Cuts spur protests, graffiti

Students, faculty and staff gathered in the Davis Center at noon on Friday to protest the first phase of UVM’s million-dollar budget cuts, which included the layoffs of 16 staff members.The night before, a comment in prostest of the cuts was spray-painted near an entrance to the Davis Center. Organizers of the march said that they were not responsible for the graffiti. “Putting people out of work in the middle of a recession when clearly there are other options, that is just not something that I think we should be doing at a University that prides itself on social justice and community values,” Maxwell Tracy, UVM senior and organizer of the action group Students Stand Up, which organized the march, said.The protestors marched to the President’s Wing in the Waterman Building, which houses the offices of Daniel Mark Fogel, UVM’s president, and Richard Cate, vice president of Finance and Administration.”Somebody just handed me a statistics sheet that in the last four fiscal years, top administrators were given additional pay and bonuses of $900,000,” Peter Spitzform, a protestor and librarian at Bailey-Howe, said. “That money should immediately be given back, and the people who were laid off today should be re-hired.” “No more layoffs,” Spitzform said. Vice President Cate received the protestors in place of Fogel, who was briefing reporters about the cuts at another location at the time, and stood to hear their concerns.The protestors asked Cate to revoke the layoff notifications that went to staff that day, stop any further layoffs of faculty or staff, balance the budget and to return the administrative salary pool to 2002 levels, UVM sophomore Ben Fiorillo said.”Let’s be straight here, bottom line is, you have a position and we are trying to consider your position and everyone else’s position,” Cate said. “I am not going to make you all happy today, obviously.”During the exchange, Nancy Welch, a UVM English Professor, drew attention to the lack of tenured teachers in UVM’s English Department and the choices that the administration has been making financially.”I wondered if you can explain this, this appeared in my mailbox this morning – it is a detail of additional salaries and bonuses paid to various executives, deans, vice presidents, and provost presidents over the past four years,” Welch said. “How many staff jobs were eliminated today that might have been paid for by this nearly $900,000 in bonuses?”Cate said that the bonuses were part of a compensation package and told the protestors that he was not present at the University at the time of the bonuses. Cate said that reversing Friday’s cuts was not an option.”One of the demands here was to take back what has happened … and that just isn’t going to work. The bottom line is that we have had to make some hard choices,” Cate said.Cate offered to sit down with some student, staff or faculty representatives at a later date to review the budget and discuss some options.”I think that it is really important to recognize that he is not refusing to sit down with us or take our concerns seriously,” Jean-Marie Pearce, a senior and member of Students Stand Up said to the crowd of protestors. “This is an offer that we should think seriously about what he is saying right now.”Before organizers from Students Stand Up left the wing, Cate told the protestors that they could e-mail him and arrange a time to sit down and discuss the situation.