Monthly Archives: October 2010

The Staff Resources Committee (SRC)—Where We Are

President Liebowitz had a lot to say about the work of the SRC in his fall address to the campus, and for good reason—the committee has played an important role in guiding the reductions in staff and reorganization efforts that have taken place during the past two years.

SRC business was also the focus of a recent Senior Managers meeting and a forum hosted by Staff Council, a recording of which is available on the Council’s website.

The bottom line coming out of these meetings is mostly good, though the numbers speak to dramatic institutional change.  After two years of attrition—encouraged by early retirement and voluntary separation programs—the College’s staff has shrunk by almost 15% since the summer of 2008. As of October 21, the College employed 856 FTEs (these are “full-time equivalents,” not actual people), down from 1021 in August of 2008. See the graph below for an historical perspective on the size of the staff.

These reductions were instrumental in resolving the budget deficits that the College forecast when the recession hit and our endowment plummeted and fundraising became more uncertain.  They also guided us down to an overall FTE count—in the neighborhood of 850—that the SRC believes is a reasonable threshold or limit going forward, based on the College’s financial resources.

With fewer staff resources, we have also worked to consolidate departments with overlapping responsibilities and reassign staff members from one area of the college to another. Not surprisingly, this initiative has generated anxiety, with colleagues wondering whether or how their areas will be affected, which is why clear communication is so important. That said, we are aiming to complete major consolidations of departments by January 1.

Despite the progress we’ve made, challenges remain.

In particular, Vice Presidents/Deans must continue to work with managers/supervisors to refocus departmental missions, prioritize work, and identify those functions that we will no longer support because of reduced resources, or do differently in light of fewer staff.  This effort—and the vertical and lateral communication it requires (a dept shouldn’t stop doing something without figuring out how that loss will affect other areas of the College)—has been a struggle. Staff colleagues continue to report that their workloads have not been adjusted downward, or that they are doing more with less. As we pull out of this recession, we must do a better job of aligning expectations with our available resources.

Feedback? This has been a broad-brush summary, and I would welcome any comments, questions, or recommendations. You may post anonymously if you like.

Under Construction

What sort of information would be useful to have on this site?

Following up on discussions I’ve had with colleagues and suggestions made at a forum hosted a couple of weeks ago by Staff Council, I would like to develop this site so that it aggregates information and material available on other Middlebury blogs.  I also plan to rework the navigation panels so readers can link to other web sites and campus newsletters.  This effort to centralize information may not result in one-stop shopping, but it may aid in communication efforts.

So . . . more later.  And if you have any recommendations for developing this site, please send them along.

To Students: An Invitation to Manage the Juice Bar

Dear Students:

I write with what I believe is an exciting proposition for student entrepreneurs, and good news for campus life.

As you know, the College has struggled during the last year to find the right staffing model for the Grille and Juice Bar. Given our desire to reduce the operating deficit in that venue—more than $300K per year—we decided to close the Juice Bar last spring, reopening it only for the summer when the Language Schools assured a steadier stream of customers.

None of us likes to see the Juice Bar empty, and so by virtue of this e-mail, we are inviting students to submit plans for establishing a student-managed Juice Bar. Interested students will submit their plans as part of a competitive bidding process, and the strongest proposal will be awarded the contract for managing the Juice Bar, with operations to begin in January.

The ground rules for a student-run Juice Bar are as follows:

• A student manager employed by the Grille and advised by Grille management will run the operation.
• The student manager will create a staffing plan, budget, set the hours of operation (within the time the space is open), and hire and manage the student workers.
• The student staff will create and price the menu, order and prepare the food and beverages, and manage the budget. Some food items may need to be prepared in the Grille kitchen due to equipment and ventilation needs (guidance on this will be provided by the Grille management).
• The student staff will work with the Grille management, MCAB, and CCAL on entertainment/programming in the lower level of the Grille.
• The student management staff will be paid an appropriate wage, and will be employed by the Grille. In that role, they will follow all Grille procedures and policies for the preparation and service of food, cash handling, and general conduct, including regulations set by the Health Department and Department of Liquor Control.
• The Grille management will function in an advisory role so long as the student management team operates within the established guidelines.
• After all costs/wages are covered, any excess profits will be directed to charities or an approved student organization.

Completed proposals are due on Tuesday, November 30, and should be submitted by e-mail to Individuals as well as groups are invited to apply. NOTE: to download the application form, click here: JuiceBarApp

A committee made up of students, faculty, and staff will select the winning proposal. Proposals will be judged on the basis of their feasibility, economic viability, vision, and simplicity. Top applicants may be contacted for interviews in early December.  The winning proposal will be announced on Monday, December 13.

If you have any questions about this process, please contact me at

Across This Campus

We want better communication. We hear that refrain all the time. And when I say “we,” I mean students, faculty, and staff. I mean everyone on this campus, and external constituents as well, though I realize we often come to this desire from different perspectives, with different needs.

We also want more transparency, which may well be the catchword of our times.  The push for transparency comes from a desire to know how important decisions are made, a wish sometimes tinged with distrust in how those decisions are made and who makes them. On college campuses, where the tradition of consultation, consensus-building, and community activism is deeply rooted, the desire for transparency can have a special urgency–never more so than in the last two years, as the recession has put additional pressure on the need to make thoughtful and timely decisions.  Of course, the politics of transparency can be messy since the sharing of information up and down an institution like Middlebury should not be a selective process; we all should feel the light.

This blog is an effort to open the lines of communication, and create a forum where people can ask questions or post comments–anonymously, if they like–about administrative decision-making and current initiatives. In my role as Vice President for Administration and chair of the Staff Resources Committee, I also plan to use the space to update readers on issues related to staffing at the College and other projects that pass through my office.

We are, as the wallpaper adorning this site makes clear, a small liberal arts college in rural Vermont.  But our landscape is more complicated than the map suggests, and we can and should do a better job at explaining how and why things happen across this campus.