Review Finds Missteps But No Broken Laws or Rules by U. of Vermont Leaders

August 11, 2011

The University of Vermont's former president permitted "inappropriate and imprudent" behavior by his wife in ways that undermined the university's "guidelines and values," but did not violate any laws or university policies, according to a report commissioned and released Wednesday by the institution's Board of Trustees. The report explores allegations that arose from a controversy surrounding the actions of Rachel Kahn-Fogel, whose pursuit of a relationship with a senior administrator at Vermont and subsequent admission of a longstanding battle with mental illness led to the resignation last month of her husband, Daniel Fogel, as the university's president.

The board-mandated review rejected a charge that the doctorate given to Michael Schultz, the development official who was the subject of Kahn-Fogel's attention, had been awarded inappropriately. The inquiry also found no evidence to support an allegation that Fogel, Kahn-Fogel and other officials had inappropriately spent university funds on non-university travel or expenses, although it did reveal that the officials had overspent their meal thresholds by a total of $151.

On the third issue explored during the investigation, potentially inappropriate personnel actions by the president and his wife (who had an official volunteer role as a fund-raiser), the board's report found no "violations of the law or university policy." But it concluded that the "lack of clarity" surrounding Kahn-Fogel's role at the university caused confusion and poor morale and that "presidential staffing and personnel decisions were at times based on personal preferences rather than objective performance assessment."

"All of this ran counter to the university's stated guidelines and values," the board chairman, Robert F. Cioffi, said in a prepared statement, and "to be effective and meaningful, these guidelines and values must be followed and exemplified across the university, especially by the institution's leadership. And we fell short of that goal."

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