Author Archives: Timothy Spears

More on Turf Battle

We were happy to see the front-page story in today’s Campus on the plan to improve the landscape around Atwater.  The Campus had asked for an exclusive on the story, and we gave it to them.

However, we were disappointed that the article did not say more–or even mention–the students who generated the designs for the plan: Jesse Catalano ’11, Bente Madson ’11, and Jake Moritz ’11; Jaeun Lee ’11 and Molly Rosenblatt ’12; and Leah Webster ’11, Christine Hsieh ’11, and Jack P. Maher ’12.

They deserve credit for their work on this project. As we told The Campus, we plan to install a sign that acknowledges their contribution to the College community’s enjoyment of our outdoor environment.

For more information about the site plans and how the students’ visions were incorporated, visit the Turf Battle blog.

Important Update on Salary Increase Program

After careful review and additional research we have decided not to cap maximum salaries.

The SRC/Wage and Salary Committee’s recommendation that we enforce maximum salaries was based on the assumption that caps would free up resources that could be allocated to staff members further down in their salary ranges so they can reach the midpoint of their salary band more quickly. Further review now indicates that the number of staff members who will be at the maximum will be fewer than expected, and therefore the savings gained by enforcing the maximum salary will be relatively small.

However, Human Resources (HR) will still be conducting a market analysis over the next year to ensure that staff positions are placed in the correct career band/level and that our salary ranges are accurately tied to the market. This is very important because beginning in July 2012, we will calculate annual increases on the midpoint—now to be called the “market target”—of the salary range. As we’ve noted in written communications and in open meetings, tying raises to the midpoint rather than individual salaries will enable us to direct more dollars to staff members who are lower in the salary structure. The rest of this memo provides an overview of how this project will unfold over the coming months.

Our first step will be to ensure that we have up-to-date position descriptions for all of our jobs. We know that jobs have changed in the recent past and have been working with managers and supervisors to update job descriptions as the changes occur. This is also a natural part of the performance evaluation process, so some of you are having these conversations right now. In addition, HR will coordinate with managers to ensure that we are working with the most up-to-date job information. We encourage each staff member to take an active role in this process. If you feel that your job description does not reflect your current position, please speak with your supervisor. (You can find the most recent job description that HR has on file for your position online.)

We have set a deadline for updated job descriptions to be received in HR by mid-June, so that we can begin to review positions and make sure they are placed in the correct career bands and levels. Once we have completed the placement process, we will share all of our data with our compensation consultants, Mercer. The professionals at Mercer will research the market data, test and refine the salary structure itself, and confirm range minimums, market targets, and maximums. We expect to have the market analysis back from Mercer in the early part of 2012 and intend to communicate with staff about results of the study by March 2012.

Our primary objective is to confirm that jobs are in the correct career band and level and ensure that our salary structure accurately reflects the market. And we want to conduct this process in a transparent manner. More details about the process will be forthcoming, but in the meantime feel free to contact Human Resources if you would like additional information.

Five Questions for Luther Tenny

Luther Tenny is Assistant Director of Facilities Services.

1. As Assistant Director of Facilities Services, you are responsible for building and maintaining the College grounds. What is your favorite area of the campus?

That’s a tough question because I was born and raised in Middlebury and have several perspectives to choose from. As an employee, Voter Quad on Commencement morning at sunrise. You’ve got the sun just starting to rise hitting the peaks of Mead Chapel and Old Chapel, and the tents are up and we’ve already got a few thousand chairs set. You can see the graduating seniors heading to Alumni Stadium and eventually hear them singing in the distance. The landscaping is perfect and, for me, it is the most rewarding day of the year.

My other favorite place is the top of the Allen trail at the Snow Bowl. I’ve skied it thousands of times in my life starting at the age of 6. It’s one of my all-time favorite ski trails because of the history I have racing there. It’s not uncommon for me to head to the Bowl and take 8-10 runs on the Allen and head home.

Honorable mentions would be the deck of Kirk during sunset and the Great Hall at McCardell Bicentennial Hall.

