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Middlebury College making plans for staff reductions

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Posted on July 16, 2018 |
By Nick Garber



DavidProvost6694.jpg
DAVID PROVOST, MIDDLEBURY College’s executive vice president for finance and administration and its treasurer, is among the officials who told the college community that the administration is working on plans to reduce workforce spending at the college by 10 percent. Independent file photo/Trent Campbell

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College administrators have begun implementing a program to reevaluate faculty and staff positions across the institution — a process that, once completed at the end of the next academic year, could result in significant cuts to the college’s workforce.

The plan was announced to college employees in a series of emails late last month, beginning with a June 19 announcement from College President Laurie L. Patton concerning “staffing and workforce planning.” In Patton’s message, she noted that the effort would eventually produce “an elective, incentive-based separation plan for staff as well as a set of elective, incentive-based retirement and separation plans for faculty.”

Involuntary layoffs remain a last resort under the plan, and will take place only if an insufficient number of employees accept buyouts and leave by the end of the 2018-2019 academic year. The cuts are part of the college’s ongoing effort to reduce its annual operating deficit, and administrators are hoping to shrink staff compensation costs by $8 million — about 10 percent of today’s level — once the process is complete.

Administrators haven’t yet specified how many of the college’s 1,100 staff positions would be affected, nor have they announced the benchmarks in faculty reductions that they are hoping to reach. The cuts will apply to faculty and staff at the college, and also at Middlebury’s Institute for International Studies in Monterey, Calif.

A June 27 email from David Provost, Middlebury’s executive vice president for finance and administration, and Karen Miller, the vice president for human resources, said that human resources would soon begin working with staff vice presidents across the institution to develop plans for each department. Those plans could result in redesigned departments and job responsibilities, and, eventually, a smaller overall workforce.

“We want to emphasize that workforce planning does not mean increasing the workload for fewer people,” Provost and Miller wrote. “It means prioritizing work and stopping less important work so that the workload is sustainable.”

Bill Burger, the college’s vice president for communications and marketing, told the Independent on Thursday, July 12, that every department has already held internal meetings.

“Those are discussions to help people with questions they might have, to talk about how the workforce planning will take place in those departments,” he said. “There are also some Middlebury-wide discussions in workforce planning, so we’re really just in the early stages of this process.”

The first staff buyouts will be announced around October, but only for the small number of departments whose responsibilities are slated to be merged into the Green Mountain Higher Education Consortium — a cost-saving partnership founded in 2013 between Middlebury, Champlain College and Saint Michael’s College. Services that could be affected include payroll, accounts payable and benefits administration.

For the rest of Middlebury’s staff, buyouts are expected to be announced around April 2019 for the departments identified through the workforce planning process.

“We will contemplate an involuntary reduction in force only if we do not meet our goals,” read the email from Provost and Miller.

Buyouts for faculty, meanwhile, would necessarily be structured differently from those of staff, due to the existence of tenure. Provost and Miller said only that buyouts for faculty at the college, and in Monterey, would be announced “later this year.”

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