A legal agreement between the University of Maine System and Kate Forhan sheds new light on the former provost’s sudden resignation on May 27 after serving in the position for just over one year.
The document, signed by Forhan the day the University of Maine Board of Trustees approved a plan to restructure USM’s schools and colleges — a plan whose drafting Forhan led as the university’s chief academic officer — spells out her compensation, duties, and what she is allowed to say about her time as provost, among other things.
According to the document, known as a Memorandum of Understanding and General Release and obtained by The Free Press under the Freedom of Information Act, Forhan will remain at her current pay of $175,000 a year until March 31, 2011. It also stipulated her duties as provost were to end June 1. She is currently on sabbatical until Dec. 31, after which time she will earn $100,000 a year as a professor of political science, with tenure, according to the agreement. She may teach in the Muskie School, but her appointment has not yet been approved by the Muskie faculty, USM spokesman Bob Caswell said.
“It just hasn’t been done yet because of the [reorganization]” said Caswell. “It is on schedule to be submitted to the new dean’s office and to the faculty early this fall,” he said.
By signing the document, Forhan also waived any right to claim the university violated her rights under state or federal law while she was provost.
The document also bars President Selma Botman and Forhan from making unfavorable statements about each other while employed by the university; neither are permitted to “retaliate in any manner… because of the differences between Dr. Forhan and President Botman,” according to the agreement.
She made the announcement she was resigning in a letter co-authored with Botman on May 27. In the letter, they wrote that the challenge of restructuring the university generated “extraordinarily complex and difficult demands on the executive leadership team.”
“Under these circumstances, it is not uncommon for a president and provost to have differences,” the letter read.
The letter did not elaborate on the nature of the differences.
“It is really not fair to get into that in any detail other than to say that differences are only natural given this challenging environment in higher education,” Botman said in an e-mail to a reporter at the time of Forhan’s resignation.
“I chose to resign. I was not asked to resign,” Forhan said in a phone interview late Sunday evening.
“I am proud of being provost, I’m proud of some of things I accomplished,” she added. “I really think it’s a wonderful university. When I stepped down the end of May, I had a surplus in academic affairs of $2 million and I worked hard with the deans to make that possible. I also really respect my colleagues and the faculty and I enjoyed working with them and I look forward to getting to know the students better.”
Botman declined to comment on the agreement during a phone interview last week.
“I don’t know if there’s standard practice about these things,” she said, when asked whether employees are commonly required to sign such contracts when they step down from a post.
Tracy Bigney, chief of Human Resources for the University of Maine System, signed the document on behalf of the university. She said documents like these are standard when an employee steps down from an administrative position before the end of their term.
But the paragraphs that dictate how Forhan would announce her resignation, and bar her from speaking ill of the university and its administration are slightly different from a standard contract, Bigney said.
“Those are all not strictly boilerplate — but almost,” said Bigney.
As the provost, Forhan served as USM’s chief academic officer and was responsible for overseeing USM’s schools and colleges. She was replaced on June 14 by John Wright, former dean of School of Applied Science, Engineering and Technology. Wright will serve as interim provost until the university appoints someone permanently to the position. The university plans to search for a new provost during the 2011-2012 academic year.
The Board of Trustees confirmed Forhan’s appointment on Jan 12, 2009 after a year-long search by the university.