2. We hear you’re an avid golfer. What’s your handicap and where is your favorite place to play?

Pretty personal question for a first date! I will admit I have a golfing addiction. I would have to look up my handicap, but I think I’m around a 13. I was down to about 11, but I tore my ACL (ski racing on the Allen) and getting my knee back up to strength and getting my timing back down has not been easy. Now with a new daughter I can kiss getting to single digits goodbye. My favorite place to play would have to be Lake Presidential in Maryland. Each year we go down to visit my in-laws in Annapolis, and I play this course every day including Thanksgiving morning. I like it best because I always seem to birdie the last hole of the day. I also usually win some money off of my playing partner Pete who happens to be my partner for the Member Guest tourney at Ralph Myhre. My favorite course I’ve been to but never played is Augusta National. I’ve been very lucky to attend the Masters twice, and that is perfection on every level.

3. You and your wife Carey welcomed a new daughter into your lives a few days ago. Tell us about Millie.

She’s a little peanut and looks just like her dad. Carey read somewhere that it is a biological thing for infants to look like their fathers, so the dads will “stick around.” It’s working. She’s already got me wrapped around her tiny fingers. Amelia (Millie) Bass Tenny has been the most wonderful thing. She’s perfect in every way…but all parents say that.

4. Some of your colleagues, who wish to remain nameless, want to know: Exactly how long was your hair in your skateboard punk days?

Let’s just say I’m glad facebook wasn’t around in those days. I was a walking disaster. Puberty can be so cruel. My hair wasn’t really that long because I had a bowl cut. It was like Justin Bieber meets Eminem. My hair was longest in College when I was spending my extra time traveling to see as many Phish concerts as possible. At the longest, it was down to my shoulders. I entered the working world at an engineering firm where the owner was a graduate from Norwich, so the long hair didn’t last long.

5. You grew up in town, and now work at the College.  What single word best describes life in Middlebury as you know it, and why?

Community. I think it’s great that I can bump into my old babysitter or my friends parents or even a former teacher while grocery shopping. So many high school friends left after college but came back to settle down with a family, because it’s truly a special place to grow up. After high school all I wanted to do was get out of Middlebury, but after four years of College I missed Vermont. It gets in your blood. I returned and shortly after met a group who just graduated from Middlebury. That group turned into some of my closest friends, and that’s how I met my wife Carey who also graduated from Middlebury. Not bad for a “townie.” Both my parents settled in Middlebury because of their ties to friends who graduated from Middlebury. I guess it was only natural to go to work for Middlebury College.

All-Gender Restroom Project

In recent months, Sarah Franco, Special Projects Coordinator, and Jennifer Herrera, Special Assistant to the Dean of the College, have been engaged with a group of students to develop a plan for creating all-gender (also known as gender-neutral) restrooms in non-residential buildings on campus. This initiative grew out of a recommendation put forth last spring by an ad hoc study group that published a review of potential student life issues facing transgender students. In their final report, JJ Boggs, Associate Director of Campus Activities, and Mary Hurlie, Associate Director for Career Services, recommended that the College “initiate a collaboration with other appropriate college offices, with a goal to convert as many gender-designated bathrooms into gender-neutral bathrooms as possible.”

In pursuing this recommendation, the College hopes to provide support for the safety and health of Middlebury’s transgender students, faculty, and staff. We also believe that acting on this recommendation will benefit other members of our community. For example, the presence of all-gender restrooms would provide more flexibility for disabled individuals who have opposite-gender caretakers. It would also help parents of young children since they would not have to decide which restroom to use. In sum, all-gender restrooms would create more restroom options for all people to use.

It is important to note that the majority of restrooms on this campus would still have a male or female gender designation. There are many within our community who are unable to use mixed-gender restrooms for a variety of religious and personal reasons. These perspectives are equally valued by the College.

Now that the group has engaged President’s Staff, the Space Committee, Community Council, Faculty Council, and Staff Council in conversations about the proposed changes, the College will begin implementation in two phases. In the first phase, we will change the signs on all non-residential single-stall restrooms to one that includes the male and female symbols as well as the universal symbol of accessibility where applicable.  Single-stall restrooms may then be used by anyone. We expect that this phase of the project will be complete by the beginning of the 2011-2012 academic year. Because not all buildings have single-stall restrooms, the College will work collaboratively with the occupants of such buildings to identify a multi-stall restroom that could be converted to an all-gender facility. This process will likely begin in the fall. We recognize this is a sensitive issue, and so if it is not possible to reach a consensus, then there may be some non-residential buildings that do not have any all-gender restrooms.

If you have any questions or concerns about this project, please do not hesitate to send a note to Alternatively, you may leave questions and feedback in the comments section (anonymously, if you wish).

