The Vermont Cynic

‘They don’t give a shit:’ faculty union fills John Dewey Lounge to discuss cuts to the humanities

Lee Hughes and Lindsay Freed

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The UVM faculty union plans to take action against recent cuts to various humanities departments in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The faculty union, United Academics, held a meeting for faculty and students Feb. 5 in the John Dewey Lounge to discuss the state of the humanities at UVM and possible responses to the administration’s decisions.

The room overflowed with students, faculty and community members. All 70 chairs were filled; students and faculty sat in the aisles, stood against the walls and flowed out the door and into the hallway.

CAS Dean Bill Falls announced the college would not renew contracts for two lecturers and would reduce the hours taught by 10 others, according to a December 2018 memo sent by Falls to CAS faculty and staff.

The reductions come after enrollment in CAS dropped 16 percent since 2008, according to the memo.  Nine additional lecturer positions will likely be cut over the next five years, according to the memo.

Suggestions for action included writing letters to the administration and board of trustees, spreading their message to the public through pamphlets and radio appearances and demonstrating on admitted student days.

“They don’t give a shit about us,” assistant French professor Charles-Louis Morand Metivier said. “We can’t stand this anymore, and we won’t stand this anymore.”

Metivier said that the University’s priorities are skewed, citing the $95 million multipurpose center project being worked on while lecturers are being cut.

The UVM Foundation is fundraising for the multipurpose center, and its other costs will be paid for by an increased student fee by classes that will utilize the facility upon its completion, according to a November 2018 Cynic article.  

Brian Walsh, a senior lecturer who was cut from the classics department, accused the administration of prioritizing profit over education. He described the administration as an oligarchy, where an elite group rules over the majority.

“If there’s a burden on this University, it’s the oligarchy that sits on our shoulders,” Walsh said.

Attendees also discussed how students can get involved in protesting the administration.

Junior Scarlett Moore, a member of UVM’s International Socialist Organization, said the best way to win student support is for UA to take up demands that students care about, like the needs of minority student groups.

Senior Charlotte Malling, chair of the SGA academic affairs committee, said the senators on her committee are not taking sides, but they support UA since they are working to protect the humanities. 

“We’re working to make information from all perspectives transparent and we all have the same goal: protecting the integrity, diversity and rigor of our liberal arts program,” Malling said. “Let’s work together to make this information transparent to students— student responses have historically been the most effective.”

English professor Mary Lou Kete suggested students withhold their tuition to protest faculty cuts.

“They are not going to throw you out of classes,” Kete said. “You’re here. They want your money.”

The meeting also touched on the announcement of the sole candidate for the next University president, Suresh Garimella, executive vice president for research partnerships at Purdue University, according to a Feb. 4 email from David Daigle, chair of the UVM board of trustees.

Daigle said in a Feb. 3 interview with the Cynic that announcing Garimella is the sole finalist does not guarantee he will be the next president. Garimella will be on campus Feb. 13 to 15 for public meetings with the campus community, according to the email.

That decision remains up to the board, Daigle said. The process was a hybrid partially private, partially public process, which is the new standard in the market for University presidents, he said.

Sarah Alexander, UA president and associate professor of English, said the process for selecting the next president excluded students and faculty more than in the past.

“It does not demonstrate a commitment to shared governance,” Alexander said.

Metivier expressed similar sentiments about faculty being shut out from the process.

“The candidate, let’s be honest, is our next president,” Metivier said.

This story updated at 11:12 a.m. on Feb. 6 to include additional comment from Malling. 


4 Responses to “‘They don’t give a shit:’ faculty union fills John Dewey Lounge to discuss cuts to the humanities”

  1. Charlotte Malling on February 5th, 2019 9:59 pm

    Small clarification: We support all faculty & are working to make information from all perspectives on this matter transparent so students are well-informed and can take collective productive action on this alongside AA/SGA as a whole 🙂 Also my quote on student responses being “historically the most effective” was taken out of context, it was me acknowledging Nancy Welch making that point earlier which she backed up with some concrete examples from the past two decades.

  2. Theodore Cohen on February 7th, 2019 4:48 pm

    If the enrollment is down how can you, VT cynic, not ask some obvious questions?

  3. Seth Wade on February 7th, 2019 5:35 pm

    Fellow students: UVM administration is lowering our quality of education. If you had problems with Sullivan, just want until the “anointed one” arrives. We need to stand up and FIGHT alongside faculty. Our university needs to be a university again, not a business. Our professors sacrifice so much, we sacrifice so much—when will the administration start making sacrifices?

  4. Ann Igma on February 10th, 2019 1:18 am

    UVM put all their eggs in the STEM basket with that $105M STEM complex (which, by the way, had less donor support than the events center – the obvious clue there is that the events center hasn’t even started construction and has a name and Discovery Hall’s been open all year and no donor wants to step up). Why is it shocking that liberal arts takes the L after that?

    Blaming the events center isn’t even relevant, since it seems like the number changes every time I see it (is it $85M? 90? 95? I’ve seen all of those numbers floated around), and if you’re also going to say “they’re prioritizing athletics,” well, the athletic dept had some layoffs earlier this year.

    I’d also buy UA’s arguments a little more if Kete wasn’t one of their loudest mouthpieces. Worst prof I have EVER had.

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‘They don’t give a shit:’ faculty union fills John Dewey Lounge to discuss cuts to the humanities