Fighting the downsizing of education at the University of Vermont.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Follow SSU's Actions

Follow the live updates from SSU Sit In by texting "on studentsStandUp" to 40404"

Thursday, April 16, 2009

UVM Cynic Slideshow of Last Thursday's Walk-Out

The UVM Administrative Circus

From cartoonist/engineering professor Nancy Hayden

Sunday, April 12, 2009

UVM Protest video #2

Seven Days' video of the start of Thursday's walk-out.

Video 45

Seven Days interviews students on why they walked out.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Why the walk-out mattered

Posted by Paul to the Vermont Labor Activist list:


With some 1000 students walking out of class to protest UVM President Fogel's layoffs, bigger classes, program cuts, and higher tuition, you might expect some reconsideration--especially given the recent restoration of state funding plus federal stimulus money that closes the current deficit. But no.

When Fogel stated several months ago that he would leave UVM rather than take a pay cut to his approx $400,000 salary, one could sense that he was excited by the possibilities of downsizing and reorganizing UVM now that there was the pretext of a budget deficit. That there is no change in plans now shows that the administration's call for "shared sacrifice" during difficult times was just a tactic for selling restructuring. Fogel remains committed to the disastrous path of outlandish executive pay and unbudgeted bonuses, breathtaking project cost overruns at public expense, and the notion that long-term faculty and staff are totally expendable.

With 1 in 6 U.S. workers un- or underemployed, and all the sacrifices of the current recession being shouldered by workers and students, the growing protests to challenge this at UVM are a great development. More below.



Check out the Free Press article and video coverage:

And this excellent summation of the situation by Free Press writer and blogger Tim Johnson

Cat country or Cajun country?--Tim Johnson

We'll have more to say about higher ed reform, unavoidably, but we're going to defer that for now -- this topic is kind of like a term paper, which is what's known in the wonk world as "a conversation worth having" (ACWHA). That is, something to be put off as long as possible.

Today, as folks at UVM get ready for another protest, let's take up the questions on everyone's minds:

If UVM stands to receive a big chunk of one-time federal stimulus money ($5.4 million is the figure we keep hearing) plus a base appropriation from the state that's on a par with what UVM has been receiving lately, then why carry through with all those layoffs and program cuts that were announced in February?

Weren't those cuts predicated on the expectation that the state would reduce its appropriation? And weren't the budget cuts announced before the federal bailout money was on anybody's radar?

So what if the stimulus funding is "one-time money"? It would still buy another year for the baseball/softball programs, and the lecturers who are being let go, and all the rest -- another year to take stock and plan some more for lean times to come.

Letting all those cuts stand might seem almost like not taking the stimulus money at all. That's what the governor of South Carolina is doing, and the governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, has been talking like that too. Hmmm, Louisiana, LSU. Isn't that where Dan Fogel came from? Is he getting his fiscal advice or inspiration from (drum roll, please) Bobby Jindal?

They can't help themselves down in the bayous up at UVM: That's what's they're asking. We'll try to get some answers -- check out the news side of this Web site later today.

Comment from ConcernedforUVM:

Excellent questions! My understanding is that the House budget bill would send UVM two infusions, $5.4 million each, of federal stimulus money. Combined with the usual level of state funding, that should be more than sufficient to close UVM's projected budget gap, take back the layoffs, restore to programs the staffing they need for quality academics and student support, and send the administration back to the drawing board to consider what in the long-term is needed for a more sustainable UVM--including a smaller, less expensive administration. That President Fogel is currently not considering doing any of this suggests that, like Bobby Jindal (and our own governor), he's ideologically driven--by his belief that it is more "efficient" and a good application of "economies of scale" (two of his favorite phrases) to have fewer faculty serving more students.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Free Press photos:

Free Press story:
April 10, 2009

Hundreds walk out at UVM

Students leave classes to protest budget cuts

By Tim Johnson, Free Press Staff Writer

Thursday’s student-organized walkout drew the biggest protest crowd by far since the University of Vermont’s budget woes began, but the rally followed a familiar course with a familiar outcome.

There were speeches, a march, a raucous demonstration outside the administrative offices, but the announced budget cuts and layoffs — the Phase 1 reductions totaling $10.8 million that sparked much of the campus anger that fed the protest — will stand.

Those cutbacks are here to stay, Chief Financial Officer Richard Cate said in an interview that preceded the noisy gathering outside the executive suite. The question now for the administration is whether to proceed with Phase 2, he said, and that likely won’t be decided until May, when the state budget is completed and UVM has a better sense of its fall tuition revenue.

Brightening prospects for state and federal funding, which could bring UVM about $9.5 million more in public support next year than UVM budgeteers forecast a few months ago, will not lead to restoration of the staff jobs, varsity sports or other programs that were cut."> Gallery: UVM student protest

The reason, Cate said, is the administration is trying to balance its fiscal year 2010 budget in the face of a structural shortfall that’s at least $12.8 million, even if UVM receives normal state funding and tuition revenue. Structural, Cate said, means a permanent shortfall that will be there every year unless it’s reduced in some permanent way, as the $10.8 million in cuts are designed to do.