Five Questions for Maria Stadtmueller

Maria Stadtmueller is the Senior College Advancement Writer. She also portrays a certain red-headed dish-thief huntress.

1. As Senior College Advancement Writer, you are responsible for writing web and print materials and working on multimedia projects for Middlebury fundraising and recruiting. In the course of your work, what is your favorite Middlebury story that you have told?

I couldn’t point to just one story. But a particular type of story always gets me: students who couldn’t have come here without financial aid. (And I don’t think it’s just because I had a similar experience, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, at another NESCAC school). These students could be undergraduates, Bread Loafers, maybe Language Schools graduate students—but their potential is tightly leashed due to family circumstances the students don’t control (especially in the case of undergraduates). And then someone they don’t even know slips the knot with a scholarship, and they’re off! The best is when the student falls in love with something he or she had never met before—Northern Renaissance art, particle physics, the geology of Antarctic ice cores, Arabic poetry, Beckett plays¾and wants to explore it in depth.

2. You live in a solar-powered yurt on a 10-acre permaculture homestead and are soon launching a podcast ( about creating a Nature-based cosmology. How did you develop your own environmental ethic?

I think everyone has this ethic, if deep down, since this is our home and we’ve evolved over billions of years with everything around us (except for those things made by Monsanto). For many people, though, that natural ethic lies under the waxy yellow build-up of cultural stories about human superiority, our anointed dominion, and our exemption from nature’s limits. I got heavily waxed with all that, but it didn’t stick. It helped that my parents were conservationists—my late dad grew up farming and my 85-year-old mom’s a total commando. But the primary reason it didn’t stick was that nature got to me first. I grew up on a homestead with gardens and lots of animals in a beautiful rural area of New Jersey. Most of the adults I knew were nuts, so the flag went up early that Nature made more sense.  Another flag went up in adolescence that the human/nature relationship was in deep trouble. Watching bulldozers tear up and diminish—aka “develop”—land that was as intimate a friend as any human broke my heart. It’s in a million jagged pieces by now, with this sixth great extinction that humans are causing. The more I know about this industrial growth society and the failure of the U.S. government to act as these times demand, the greater the rage that enters the mix. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, although it may manifest differently in others. Glad you asked?

3. You have worn many hats (even wigs) throughout your career. You used to run a chamber music series in San Francisco and direct chamber music grant programs in New York. Who are your favorite composers?

I love Anonymous and early music. I grew up singing Gregorian chant and it just transports me, although probably not where the nuns wanted me to go. Des Prez, Lassus, Monteverdi—love those guys. Bach! All Beethoven. Mozart’s Requiem, Schubert Lieder. Stravinsky. Mahler. Richard Strauss. Bartok. I’m out of the loop on living composers but favor John Adams, who was a pal in San Francisco, and Estonian composer Arvo Pärt.  I also love Indian classical music although I’m pretty ignorant about it.

4. We also hear that you used to do a little stand-up comedy on Comedy Central, VH1, and MTV. What is your favorite joke to tell (one that can be repeated on this blog)?

I did clubs almost every night for six or seven years, but I didn’t do jokes. Most comics don’t—you do “chunks”–little stories on a topic that peak and ebb through punchlines and rhythm. I never did stuff about dating or “hey, guys, what’s with that remote?” –ugh.  And I didn’t work blue, so I could repeat it here if I remembered it (fortunately, it was before the interwebs so I can’t remind myself). I recall talking about being a vegetarian in a world of meat, the confusion of little Catholic kids being taught fantastical stories in class that they must believe and being read fantastical stories at night they’re supposed to shrug off, that kind of thing. It was a weird life, pulling in to a mining town in Pennsylvania and playing a club called “the Coal Hole” or playing to a roomful of sailors at the Improv during Fleet Week in New York. But when you get enough practice to make it work, when people are venting their beverages nasally and the room becomes this creature you can feel and shape, it’s better than anything.

5. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently un-wigged you as the woman behind Aunt Des. What do you enjoy most about playing this character?

This’ll sound like some NBA player talking post-game about being part of “a good ball club” but the really fun part of Aunt Des is the collaboration. Yeah, I knew Des and do accents and am willing to make a spectacle of myself, but I have such creative colleagues, without exception. On the Des project, Nikhil Ramburn ’10 does all the lighting, filming, and editing, and Stephen Diehl helps with the script and produces our little jaunts. I blame Diehl for the nails. Some of the ideas we come up with that we can’t use are hilarious. What I like most about Des’s character, though, is that she can call it as she sees it.

