Patton Forms New Cabinet of Senior Administrators


President Laurie L. Patton announced changes this week within the senior leadership group, the 17-member advisory council. A nine-member cabinet will be formed out of that group to “improve the efficiency of decision making” in Old Chapel.

The new cabinet represents some of Patton’s closest advisors. It includes provost Jeff Cason, treasurer David Provost, spokesman Bill Burger, diversity officer Miguel Fernandez, advancement VP Colleen Fitzpatrick, human resources VP Karen Miller, general counsel Hannah Ross, dean of students Baishakhi Taylor, and chief of staff Dave Donahue.

The non-cabinet members of the senior leadership group include admissions dean Greg Buckles, academic officials Andi Lloyd and Tim Spears, philanthropic advisor Mike Schoenfeld, and representatives from the schools — Jeff Dayton-Johnson, Stephen Snyder and Carlos Velez.

With the announcement, Patton fulfilled a pledge to faculty to maintain the costs of SLG and to shrink its size. But the change to a smaller cabinet does not demonstrate an actual change in executive compensation. In an interview, spokesman Bill Burger said that compensation is not increased or decreased when a person is either designated or removed from a senior leadership position.

“Just because they are not sitting on the senior leadership group does not mean that you (do not) need that person in the job they have,” Burger said. “You could make a decision to not have the head of schools abroad and the language schools sit in the (senior leadership) group, it still does not mean you do not need the head of schools abroad and language schools,” he said.

Provost added, “Their pay is for their job, whether they are on one committee or another.”

When asked where the cost-saving measures would occur if compensation was not altered by shrinking the size of the SLG, Provost and Burger pointed to a more long-term strategy of either merging roles or organization restructuring after key individuals resign. 

“When Katy Smith Abbott stepped down, (Patton) took two student life positions and made it one,” Provost said. “So that is one fewer SLG member. That demonstrates (Patton’s) commitment to that. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more of that.”

Burger added, “You might have people leave over time and then you do not replace them — that is a possibility. Sometimes these (changes) are done through organizational changes.”

The announcement comes at a time of increased scrutiny for administrators, who faced criticism for the practice of “stay bonuses” involved in the 2015 presidential transition.

During Patton’s briefing at the faculty meeting, she cited that costs of the SLG were already $300,000 less than the previous year. In an interview with The Campus, Provost supported Patton’s claim by citing a lack of increases for executives in the previous year.

“Last year there was zero [net change] for anyone with a salary of $200,000 and above — no increases for senior leadership last year,” he said.

According to research done by faculty, executive bonuses and payouts were above market-competitive rates. In the context of the college’s financial crisis and increasing tuition fees, some argued that these policies were a gross mismanagement of college finances.

Treasurer David Provost has argued that stay bonus payouts appearing on the 990 tax form made executive pay look higher in some years, but that base compensation has consistently been in line with market rates.

The bonuses effectively encourage key officials to remain at Middlebury during presidential transitions, two administrators said, and that years that appear especially high in executive compensation are the result of stay bonuses and should not be viewed as the norm.

Two officials close to the president said that while she intended to reduce the number and size of stay bonuses, she would not commit to ending the practice altogether.

“I’m still interested in maintaining a very modest use of these bonuses because they are used in higher ed to prevent a kind of constant searching and turning over,” Patton said during a faculty meeting in February. “But as you saw from the data, my interest and commitment to them is very modest. They are one tool among many, and I am committed to moving to most of those other tools before we do that.”

During the same meeting, college treasurer David Provost revealed that beginning in 2009, 11 different retention bonuses were distributed among seven administrators. The compensation ranged from annual amounts of $50,000 to $100,000, with total payouts summing $150,000 to $250,000. His presentation also revealed that Middlebury’s total executive pay of $4.1 million was higher than the $3.6 million average of peer institutions.

Three administrators are have stay bonuses that are still being paid out: provost Jeff Cason, admissions dean Greg Buckles and finance VP Mike Thomas. Bonuses are only paid when the recipient stays at Middlebury for the agreed-upon number of years.

At the faculty meeting in February, Provost reported an additional bonus for President Liebowitz that had not yet been disclosed in form 990 filings. Because the college received an extension to the reporting deadline last November, the amount of this bonus will only be made public on May 15.