A legacy tarnished

It has been a rocky year for Dan Fogel. After announcing in March that he would resign as president in 2012, Fogel resigned abruptly in July when reports surfaced that his wife, Rachel Kahn-Fogel, was engaged in a relationship with Michael Schultz, a UVM vice president. The Board of Trustees later described the relationship as “inappropriate and imprudent.” The size of Fogel’s severance package drew widespread criticism from the UVM community, the faculty union and the governor. The scandal surrounding Kahn-Fogel and Schultz was a huge embarrassment for the University and drew national attention when ABC News reported on the story last month. For all of the controversy that surrounded Fogel during his nine years as president, there is no doubt that he increased the size and stature of the University. The size of campus grew at an incredible rate during Fogel’s tenure — he presided over the building of the behemoth Davis Center, the acquisition of Trinity Campus, the creation of the Honors College and the construction new residence halls and academic buildings. With it came thousands more students. But then Fogel abruptly resigned, a year earlier than expected, after the relationship between his wife and Shultz became public. Then Fogel agreed to a severance package that will pay him every month twice as much as a Vermonter pays in tuition every year  ­— $27,000, to be exact. Fogel plans to return to the UVM faculty as an English professor at a salary of $195,000 — almost double the salary of the department chair. There is no doubt that Fogel is an accomplished scholar. For two decades he was the editor of the Henry James Review, and has published several books and articles. But I don’t care if he’s Henry Louis Gates ­— there’s no way one professor is worth twice as much as their colleagues. To make matters worse, the Burlington Free Press ran a cover story about a phone conversation between Gov. Peter Shumlin and Fogel, in which the governor asked Fogel to use his severance pay for a scholarship fund for UVM students. Though whether the governor was justified in asking Fogel to return his pay is debatable, it didn’t save Fogel any face to bluntly turn the governor down. I guess that was just Fogel’s “let them eat cake” moment. It is difficult to be critical of a man who set the bar so high for UVM over the last decade, but the hefty severance package and future faculty salary cannot, in my mind, be justified. It does not matter if Fogel’s severance package is, like Board of Trustees Chair Robert Cioffi has suggested, in line with the national marketplace. For a president who resigned abruptly to take a year leave and receive full pay and benefits at a time when the faculty agreed not to take a pay raise is utterly ridiculous. The full package is estimated to be worth $410,000. If Fogel does in fact return to teach in 2013, he should take a salary that is within the pay range of his colleagues, which would also allow the English department to hire another professor. Anything less would be an insult to the faculty, whose pay raises are annually on the chopping block as a way to balance the budget. It is not unreasonable for Fogel to keep 12 months of his paid leave — his original contract guaranteed one year of paid leave after his resignation. However, he should return the five months of extra paid leave he will receive for resigning before the date he announced back in March. So Fogel’s “10-year vision” ends a year early, under a black cloud.  For all of the good that Dan Fogel brought to UVM, his legacy has been permanently tarnished from these scandals. I only hope he does right thing by returning to UVM at a reasonable salary, or not returning at all.