their position , they still are being paid for the previous position. This makes absolutely no fiscal sense to me. If I resigned from my position I would not be paid, nor would anyone else that I know. This Golden Parachute mentality has to go, especially when there have been no increases for any other UVM employees.

Eileen Burke Beauregard · Colorado College
It happens everywhere. We’ve had them here in Colo. where they’ve been fired and get a huge huge severance package.

Nate Awrich · University of Vermont
She didn’t really resign. She has an employment contract (most regular people don’t), and the new president wanted her gone. If he had fired her he’d have had to pay out the full value anyway, so they negotiated a deal for her to step down.

Kat Fitzsimmons · Data Entry at Counseling Service of Addison County
I am sorry but I never thought of becoming a teacher as a way to get rich. You are there to teach enrich the lives of the students in your classroom. The only ones losing in this case are those very same students. How are they paying for those salaries?- increased tuition costs, cramming more students into same dorm rooms. It was joke when I was there and is becoming even more so now. I am sorry that eye sore of the Dudley Davis Center was not what I would expect my fees to be going towards. The cavernous stairwell cost more to heat than my house. Priorities are not in the right order. I am not exactly proud to call myself an Alumni of that university.

Ted Miles · Burlington, Vermont
The true sadness is that UVM raises tuition and pays salaries to employees to not do a job. The salary between her and the former president could pay for alot of education for the students who need the help. My math shows this to be over 500K for a year. How many students could get assistance with the same amount of money? UVM also needs over 200 million for maintenance of their properties. Where are the priorities?

Kyle Williams · IBM
Sounds like more of the same. For years I had been giving $200/yr with an equal match from my employer, but after what went on with Fogel and the money they gave him when he decided to leave. I figured they must have plenty of funds, think I’ll wait a while longer before I start back up, maybe they will make some changes to the Board.

Chris Towne · Champlain College
As a former student of Prof. Knodell’s I agree with UVM’s decision. She is an incredibly brillant professor and an overall great person. UVM is lucky to have faculty of such high caliber! In my opinion…her normal salary should be increased as her earnings potential as a PhD of economics outside the world of higher education is significantly higher. Keep up the great work Jane!

Alan Lampson
Then she is free to pursue those outside opportunities. In the PRIVATE sector where accomplishments are measurable and tied to salary.

Alan Lampson
Also you are assuming there is a shortage of PhD Economists in the real world and she can therefore find a job. Maybe she is in the academic world because she doesn’t have the skills required in the private sector. I am not sure there are a lot of companies looking for people who’s specialty is financial history.

Glen Pickles · Works at Retired
I would 100% agree with that. A lot of PhD’s are only able to function in the academic world and have no transferable skills to the corporate world. She’s been at UVM since 1986, so I highly doubt there are many companies looking for that type of experience OR willing to pay that type of money for it.

Nate Awrich · University of Vermont
PhD’s in the *history* of economics don’t exactly have unlimited earning potential outside academia, particularly when they have an administrative career and very thin research or practical credentials.

Glen Pickles · Works at Retired
I just asked my director how many months I will continue to get paid at full-salary after I resign. She laughed so hard she fell on the floor. I can still hear her laughing now and her office is on the other side of the building.

Tim Vincent
WHO ” negotiates” these deals?

Alfred E Newman?

Ever see a picture of the UVM board?

Preening yuppies on one side and political hacks on the other side.

John Hall · Town Manager at Town of Saint Johnsbury
Unfortunately Tim the people negotiating the “deal” on our behalf are just setting the table for a few years down the road when they will be on the receiving end

Stephen Smith · Northampton Commercial College
And we wonder why the cost of education is so high–$285,000 over 18 months, to an employee who resigned!!!

Don Jacob · Jonesville, Vermont
Wish I could resign & walk away with $285,000……

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