What I would love to enjoy about playing Aunt Des is hanging up the wig knowing that she’s helped convince people to bring their plates back. I mean really. Such a no-brainer.

The Difference Made by Capping the Max: Guest Post by Patrick Norton, Vice President for Finance and Treasurer

As VP for Administration Tim Spears has mentioned on a few occasions, much work needs to be done between now and July 1, 2012 to ensure: (1) that all staff are in their correct band and level and (2) that all the midpoints (or targets) are calculated correctly. We need time to get this work done, and patience is required.

Some staff colleagues have asked whether enforcing maximum salaries will actually make a difference in the additional amount available to the pool for increases for all staff. I have reviewed the data, and the answer is yes.

If, for the sake of this planning exercise, we assume that the number of staff members who are currently at the max (118) is reduced by 50% as a result of re-pricing jobs and expanding some of the salary ranges, we would still be able to set aside a significant amount of money by enforcing maximum salaries. Below I have itemized the additional resources as a percentage of the overall increase pool, and I have extended this list over the next five years–beginning in 2013, the first fiscal year of the implementation of the new increase process.

  • 2013: 0.00% (obviously, no additional money will be available as the amount of the single sum payment to those over the maximum will equal the money saved as a result of enforcing salary maximums)
  • 2014: 0.23%, or $115,000
  • 2015: 0.45%, or $230,000
  • 2016: 0.67%, or $350,000
  • 2017: 0.88%, or $475,000

Now this is simply a model–the actual proof will be seen after we complete our review of the band and levels, as well as the midpoints (or targets)–but I expect the results to be pretty similar to the percentages and amounts listed above. Significantly, these additional resources would be used to augment the pool for annual salary increases.

More Thoughts About Maxes, Midpoints, Bands, and Levels

A number of people commenting on the salary increase plan have expressed concerns or asked questions about the plan to cap maximum salaries and calculate percentage increases on the midpoint of the salary range. I appreciate all this feedback, and want to emphasize the importance of the review that Human Resources will be conducting during the next year to make sure 1) that our salary ranges, bands/levels are accurately tied to the market; 2) that staff positions are placed in the correct band/level. We have undergone a lot of change over two years, and some staff members have seen their jobs change quite a bit as the overall size of the staff has been reduced.

We did not talk in much detail in the open meetings about what this review will look like, but we will certainly be looking at the possibility of expanding the salary ranges, which would shift the minimum, midpoint, and maximum salaries upward. We will pay special attention to the maximum salaries at the bottom end of our wage structure.  It is unlikely that staff members in the lower salary ranges will see their wages capped.

Finally, I want to stress that these changes will not go into effect until July 1, 2012, so we have a full year to make sure we get the details right.

Five Questions for Grace Spatafora

Grace Spatafora is the Given Professor of Biology and Pre-Medical Science.

1. You tend to invite a lot of students to join you in your research. How is this symbiotic relationship mutually beneficial?

I am committed to providing as many students as I can with an opportunity to engage in research first-hand, but only if they express a genuine interest in the research process and can articulate why they choose to explore microbial pathogenesis as their research topic. This year I have 8 guys working in my laboratory, all committed to better understanding how Streptococcus mutans, an oral pathogen, reaps havoc in the oral cavity. The students benefit by committing to a senior capstone experience that could earn them graduation with distinction, a chance to communicate their research findings at a professional meeting (this year’s meeting will be held in New Orleans, LA), and the opportunity to contribute to the published literature (one of my student’s work recently made the cover of the Journal of Bacteriology). I benefit from the students’ hard work which moves the research along in a way that continues to earn major funding from the National Institutes of Health, and by being able to showcase undergraduate research at national meetings. I also get to watch these students grow as independent researchers and problem solvers, some of whom go on to pursue research careers of their own. What could be more gratifying?

2. If you were an organelle in an animal cell, which one would you be and why?

I’d be the nucleus for sure. I guess you could say that I like to control things….not in a bad way though. I don’t consider myself to be at all bossy or a control freak…but given the opportunity I do like to take charge of a situation and manage it so as to ensure the best possible outcome. Second place would go to the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, since I am rather “energetic” in the classroom where I have been known to “walk like a bacterium” and mimic Z-DNA.

