UVM Faculty Seeks to End Stalemate with Administration

UVM is changing in areas both visible and unseen by the common student. As President Fogel continues to reshape the school, a range of interest groups have risen to stake their claim in the current expansion, including many of the faculty. That is why this past Friday the 23rd, at 5 o’clock a group of students and professors advocating faculty contract negotiations marched from the Sheraton in South Burlington to Royall Tyler – Theater on main campus chanting “two, four, six, eight: UVM negotiate” and “money for the classroom, not for the boardroom.”

UVM ranks low nationally in terms of faculty salaries, “out of 220 doctoral level universities in the US, UVM ranks 169th.” In addition, raises for professor promotions (from lecturer to senior lecturer for example), which average around 5%, pale in comparison to administration promotions (from vice provost to provost for example), which, by the administration’s own assessment, average around 13%. English Professor Nancy Welch warns that this assessment of administration promotional salary increases is purposely deceiving.

“For starters,” she argues “the administration appears to have arrived at this 13 percent average by including in their calculations the handful of positions that have been eliminated since 2001 plus one position that shifted from full-time to less than half-time.” “In fact, of the 19 vice president, associated vice president, and assistant vice president positions at UVM, only two had salary increases in the range of 12 and 14 percent.” While fifteen of those positions received “salary increases range(ing) from 20 percent to a whopping 79 percent.” The president’s office has received nearly a 60 percent raise since 2000, and increased from 172,391 to 275,600.

Tom Streeter, Secretary of United Academics, stresses the impact teacher salaries have on an institution’s reputation: “Compensation levels, of course, shape the university’s ability to hire and retain quality faculty, as many of us know from experience…And the ways in which a university spends its money expresses its values; salary levels suggest to those both inside and outside UVM what the university thinks is important.”

The current “fiscal image” of UVM obviously does not work to benefit its reputation, for “among the 17 ‘Public Ivy’ schools with which we are frequently compared, we are the lowest paid.” Even more shocking is the fact that “Typical UVM starting salaries for assistant professors in most disciplines are below what the Federal Government calls ‘low income’ for a family of four in the area.”

A common ground of worry for both students and faculty is class size. So far, United Academics has received no response to their “proposals to protect educational quality by limiting class size growth and increasing the percentage of instructional faculty on the tenure track.” It is hard to imagine UVM preserving its gleaming academic reputation in the face of a growing student body and dwindling faculty, never mind the intimately small classes most students enjoy.

The faculty and administration have been gridlocked for the past nine months and recently reached out to the United Academics Contract Negotiations to mediate the conflict. Students interested in supporting their faculty, or who just want to learn more about the current situation, can access www.unitedacademics.org.