Students mobilize against budget cuts


LINDSAY FREED/The Vermont Cynic

Sophomore Nina Singleton-Spencer sits among students and faculty during the discussion portion of a Feb. 5 United Academics meeting. Students have expressed their frustrations over the College of Arts and Sciences budget changes through posters, memes and protests.

Lindsay Freed and Lee Hughes

In light of budget changes to the College of Arts and Sciences, students have expressed their frustration on campus and online.

Students have been hanging posters, posting memes and helping organize protests after cuts were made to humanities programs, including the loss of lecturer positions in classics,  Romance languages and linguistics.

Senior Seth Wade has been hanging flyers since the beginning of February depicting Provost David Rosowsky wearing a crown and surrounded by bags of money, he said.

The posters cite statistics about acceptance rates, expenditures and other facts about UVM he got from public records and studies of UVM, Wade said. One depicts Rosowsky saying “Fight amongst yourselves for your funds — don’t you know we’re in a financial crisis?!”

Wade is part of the Coalition for Student and Faculty Rights, a group of students that intends to use protests and posters to get the administration’s attention about students’ dissatisfaction, said sophomore Cobalt Tolbert, a Coalition member.

The posters blame Rosowsky for a budget situation he did not create and contain misinformation that lacks important context, according to a Feb. 22 statement to the Cynic from University Communications Director Enrique Corredera.

Students have also expressed their dissatisfaction with the University through memes posted online in forums like Make UV Groovy Again.

The Facebook group allows students to express their frustration and anger in a comedic format, said senior Camil Srna, SGA senator and MUGA administrator.

Not all of the information posted in the group is always accurate, Srna said.

“The sole fact that people have been posting about what has been going on has helped with awareness as a whole,” Srna said. “What’s most important would be dialogue.”

It’s good students are talking, but sometimes the information they share in memes and on posters is misleading, said senior Charlotte Malling, chair of the SGA academic affairs committee.

“Making people laugh is one thing, but it’s spreading misinformation that’s not helping students, not helping faculty and not helping potential students,” Malling said.

Malling and her committee are working on a fact sheet about CAS, but it has taken them longer than expected because of the situation’s complexity, she said.

Academic Affairs is working with senior Meagan Cummins to start a “Humans of Humanities” Facebook and Instagram account that will showcase students and faculty involved in the humanities, Malling said.

The project was inspired by Humans of New York, a photoblog that publishes portraits and street interviews, but comes out of a writing and visual arts campaign Cummins started for students to express why humanities matter, she said.

Cummins, a chemistry major, said it’s important STEM students study the humanities to gain an understanding of how their research affects the human experience.

“[As a chemistry major] you’re taught how to do a lot of things. It’s very conceptual and very theoretical, but you’re never taught the ethical implications of what it is you’re doing,” she said.

CAS has made cuts to lecturer positions and hours as it works to resolve a $1.3 million deficit for this academic year, according to a Feb. 9 email from CAS Dean Bill Falls and Rosowsky.

Not all students are opposed to these changes.

Junior Grace Skylstad, a biochemistry major, said it makes sense that if fewer students are taking humanities they consequently have fewer resources.

“There’s just not a better system in place,” she said. “It’s supply and demand.”

Sarah Alexander, associate English professor and president of the faculty union, said that the cuts to lecturer positions were announced following cuts in the humanities the year before.

“Even if we have fewer majors in certain areas I think those departments should exist,” Alexander said. “A university is not a corporation. It’s about the production of knowledge and our role doing that.”