The Board of Trustees has full legal responsibility for the University of Vermont. This includes management and property and affairs control for the university.
The Board of Trustees is made up of 25 members including nine legislative, nine self-perpetuating, three gubernatorial, and two students. Each trustee serves a six-year term, with exceptions for the student members who serve two-year terms. All terms begin on March 1.
As part of their charter the Board of Trustees sets and approves any university policies approves all budgets and is responsible for the strategic planning related to UVM. The board has the authority to confer tenure on faculty members and award honorary degrees to those persons deemed qualified. The Board of Trustees is responsible for appointing and communicating with the university president regarding the future of the University of Vermont.
The two student representatives are generally appointed to the Academic and Student Programs Committees. It is here that they act as the voice for the UVM student body on a larger scale than seen with the SGA.
“It is great to be more involved at UVM and help make the changes that are in a positive direction for the students and the overall goals of UVM,” says newly appointed Board of Trustees student member Christine Hertz who begins her term on March 1.
Colin Robinson, who has prior experience in student government at the high school level, was encouraged by many of his professors to be part of the Board. He is looking forward to the possibility of playing an integral part in the decisions made at UVM. “The meetings are fascinating and I am seeing an altogether different side of UVM,” says Robinson. “I am seeing how many of the day-to-day operations are made possible. Some of the things you may not think about like financials and the facilities.”
Historically the Board of trustees has acted to not only oversee the policies, budgets, and strategic objectives for UVM; they have also acted controversially at times. A 1973 case involving Michael J. Parenti, alleged communist, resulted in his termination. In 1971 another Parentiesque case involving then zoology professor James H. Nolfi, resulted in his unequivocal dismissal. Still earlier, in one of the most controversial decisions the Board of Trustees has made, resulted in the dismissal Alex B. Novikoff.
Novikoff’s invoked the Fifth Amendment, his constitutional protection against self-incrimination, before an U.S. Senate committee investigating supposed communist infiltration of American education.
Despite a recommendation by a faculty-trustee panel that he be retained and supported from some prominent university people and local clergymen, the UVM Board of Trustees voted to dismiss him.
Two years later, Novikoff was one of a dozen-blacklisted scientists hired by the newly created Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, N.Y. UVM conducted its own investigation of Novikoff, and then UVM President Carl Borgman appointed the panel of six members that reported to the full Board of Trustees at a closed meeting in June.
Novikoff was questioned in secret session and then in open session in Washington on April 23 about associating with communists at Brooklyn College. Saying he had had no communist affiliations since he began working at UVM, he refused to “name names” or to discuss anything about communist connections before coming to Vermont.
The panel report, not made public until months later, stated that Novikoff was “a sincere and tireless worker” who may have been a nominal member of a communist organization at one time but had totally “renounced” communist philosophy. Although panel members found his use of the Fifth Amendment “regrettable,” they acknowledged it was his constitutional right. On a 5-1 vote they recommended he be retained. Nevertheless, the Board of Trustees voted to suspend Novikoff without pay unless he informed both UVM President Borgman and Sen. Jenner of his willingness to cooperate fully with the Jenner committee investigation before July 15. Novikoff made no such promise and was indefinitely suspended.