United Academics proposes University faculty increase

Faculty stood in the Silver Maple Ballroom holding signs that said, “Put the money where the students are.” United Academics (UA) held a press conference asking the administration to make changes in order to improve academic quality on Feb. 9, according to a press release. The UA represents most of the University’s faculty, and they requested that the administration fund more faculty positions, the press release stated. “Between 2002 and 2010, the number of [full time equivalent (FTE)] students grew by 42 percent,” the press release stated. “During this same period, the number of full-time instructional faculty grew by only 8 percent.” However, the statistics that the UA has based its argument on have been presented differently by the administration, according to the Burlington Free Press. “Undergraduate enrollment grew by 43 percent during this period, and the number of faculty grew by 18 percent,” Vice President of Finance Richard Cate wrote in an e-mail to the Burlington Free Press.   Using the administration’s numbers, the University has a student to faculty ratio of 17.6 to 1, which is much lower than many of our peer institutions, Cate said. The reason the numbers have been inconsistent between the two groups is because the administration’s statistics include professors who are not permanent members of the faculty, UA President David Shiman said. “They also add to that number all the administrators who are teaching a course or two,” Shiman said. “They also add to those numbers people who are part-timers.” By increasing the amount of faculty, UVM would be using more of its financial budget to support and improve academics, he said. In 2005, the University spent 51.4 percent of their budget on academics while in 2010, UVM spent 47.8 percent on academics, according to the University of Vermont base budget. The union believes that as the University spends less money on academics, the number of students in their classes increases, Shiman said. “The core academic mission, which is still an undergraduate mission, is being shortchanged,” he said. “We will be proposing more faculty, attention to faculty security and improvement in the quality of our professional lives.” Faculty members have said that the change in class size was a major reason for calling the press conference. “Faculty feel the squeeze with bigger classes and scores of advisees,” English professor Nancy Welch said. “Students feel the squeeze as they pay higher tuition yet have less access to and mentoring by long-term faculty.” Some students have said that the larger class sizes have negatively impacted their educational experience. “Intro classes are really hard because there are so many people in there,” senior Rachel Park said. “It’s not until you get to the advanced classes where the teachers actually get to know your name. That’s sad.” Shiman said that he was satisfied with the outcome of the press conference and that he felt like the UA’s point got across to those in attendance. “UA believes that unless we address now certain institutional tendencies, so to speak, we might do great damage to our core academic mission and to our capacity to compete and retain faculty and student in the years ahead,” he said.