3. Which living person do you most admire?

This is a tough question. I’ve given this some thought and I’d have to say it would be Christiane Amanpour, former Chief International Correspondent at CNN and current head anchorwoman at ABC News. Christiane’s work over the years as a journalist has included direct coverage of the Persian Gulf War, the Bosnian War, the Siege of Sarajevo, Hurricane Katrina, and most recently Egypt’s revolution in Tahrir Square. She is seemingly fearless of reporting the news from areas of great conflict, not to mention the many exclusive interviews she’s conducted with world leaders from the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. She isn’t a two-time recipient of the Peabody Award for nothing! This is not to say that she isn’t a controversial figure in the world of news casting; indeed she is. But in my view she holds strong to her convictions. She is committed to telling the truth and giving all sides of a story equal coverage. I have always thought that in another life I’d come back as a journalist, and if this were the case, then I’d want to be Christiane Amanpour.

4. Last year, the American Association of University of Women released a report about the challenges girls and women encounter in studying and working in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). This is a complex issue, but what is one thing that STEM programs could do to attract and retain women?

I think one of the most important things STEM programs could do is see to it that only the most outstanding science and math educators are hired into our elementary and secondary schools. Our teachers need to make math and science more approachable for both boys and girls. I had fabulous teachers in grade school who made learning in these disciplines fun! STEM programs also need to bring more flexibility into STEM careers so that women won’t be penalized for taking time “off” to have children.

5. You teach courses in cell biology, microbiology, molecular genetics, and microbial pathogenesis. What sparked your interest in studying structures invisible to the human eye?

Well, if you were to ask my Microbiology students they’d tell you that I became a microbiologist because you can’t hear the bacteria scream when you place them in the autoclave! But seriously, I was a young scientist in training just as the genetic engineering revolution was getting underway. At that time, bacteria were the workhorses of genetic manipulation. But then in the early ‘80’s emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases took center stage and bacteria regained their identity. I guess you could say that I was in the right place at the right time….a time when everything was about microorganisms…and not only about how they can make us sick, but how they make the world as we know it. Let’s face it, without microbes, we would not be here.

A Note on College Finances and the Pool for Staff Salary Increases: Guest Post by Patrick Norton, Vice President for Finance and Treasurer

Given the questions raised about the College’s financial situation in my recent posts on the staff salary increase program, Patrick Norton provided the following commentary on what the pool for staff raises might look like.


While the financial markets have recovered somewhat, the college is still $300 million short of what it planned to have at this time in the form of one of its major funding sources: the endowment.  The reduction in endowment value, caused by the large drop in the value of the endowment in 2008 and 2009, translates into a shortfall of $15 million in annual funding to the operating budget. We addressed the loss of $15 million in annual funding through a combination of efforts—mainly through voluntary staffing reductions and cost controls in several areas—but we continue to face increased pressure on fundraising, financial aid, and various other expenses. The financial environment for higher education is much different now than it was before the recession.

With all that said, as part of the annual 2012 budget process, we are currently planning for a 3% staff pool increase, which would be 2 times the change in the consumer price index for the 12 months ending December 31, 2010 (1.5%). The change in the consumer price index is a basic measure of the increase in the cost of living.  We will have a clearer sense of what the salary increase pool will be later this spring, once the 2012 budget is finalized.

Revising the Staff Salary Increase Program: Implementation

The College will implement the staff salary increase program in two phases over the next 18 months.

First Phase

This year, all employees who consistently meet expectations or significantly exceed expectations will receive the bi-level percentage increase. However, the percentage increase will be calculated on individual salaries instead of the midpoint. (We will implement increases calculated on the midpoint in the second phase, described below).   During the first phase, we will also begin giving bonuses to employees who do exemplary work.

Second Phase

During 2011-2012, Human Resources will do extensive market research to review bands, levels, and salary midpoints. At the end of this review, a third party will verify the results to ensure we are on target.

Successful completion of the review will allow us to move in to the second phase. By July 2012, the bi-level percentage increases will be calculated on the midpoint of the salary range. We will also cap salaries at the maximum. Employees at the top of the salary range will be eligible for annual increases; however, these increases will be distributed as single sum payments (at the beginning of the fiscal year), and will not be incorporated in the base salary. One-time bonuses for exemplary work will continue.

Read more about the staff salary increase program’s background and plan.

Again, if you have questions or just want to weigh in, you may use the comments section.  Or, if you prefer, you may email questions to me at