Change in Buckham Fund hits humanities

 

Once again, it seems, the branches of scholarship that professor of religion Richard Sugarman playfully calls PHLEMÑreflecting the time-tested ideas of philosophy, history, English and the likeÑare taking a hit.

After a grueling summer of balancing a large budget gap, structuring President Tom SullivanÕs plan to give STEM facilities a $100 million makeover and talk of Incentive Based Budgeting, the Buckham Fund was quietly redirected to aid in English majorsÕ scholarships, reflecting the growing need for financial aid which in part plagued UVMÕs budget.

While the administration claims that closing the budget gap did not have an effect on their decision to redefine the intent of the Buckham FundÑa fund that had financed the visits of many of the worldÕs important thinkers and writers and allowed students the opportunity to participate in workshops and seminars led by these visitorsÑit comes at a suspicious time.

To be fair, the intent of the Buckhams for their fund is vague. It seems to be agreed, however, that they at least intended for the fund to benefit students, a liberal interpretation that the English Department has operated with for a couple decades, allowing the fund to be spent for visiting writers.

Eliminating this purpose undermines the importance of the type of scholarly thinking that the humanities exhibits and rids of the unique program that makes the English Department at UVM so exceptional.

It indirectly supports the push toward STEM and Incentive Based Budgeting by refocusing a scholastic merit on a more technical, budget-based purpose, brushing aside the importance of learning these time-tested ideas in lieu of the sectors of academia that are more widely being referred to as practical.

And the Buckham Fund didnÕt only benefit English majors.

The fund had given the opportunity for the entire UVM community to listen and work with these established thinkers and writers, some of whom included Stephen King, Stanly Fish and George Saunders.

It gave every member of the UVM community the ability to hear and think about ideas that are vital for understanding meaning and purpose in life and human relationships with one another.

And now this unique opportunity is gone.