Roddy O’Neil Cleary. Original Letter to the Editor: June 2, 2014.
Recently on a flight coming home to Vermont I sat beside a college student. We were both extolling the unique spirit and beauty of Vermont, giving thanks for our good fortune in living here. It could be said to be a flagship state in so many areas: the first to outlaw slavery, the first to allow for civil unions, first to legislate labeling of products containing GMOs, etc.
I only wished that we could include our land grant state university as the first to challenge the urban myth that large institutions like the University of Vermont and Fletcher Allen Health Care “must offer salaries that seem out of scale with the rest of the state in order to attract competent people; there are inexorable market forces at work.” (Suzi Wizowaty, My Turn, Aug. 21, 2011). In her My Turn, three years ago Wizowaty was challenging UVM President Fogel’s retirement and compensation package.
It’s beyond sad to see that nothing has changed. Lisa Ventriss, a UVM trustee resurrected the old urban myth in her recent My Turn piece “Time to acknowledge UVM’s contributions” (May 12). Having worked on the campus for 15 years I am very aware and have often acknowledged the richness that UVM contributes to our state.
Ventriss uses the “inexorable market forces at work” canard to justify UVM President E. Thomas Sullivan’s current salary of $429,093. She complains that what was left out of Aki Soga’s Voice of the Free Press narrative (“UVM’s executive compensation conundrum,” April 13) is “recognition of the contribution the university and its people make to the economic, cultural, and intellectual fabric of the state as a whole.” What about the moral fabric?
I think about the morale on campus. What would it do for students burdened with terrible debt if their president scaled back his exorbitant salary to provide scholarships for needy students? That would challenge the status quo among academic administrators. It has the potential to make history in academia and make UVM a flagship university in the process.
Sadly at present executive compensation at UVM continues to give students the message that what matters most is money.
Roddy O’Neil Cleary lives in South Burlington