On November 18th in Waterman, there was one of the quarterly University of Vermont Board of Trustee meetings and the UVM faculty and the student body made themselves a subject on the board’s agenda by silently protesting the administration during the meeting. Over fifty teachers and students attended the board meeting and represented their plight by brandishing banners and fliers that demonstrate pro-union and livable wage rhetoric.
Before the meeting had begun, a group of the faculty and students presented UVM president, Daniel Fogel, with a petition that the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) had been collecting signatures for since September. The petition had more than one thousand signatures and demanded that UVM be a model employer, respect the rights of the University employees, allow the employees to unionize unfettered and also to promote education through the training of Vermonters.
President Fogel smiled as he thanked the students and teachers for presenting him with the document.
The meeting began with opening statements made by Carl Lisman, the Chairman of the Board, who said that professors are necessary to accomplish President Fogel’s vision for the University.
He also said that, as a board, they would establish the best compromise with the faculty that is within the university’s financial means. He said that with the cooperation of Fogel and Vice President Bramley, they could accomplish what is needed for the university.
Lisman stated that “the university is a crucible of free expression” and that all people are welcome to express their beliefs as long as they do so in a dignified and civil manner and that such an approach “would get better results.”
Fogel then spoke of the leaps and bounds that UVM has made since he became the president four years ago. Among the accomplishments of UVM he noted that the average GPA of incoming freshman was up and that thirty percent of UVM applicants who attend the university are in the top ten percentile of their high school graduating classes.
Fogel also noted that the average SAT score for UVM applicants has increased significantly and that there have been unprecedented numbers of applications received this fall.
The president estimated that the total applicant pool would surpass the 14,450 application goal that he had made four years ago.
After the Board Meeting adjourned there was a student, faculty, staff and contracted worker protest on the steps of Waterman, where Colin Robinson, the leader of SLAP and an active union organizer, emceed the protest.
Robinson’s speeches were conversational and were used to interlude the speeches that were made by other prominent union leaders such as David Shiman, the leader of the United Academics teacher union. Michele Patenaude, the leader of the part time teachers union, also spoke at the rally, as did the president of the United Electric workers union and various other staff members and construction workers.
The message presented by the speakers was one that demanded an increase in wages and benefits as well as the freedom to organize.
The message was blared through a megaphone on the steps of Waterman and it echoed through the halls of that building as the Board of Trustees ate their lunch.