Outgoing Ohio University Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Deborah Shaffer will be permitted to work remotely as special consultant to President Hugh Sherman, but she’ll occasionally be required to report to Athens at the request of the president.

Shaffer, who in August will step down from her CFO role to become an “unclassified contract administrator” to advise the president for a year before her planned 2022 retirement, won’t be reimbursed by the university for any associated travel fees should Sherman summon her to campus if she chooses to work from home, according to a copy of her newly approved contract.

The outgoing CFO said in an email that she will utilize the remote work option.

Working away from an office has become increasingly accepted nationwide amid the pandemic and has since become the norm for some major companies. 

While most OU faculty and staff employees will be expected to work in-person in some capacity (with more flexible options in certain departments) for the upcoming fall semester as the pandemic wanes, OU spokesperson Carly Leatherwood said remote work clauses are exceedingly common in contractors’ employment agreements for positions across the university.

“In some cases the contract explicitly outlines the location of the work. In others, the remote nature of services is assumed and the contract only covers any agreement related to the cost of any necessary travel … In fact, it would be far more rare for us to utilize contract services for which we expect all work to be conducted on campus,” Leatherwood said.

“In the case of Ms. Shaffer, I would be remiss if I did not point out that this is a negotiated term of the contract. The University allows for remote work in certain circumstances, but if an individual is required to be on campus for some necessary aspect of his/her work, any associated cost is a result of that person’s personal choices and should not result in a financial burden to the institution.”

The inclusion of the clause follows The Athens NEWS reporting earlier in the year that Shaffer, one of the university’s most powerful executives, sold her Meigs County home and no longer owned residential property in Ohio at a time when most university faculty and staff, including her, were working from home.

The fine details of Shaffer’s living situation were never made clear as the university at the time declined to say whether she was still an Ohio resident after arguing that The NEWS was “unethical” in its pursuit of information concerning Shaffer’s private life and that it would no longer comment on the topic, saying her residency was “irrelevant to the work of the University.”

After the story was published, President Duane Nellis engaged in a public effort to cast doubt on The NEWS’ reporting, claiming without evidence in a letter that the publication “concocted fiction” about the now-outgoing CFO. Subsequently, several of OU’s in-state competitors publicly affirmed that their CFOs lived in Ohio.

Editor's Note: This report has been updated to include comment from Shaffer.

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