Cate had no opportunity to make that argument when he emerged from the locked administrative suite to address the crowd in the Waterman Building. This was a loud but civil confrontation, and he was presented with a list of 13 demands by members of Students Stand Up, the ad-hoc group that organized the demonstration.

Among the demands were that the administration “revoke all dismissals,” forswear more layoffs, reinstate baseball and softball, cap tuition and enrollment and return the last two years’ worth of administrative bonuses. Cate said administrators were studying some of these demands, but when students demanded an on-the-spot “yes” or “no” to the full list, he replied “not yet,” drawing jeers.

The crowd was in the hundreds, filling most of Waterman’s first-floor hallway. The numbers apparently swelled with students who left class to participate in the rally, which began in front of the library at 1:30 p.m.

Among them were Chris McManus, a sophomore who walked out of his class in Canadian literature; Sarah Barnard, a sophomore who left North American archaeology; and Jane Smith, a junior who walked out of American literature.

Their instructors apparently didn’t hold them back. Some teachers reportedly dismissed classes early. McManus said his teacher taped the lecture so students could hear it later on a podcast.

“I’m not a protester,” McManus said, “but I want to support the students and faculty.”

Smith said her instructor advised students to participate in the demonstration, and she wanted to because “they’re cutting a lot from English and anthropology, my major and minor, and I think it’s important to have small classes.”

Ann Sheperdson, one of six lecturers who have been told they won’t be rehired next fall in women’s and gender studies, was among the speakers at the rally, urging the students to “speak truth to power.”

Sheperdson said non-reappointed lecturers number 107, based on reports gathered by faculty. The administration has said it won’t have a number until summer.

Members of Students Stand Up said they would debrief each other later Thursday before deciding their next steps.

“More actions” are coming, promised student Catherine Nopper.

More amazing photos:

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

(Grim) Faculty Humor

From cartoonist and engineering professor Nancy Hayden:

Free Press Coverage of Budget-Cut Breakfast Protest

April 7, 2009

UVM budget protests continue

By Tim Johnson
Free Press Staff Writer

Budget-cutting protests have resumed at the University of Vermont, with a Monday morning demonstration outside the president's office and plans for a walkout Thursday.

Initial budget reductions for the next fiscal year, announced in February and totaling about $10.8 million, continue to draw objections from faculty, students and staff. United Academics, the faculty union, cites a survey of faculty that shows the impact of cuts falling heavily on the English department, environmental studies and the Helix program for undergraduate science research, among other areas.

Other reductions drawing notice have been in athletics, where intercollegiate baseball and softball have been eliminated for next year; and the UVM farm, where the dairy herd and staff will be cut.

Staff layoffs include 16 announced in February "plus 10 others that were part of separate actions," said university spokesman Enrique Corredera. In addition, he said, about 12 full-time lecturers would not be rehired, along with "a significantly higher number of part-time lecturers." The final outcome, he said, would not be known until summer.

English could lose three tenure-track faculty positions, as departing professors specializing in Victorian literature, fiction writing, and modern British and Irish literature are not expected to be replaced. The Helix program, which supports about 30 undergraduate lab research projects a year, will lose four staff members, said coordinator Gayle Bress; the program will continue but not under the College of Arts & Sciences, Corredera said. Loss of a lecturer in the environmental program leaves 4.6 full-time equivalent faculty serving more than 400 majors, the union said.

Facing flagging revenue in a deepening recession, the administration has vowed to carry out budget cuts without compromising academic quality, even as the overall student-faculty ratio is brought up to a longstanding goal of 16 to 1. Protesters have said academic quality will suffer under cuts already announced.

"We're concerned that our central administration may not be aware of how deeply their planned cuts will erode student experience and how desperate the situation is in some departments," said David Shiman, United Academics president, in a news release. The union said understaffing in the environmental and civil engineering programs puts accreditation at risk.

"Final decisions about the reallocation of resources to academic units are not yet final and will not be concluded until the budget recommendation in May to the board of trustees," Corredera said. The board will review and approve the fiscal 2010 budget, which begins July 1, at its May meeting.

Monday morning's event in the Waterman Building offered a stand-up breakfast with a "let them eat gruel" theme -- in keeping with what protesters called a starvation diet being imposed on academic programs.

The "gruel," ladled out from a pot on the floor, was oatmeal cooked by junior Ali Ascherio. It wasn't as tasteless as the fictional version in Dickens' "Oliver Twist" -- Ascherio said he made it with maple syrup, butter and applies -- but it helped them make their point.

About 40 students, faculty and staffers attended. Sponsors included United Academics; United Electrical Workers Local 267, another UVM bargaining unit, with a contract due to expire July 1; United Staff, which is attempting to unionize unrepresented UVM workers; and Students Stand Up, a group that has mobilized to protest the cuts.

The student group said a walkout protest would be staged at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, beginning with a rally in front of the Bailey-Howe Library and followed by a march to the Waterman Building, which houses administrative offices.

