Important Update on Workforce Planning

February 4, 2019

 

Dear Middlebury Faculty and Staff,

As we enter an important week in our workforce planning process, I am writing today to share my thoughts on the progress we have made over the last six months and the foundation we are building for a sustainable and inspiring future for Middlebury.

Last July, we launched workforce planning with a goal of envisioning how our work—particularly the work of staff—can become more focused on our educational mission, and to do so in more effective, efficient ways. We set out to identify the positions needed to do that work, including new positions we need but don’t have today. A great many of you have been involved in this process, and I am deeply grateful to you all. I have been personally inspired by your stories of creativity and impressed by your engagement in thinking differently about our work. I am excited by the overall result of a new landscape for work at Middlebury. We’ll be sharing that picture with you later this spring.

We also did this creative work with the awareness that we must address a large deficit and build long-term financial sustainability. In discussions with the Board of Trustees, we set a target to reduce staff compensation by 10 percent—or about $8 million annually. Because we knew we could not and should not balance our budget on staff reductions alone, we extended the incentive separation program to faculty at the Middlebury Institute and introduced a faculty retirement incentive program at the College.

Today, I believe we are moving toward a successful conclusion to this process. Twenty-three tenured faculty at the College have submitted their retirement paperwork, leading to an annual savings of $1.2 million. Tomorrow, David Provost and Karen Miller will write to you with details, including a timeline that begins this week, for the staff and Institute faculty incentive separation plan. Based on the work we have done to date, we believe we will achieve the sought-after $8 million in staff savings and a more than $1 million reduction in faculty compensation at the Institute.

This process has been difficult and anxiety-producing for many. Because we have wanted to minimize this impact as much as possible, we have been engaged in careful planning and kept close watch on hiring over the past year. Our current situation shows encouraging progress: Of the 150 positions identified for elimination, the large majority of them, approximately 100, are already vacant. As a result, there are approximately 50 occupied staff positions identified for reduction. Furthermore, department leaders have started conversations with most of the people occupying those positions, and many of those have also been involved in conversations about next steps. And, significantly, workforce planning has identified about 60 new positions that we will create and fill over the next two years. This would result in a net reduction of approximately 90 positions over time.

Most of these new positions will be posted this week in a private portal where individuals whose current positions are eliminated by workforce planning can have the first opportunity to review them and, if they want, to apply. Later, if those positions are not filled, they will be posted more widely.

In many ways, this process was more difficult than it might be at other institutions because we are such tight-knit communities in Middlebury and Monterey. We knew that every decision would have an impact on a colleague, a friend, a neighbor. Through the exemplary leadership of Karen Miller and her team, we will remain committed to the transparency and fairness that has guided us to this point and will continue to guide us in the next stages of workforce planning. Staff and faculty councils have been extraordinarily helpful in giving us feedback when the process is not working as it should.

Importantly, we must ensure that the work we have identified as unnecessary actually goes away and we do not simply ask staff to do the same work with fewer people. We need to hear from you if that is not the case. We ask that you hold us accountable to these values and commitments, and to share your thoughts and constructive suggestions if we fall short. And we will continue to partner in thinking strategically about the work we do and elect not to do.

I thank you again for your creativity, care, and responsiveness in imagining a future Middlebury.

Sincerely,

Laurie Patton
President

Office of the President

Old Chapel
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Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753
802.443.5400
president@middlebury.edu