Letter to the Editor: Inaccuracies in Thursday's editorial

To the Editor: 

Thursday’s Daily Campus editorial regarding UConn administrators’ vacation time (“UConn Faces Lack of Administrative Oversight”) contained multiple inaccuracies that warrant clarification beyond what might be captured in a short news correction.

Therefore, we ask that you publish this response in its entirety to correct the record and to do right by those who have been wrongly and unfairly accused of misconduct.

UConn administrators receive 22 days of vacation annually, as do UConn staff whose jobs are covered by union contracts. The editorial’s statement that UConn employees can “accrue 60 days of vacation time per year that they can roll over to the next” is not accurate.

Under UConn policy, they can roll over unused vacation days from one year to the next until the number reaches 60 days. When they leave UConn or if they are faculty members who return to teaching, they are paid for unused vacation time up to 60 days – all of which they had earned under terms of their employment and none of which are extra or “bonus” days, as has been suggested.

UConn’s policy is twice as stringent as the rest of state government. Elsewhere in state government, administrators can accrue up to 120 days and receive payment for all of those days upon leaving their jobs – plus a portion of the value of their unused sick days, for which UConn gives no compensation.

Your editorial incorrectly says UConn administrators have “racked up” what you call “bonus pay for bonus days … on their way out,” all of which is not accurate. All of the individuals are actively employed and not “on their way out,” nor is it true that they “might be getting” paid for days above 60.

They won’t. We have said that before and will continue to repeat it as often as necessary to make the point clear. Those statements, along with charges of “flagrant disregard for the system” and “repeatedly disobey(ing) the rules” are inaccurate and a disservice to readers and to the employees they reference.

Here are the facts: UConn’s policy limits the vacation day accrual tally to 60. However, it also gives the Board of Trustees and its designees the authority to make exceptions in limited cases, which is what occurred with these employees.

No one has “skirted around the rule,” as your editorial says; they received permission under the narrow circumstances envisioned in, and consistent with, UConn policy and procedures.

This occurs in limited cases when an employee’s obligations have made it impossible for them to use the vacation time they earned in one or more particular years – in those unusual handful of cases, they have been allowed under terms of the policy to keep days above 60 to use them later.

In fact, taking away those days would in essence punish them for having put in the extra work necessary to complete the obligations that arose and which the University needed them to handle. I can’t imagine any circumstance in which anyone would think that’s fair.

For example: UConn has opened new residence halls in Storrs and Stamford in recent years, extensively renovated some dining halls, and made other upgrades in student housing and food services. A few directors in those areas had such critical roles that it wasn’t possible for them to take vacation time without the deadline-driven projects being affected. Leaving for long periods in the summer wasn’t feasible because much of the work on those projects was taking place then; likewise, taking extended vacations during the school year can be difficult because they are so integral to daily operations.

Is it fair to erase their vacation days, effectively punishing them for stepping up to the plate to get these projects done -- and meaning they essentially would have worked for free for the number of days they’d lose?

Allowing them to carry over the unused vacation days above 60 in those years does not give them or any other employees the ability to get paid for any of those days. It only gives the individual the opportunity to be able to use the time later that they couldn’t take because of circumstances beyond their control, such as in the example above.

It’s been written that President Herbst and others have “racked up” about $214,000 collectively in vacation days in excess of the 60-day limit. Given that those are days that will be erased when they leave, the calculations are moot.

Here’s another way of looking at it: The University has received thousands of hours of time from people who were completing critical tasks, staying on the job when they might otherwise have been with their families on the vacation days they’d earned and were unable to take.

We could be militant and wipe away those days or, as the University policy allows, recognize the unusual circumstances and offer a fair solution that lets that very small number of people use the days they rightfully earned.

I would add that in regard to the trope about “administrative bloat,” UConn’s management structure one of the leanest among similar universities, with a faculty to administrator ratio of 14.1 – the second highest in the peer group – and the highest student to administrator ratio, with almost 242 students per administrator.

In fact, administrative jobs have consistently remained between only about 2.2 and 2.5 percent of the UConn workforce for the past 25 years, despite a significant growth in the University’s enrollment and academic scope.

UConn works very hard to be efficient in its operations and equitable in its employment practices. As with any large operation, there are times when we concede that we can do better – but when the University is the subject of inaccurate and unfair criticisms lacking research and context, it’s detrimental to everyone.

 Sincerely,

Stephanie Reitz

UConn spokesperson