UVM administrators have said a second round of cuts might be announced later this spring, depending partly on prospects for state funding. Budget cutting plans earlier this year were based on the assumption that state funding would be reduced in fiscal hard times. The $10.8 million in reductions already announced were part of what administrators said would be total reduction of about $15 million for fiscal 2010.

The faculty union has said the expected infusion of federal stimulus money should ease UVM's financial burden significantly.

A budget appropriation approved by the Vermont House last week, and now awaiting review in the Senate, restores funding for UVM and Vermont State Colleges in the current fiscal year and next year to previous levels.

In UVM's case, that's an addition of several million dollars that could ease the financial stress next year -- but it's also a one-time boost that will not be available after the federal stimulus program expires.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

United Academics Press Release for Tomorrow's Protest

United Academics Calls April 6 Protest, Will Urge UVM President Fogel to Use Restored Funding to Restore "Starved" Academic Programs

Burlington, VT--An English major without courses in Charles Dickens or the Brontes. A Political Science major without International Politics. A civil and environmental engineering program so understaffed, its accreditation is at risk.

These are only samplings of the sobering realities facing the University of Vermont in the coming year, faculty report, if trustees next month give final approval to President Daniel Mark Fogel's current plans to reduce staffing and increase students.

To call attention to the starvation diet being imposed on UVM's academic programs, United Academics, the union representing most UVM faculty, is joining with students and staff this Monday, 8:30 am, in the Waterman building for a "Let Them Eat Gruel?" budget-cut protest. Co-sponsors include United Electrical Workers Local 267, United Staff, and Students Stand Up.

They will also call on Fogel to use the restored state support and federal stimulus funds included in the budget bill that passed the House side of the state legislature Thursday night to restore jobs, positions, and programs.

Said David Shiman, professor of Education and faculty union president, "We're concerned that our central administration may not be aware of how deeply their planned cuts will erode student experience and how desperate the situation is in some departments."

Monday's protest will feature findings from United Academics' recent survey of faculty about the impact of position cuts and layoffs. In English, for instance, the department's only professor positions in fiction writing, Victorian literature, and modern British and Irish literature are to be eliminated. With the layoffs of up to six lecturers who had taught as many as five writing courses each semester, the department's introductory writing offerings will be reduced by half.

But while members of Students Stand Up will serve bowls of oatmeal at the Monday morning protest, participants say they won't beg but insist that the university's resources be reallocated to safeguard academic quality, student experience, and the faculty and staff on whom both depend.

UVM's resources for safeguarding academics seem likely to receive a welcome boost from the Vermont state legislature. So that Vermont qualifies for federal stimulus money, the Vermont House of Representatives voted last night on an appropriations bill that restores $5.4 million in state support to UVM for this year. The bill also sends the university an additional $5.4 million in stimulus money next year to supplement the state's usual appropriation.

With no cuts in state support next year and $5.4 million in additional stimulus funding, UVM's $14.7 million budget gap for the coming year would shrink to $4.3 million.

The $5.4 million the House voted to return to the university for the current year could also be applied to next year's budget, wiping out the deficit entirely. Combined with an administration willing to place themselves on a strict spending diet, rally organizers point out, the stimulus funding could, as Congress intended, enable UVM to restore jobs and keep tuition down.

University administrators have faced sharp criticism in recent months for their spending priorities, including the $41+ million PeopleSoft financial and human resources system, which will claim another half million from next year's budget, and the recent revelation that 21 administrators had drawn nearly $900,000 in additional salary and bonuses.

"We believe that our Congressional delegation, in voting yes on the federal stimulus package, and our legislators, now considering a restoration of higher-ed funding, are doing so because of their commitment to keeping the faculty and staff needed to maintain academic quality at UVM," Shiman said. "We want to make sure our administration understands that whatever resources we have must go to shoring up our programs and the faculty and staff on whom students depend."

Thursday, April 2, 2009

House Budget Bill Would Eliminate UVM Budget Gap

First Fogel said $22 million.

Next he said $28 million.

Then, after two "treasury operations" transfers, the budget gap was $14.7 million, and Fogel told the deans they must cut $15 million from next year's budgets.

But now the House, so that Vermont qualifies for federal stimulus money, has passed a budget that will maintain the full level of funding for UVM next year: $5 million of the projected deficit evaporates.

More, it appears the House budget also includes, to meet the stimulus eligibility guidelines, a return of $5.4 million of this year's rescission. If applied to the budget deficit, that would shrink the gap to $4.3 million. The House bill also adds $5.4 million in stimulus money to next year's UVM appropriation. The deficit entirely disappears.

We're a long, long way from $28 million.

But whether the restored money goes to restoring jobs and halting tuition and fee increases, as Congress intended, and whether the administration places itself on a strict spending--and reduction--diet so that UVM can staff programs and keep the cost to students down: That's up to us.

Hope to see a large crowd Monday morning 8:30 am in Waterman where the "Let Them Eat Gruel?" budget-cut protest now has a new purpose--not only to protest the starvation of academic programs (an English department losing its only professor positions in Victorian lit, creative writing/fiction, and British and Irish modern lit; a Poli Sci department threatened with the loss of any faculty to cover International Politics) but to demand that the restored state money be used to restore jobs and programs.

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