Fighting the downsizing of education at the University of Vermont.

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.

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