Fighting the downsizing of education at the University of Vermont.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

UVM Apartheid Divestment, Part II

Part II (see below entry for Part I!) of the escalating semester-long mass student campaign at UVM in Fall 1985 to push for divestment from Apartheid South Africa. After students succeeding in winning in divestment, they turned to the problem of racism on campus and a curriculum that, 20 years after the civil rights and women's movements, still offered little by way of U.S. ethnic and women's studies. In subsequent years, the question was taken up by numerous committees and task forces, their recommendations ignored--until 1988 and 1990 when the issue, and activism, surged back into the open again.

UVM Apartheid Divestment, Part I

Thanks to the archives of the late Will Miller, we have news clips of UVM campus activism throughout Fall 1985 as students, with some faculty and staff, used every available means, growing their numbers and escalating their actions over the semester, to push the trustees to divest from Apartheid South Africa. This clip is Part 1.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

timing is a tactic

"However, time is of the essence, as state government is learning. The longer the university puts this off, the harder and more costly it becomes. To suggest that the cuts can be found by a campuswide focus group is unrealistic. To suggest, as has been by one university union leader, that the answer is to fire President Dan Fogel and the board of trustees shows how ludicrous the debate is going to get. No one has purposely created this situation..."

We read this quote in the BFP editorial (12/23/08), and it serves as a great example of one of the top arguments running against SSFT. So let's debunk, and I welcome help with the details...

First, 'time is of the essence' is exactly the message the administration counts on (as well as Wall Street) and it is this insistence that is bringing the greatest clamour from the greatest number of folks that do the work and serve the students up on campus. This financial mess was a long-time coming, and we can't assume there were that many folks not doing their job in their comfortable chairs--so we must recognize that the administration could have, should have done their job and started looking for creative solutions through the wisdom and knowledge of those on the ground actually providing the UVM learning experience. Professor Streeter: "A faculty member who has taught thousands of students over the years knows a lot about what students need or want. A well-published scholar might have useful ideas about how best to focus the university's research priorities."

That they didn't prepare, that they aren't hearing the collective voices of the faculty, staff, and students (but rather isolating department chairs and deans upon whom thousands of folks, including the students and their quality of education, are depending to speak up, alone... and do what? say no?). This timing excuse backs folks into a corner--it is a tactic, and it has been used before. How do we say never again? We stand up now. And there is much at stake--these budget shortfall "solutions" really look like they will create further "problems"--for example, how are classrooms supposed to function with an increase of 300 students and a significant termination of lecturer positions (upon whom many departments depend as the number of tenured has not kept pace with student growth and lecturers have multiplied, no doubt part of a cost-saving strategy by the administration) as well as a huge loss of staff who already are each working jobs that normally would require two or more people? One professor commented at the Arts and Sciences Dean's meeting (to share where money would be cut) that making irrational decisions because we are squeezed for time will have long-lasting and serious ramifications.

If we don't take the time (which somehow the administration is trying to steal from us by putting all this off until the holidays, when folks and students leave) these cuts will mark a significant step in the direction of a corporate university. This is the fear above all else that motivates me--corporate solutions means that people are no longer in the vision, and that my university is no longer about my education, but about cost-saving and huge administrative salaries--while my generation pays more and more to get through college... and fewer and fewer of us are able to do this.

I included more in the editorial quote! "No one has purposely created this situation." Well, that is not a whole truth, is it? Well, it depends on what 'purposely' means and whether this editorial considers that part of the administration's job is to be responsible to the community. When the BFP has run articles on the sloppy mismanagement of funds I find it ironic this tone should appear in the most recent article. When 40% (and who knows now about these percentages and estimations coming from the President?) of this shortfall is due to internal factors, clearly some folks were irresponsible... And now who pays for it? Certainly not those who are responsible--I am sorry but symbolic gestures mean nothing when folks are being told to be "frugal" over the holidays (from the Dean of A&S to a staff person wondering what to do going into the holidays, not knowing if it is her job that will be cut and not knowing when).

It is funny that the op-ed uses the word "ludicrous"--that was the same word used by professors and staff over and again at the Dean's meeting: It is ludicrous that over $10 million was minmanaged by the administration and they are telling faculty and staff to cut where all has already been cut to the bone--there is no more fat left! And that means that not only folks, through no fault of their own, are going to the unemployment office in a time of recession, it means that we students loose our mentors even though its killing us and our families financially to be here.

Timing is a tactic! This timing is "purposeful"! And op-eds aren't going to be heard well enough, and nothing will be heard unless we stand up. If not now, when?

Click on the image above, from the Chronicle of Higher Education, to see it in detail. You'll see that last year President Fogel's compensation included a $15,000 performance bonus (for failing to catch the $10 million in PeopleSoft overpayments?) as well as the $12,936 car allowance and $21,600 housing allowance (because he can't possibly live on campus and because he can't possibly afford his car and mortgage payments on a base salary of $314,696).

Tell the Free Press UVM should downsize from the top

Today's Free Press has one editorial on UVM cuts and one op-ed by a UVM faculty member and United Academics officer:

The editorial takes an unwarranted jab at Carmyn for calling for Fogel and the trustees to go. It's not "ludicrous" to call for the ouster of a CEO whose administration, as the Free Press put it in a September editorial, "squandered millions." What's ludicrous is for that CEO to be permitted oversee the layoffs of dozens of workers.

But the Free Press editorial also gives a good angle for us to all sit down and write letters as Paul did yesterday: With a list of the steps the administration is taking besides the planned layoffs (top-tier administrative salary freezes, cap on building projects and borrowing, allowing some vacant administrative posts to go unfilled), the editorial states "These steps are the *minimum* the university should be doing if the financials are forcing layoffs."

Yes, the minimum: The maximum of what UVM should be doing isn't just freezing top-tier  salaries that have grown sevenfold under Fogel but cutting them. How many staff,
 lecturer, and maintenance worker jobs could be saved if the president, vice presidents and vice provosts, deans, associate deans, and sundry directors and senior liaisons all accepted a salary for the next three years of $100,000 a year (and no extra housing and car allowance for Fogel)? What's unreasonable about that? What is it about $100,000/year that these folks find impossible to live on?

The editorial also makes a second important point: that the proposed 6% tuition hike for UVM next year runs well ahead of what people will be able to afford. Another reason to keep arguing for downsizing from the top.

Letters to the editor can be sent the Include a phone number where they can reach you for verification.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Where did the money go?

From $100+ Million in the Black to $22+ Million in the Red

Where Did the Money Go?

Students, Staff, and Faculty Call for Moratorium on UVM Budget Cuts and Layoffs

Press Release

Sunday, December 21, 2008

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