The wife of Thomas Sullivan, who is leaving the University of Minnesota to become president of the University of Vermont, will be subject to "unusual oversight" in her new role, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Leslie Black Sullivan will be "the first presidential spouse subject to a new University of Vermont policy, which requires the spouse or partner to obtain advanced board approval for engaging in volunteer university activities."
The rule came about after the former president's wife got in trouble for a close relationship with a development officer, the article says. It continues:
"The role of college presidents' spouses has always been fraught with complexity. There is sometimes an unspoken expectation that spouses fill the roles of fund raisers and diplomats, but they often lack formal titles and specified powers. Vermont's presidential-partner policy seeks to formalize those roles, and is exceptional for overtly prohibiting the president's partner for ordering around university employees."
That article was pointed out to me by Raymond D. Cotton, whom I was interviewing on another matter. Cotton, a Washington-based lawyer who specializes in presidential contracts, said he was disappointed in Vermont's policy, which could hamstring the good work of spouses.
"I'm a big fan of presidential spouses," he told me, noting that they are traditionally "under-appreciated and under-recognized."
Black Sullivan was not quoted in the article.