Union gains support

  Contract impasses between the administration and faculty, staff and police unions have prompted union supporters to publicly express their discontent at two recent events.   Students, staff and faculty members met administration and United Academics representatives last week as they entered Jeffords Hall with a mediator in order to attempt to resolve their contract impasse.   In a spirited display of solidarity, union supporters caused a commotion, vocally denouncing what they believe to be unfair terms proposed by administrators.   Chants from the crowd such as “retirement for the next generation, not just for administration,” and “we are the 99 percent,” were heard throughout the building.   Union supporters reconvened on Oct. 21 at the Davis Center to express their discontent to the Board of Trustees at their meeting.   About 60 individuals descended upon the Grand Maple Ballroom and staged a silent picket in condemnation of the administration’s requests.    Chair Robert Cioffi immediately acknowledged the picketers as they entered the meeting.    “We respect your right to protest, but we ask that you express yourself in a peaceful, undisruptive manner,” Cioffi said.   The crowd honored his request and stood silently, holding signs that expressed their concerns as the Board carried on their planned business.   “Corporate values are not university values,” and “put the money where the students are,” two of the signs stated.   When an executive session was called to discuss the contract impasse, effectively evicting all non-board members from the room, the crowd left peacefully, but not quietly.   In a procession out of the ballroom, the picketers chanted “they say cut back, we say fight back” and “money for jobs and education, not for more administration.”   Junior Michelle Marion said she took part in the event because she believes that her tuition dollars are not being spent well.   “My parents pay $40,000 a year for me to go to this school, and my education isn’t representative of that dollar amount.  It just goes straight into the pockets of administrators,” she said.   Student empowerment and engagement is a critical component to achieving the desired outcome, Marion said.   “We have the power because we have the money,” she said.   Sociology professor and United Academics Executive Council Member Beth Mintz said she also believes that the allocation of tuition dollars isn’t conducive to optimizing student education.   “What we have now are two UVM’s,” Mintz said. “There is one with enough money for bonuses and golden parachutes, and there is one in retrenchment with less faculty and less time for students.”   Mintz said that the terms set forth by the administration would only perpetuate this growing divide and thereby disadvantage future generations of both students and faculty.   “United Academics is very interested in reaching an agreement that maximizes UVM’s potential by navigating the needs of the institution and the faculty,” she said.   Less attractive contract terms, such as those proposed by the administration, would cause prospective faculty to be less likely to pursue a career at UVM, Mintz said.   Moreover, with less money earmarked for academic purposes, faculty will find it more difficult to adequately tend to the students’ needs, she said.   “We won’t turn our backs on the next generation,” she said.