Bramley reflects on year, bids farewell
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 22:04
This May will mark the last time President John Bramley will be able to call his wood-paneled office his own — but that’s all right with him.
“I’ll still work for the University in some capacity,” Bramley said. “Just maybe not between the hours of 8 a.m. and, say, midnight.”
Bramley has been filling in as interim president since last year, when the Board of Trustees named him as Dan Fogel’s replacement after the former president stepped down for personal reasons.
“I feel pretty good about how things have gone [this year],” Bramley said in his signature British accent. “My time here has reminded me how much I missed the University; it’s been a very enjoyable experience.”
He said UVM experienced some bad press at the time he took over, but since then things have changed for the better.
The challenges brought on by Hurricane Irene in late August could have been devastating for the University, but Bramley said it was UVM’s response to the tropical storm that he was particularly proud of.
“It reminded people how important it is to have the University,” he said, citing the fact that UVM has been housing state laboratories that had been based in Waterbury, and will continue to do so for another three years.
Other high points of the year included the implementation of online course evaluations, a new food systems minor that is part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the decisions made about the Coke contract and bottled water, he said.
Pointing to UVM’s elevated position on ranking lists published by the U.S. News & World Report, the Huffington Post and Unigo this year, Bramley said he thought UVM had gotten better in terms of external measurements.
“I said this to the admitted students and their families this morning, the best students at UVM are among the best in the world,” he said. “After attending a few music recitals and the Student Research Conference, I was reminded how 99 percent of our students are great and fabulous.”
Yet Bramley’s time as president has not been free of controversy, particularly when he sent out a memo to the UVM community in November that stated the administration’s plans to cancel the time-honored Naked Bike Ride.
“I was between a rock and a hard place,” he said. “When people come to me and say, ‘We’ve got a problem, we shouldn’t be sponsoring this event,’ I don’t think I have a lot of choice.”
Bramley said he is a believer in personal freedom, but that the nature of the ride had taken a dangerous turn — the event was canceled due to incidents of sexual assault and alcohol related injuries that had happened in recent years.
“From a personal perspective, I couldn’t care less, but I don’t want our students getting harmed,” he said.
Former SGA president and senior Julian Golfarini said he had appreciated Bramley’s honesty dealing with the issue, and said that it was clear the interim president felt conflicted.
“I think it was a very tough decision for him and he really did struggle with it, always letting me know how he felt about the different aspects of the event,” Golfarini said.
Golfarini, who coincidentally ceded his SGA presidential power this month, said Bramley surpassed his expectations and took an active role in the UVM administration.
“He’s not comfortable maintaining the norm; he’s always pushing for improvements,” he said. “It’s tough being the president, but I think John was really impressive and did a good job keeping in touch with the SGA.
“This is especially true when you think about the fact that he basically came out of retirement for the job and helped UVM when it was in need,” Golfarini said.
As Bramley passes the torch to Dr. Tom Sullivan next year, he said he hopes the new president will focus on ways to redesign and enrich the undergraduate experience.
“We’ve got to recognize that a lot of things that change students lives don’t occur in the classroom; they occur outside in areas of research, study abroad, internships, service learning, et cetera,” he said.
Bramley suggested the University should rely less on courses and do more to provide opportunities to learn experientially.
The president also expressed his hope that UVM would come to grips with the cost/affordability issue, which is a major concern to many students.
As for Sullivan’s appointment, Bramley said he had every confidence and felt the new president was “student-focused.”
“There will be a lot keeping Dr. Sullivan busy,” Bramley said. “We’ve got to keep talking and listening to each other in a civilized manner to make positive changes.”
Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Cioffi said Bramley had been instrumental this year in maintaining good relationships with state and federal delegations, balancing the budget, fundraising and helping prepare Sullivan.
“John’s generosity and ability to work well with others has facilitated a smooth transition into next year,” he said.
When he finally enjoys his long-awaited retirement, Bramley said that he plans to attend his father-in-law’s 90th birthday celebration in England before coming back to UVM next year to work in academia.