The Vermont Cynic

Faculty union ad deceives students

Staff Editorial

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Let’s get one thing straight: for what they do, some of the best professors at UVM make nowhere near enough money.

Take Rubenstein professor Trish O’Kane, who developed a program that connects young children with nature through birding.

Or English professor Major Jackson, poetry editor of the Harvard Review, whose classes inspire and encourage new artists.

Every student on staff has their favorite professor — we all wish they had better salaries and we support faculty efforts to raise salaries.

In December last year, United Academics, the faculty union, began a campaign for a 4 percent salary increase called Open the Books at UVM.

While we wholeheartedly support the goal of the faculty union, we are disappointed in the attacks the campaign has lodged against the University.

We are upset with the ways that UA has misled students to gain support their cause.

In the most recent issues of the Cynic, UA has run a half-page ad meant to show how little a faculty salary increase would compare to other University expenditures.

The advertisement, which the UA also put on bulletin boards around campus, is misleading.

It shows how a salary increase of 1 percent would cost the University $853,000 annually compared to a $10 million costs of a new basketball stadium and $3 million to connect Central Campus Residence Hall to the Bailey/Howe library.

There are several issues with how this data is conveyed.

The union is not asking for the 1 percent increase but a 4.5 percent increase. That’s more than $3.8 million.

And the comparison is unfair for another more costly reason: an increase in salaries is a yearly cost. The yearly salary increases are being compared to one-time building costs.

The union unfairly glosses over the intricacies of where the funding for the new athletic complex and a salary increase would come from.

While salary increases would require raising tuition or firing faculty members, the multipurpose center will be funded by private donations and student fees.

The graphic, which accuses UVM administrators of “shortchanging teaching and research,” does not show that there are different funding sources.

And it’s not just the graphic; UA members have brought their message into classrooms.

Helen Scott, an English professor, asked her students in class to support the request for a salary increase and urged them to attend an “Open the Books” campaigning event Feb. 1.

UA said they’re going to open the books on the administration and finances, but their books are open.

Go talk to Richard Cate, vice president of finance and treasury. The University is transparent about where the money goes.

Yes, we support the call to increase faculty salaries, even if it means a tuition increase.

We do not support the misleading manner in which UA has called students to its cause.

1 Comment

One Response to “Faculty union ad deceives students”

  1. Wes Dunn on February 9th, 2018 1:59 pm

    In terms of misleading info, I think y’all are missing the point.

    Trish O’Kane’s yearly salary is listed as $54,938. Major Jackson makes over twice that: nearly $120,000 a year. Does he need more money? How about Richard Cate, who makes over twice than Jackson: $247,153? You could put this down to academic hierachies: O’Kane is a lecturer, Jackson is a full Professor, and Cate is an administrator. Guess who’s also a full Professor? James Hudziak of WE fame: $375,525!*

    I’ll just throw out there quickly that the grad students who TA a lot of your courses, such as ENGS 001, get about $16,000 for the academic year. They probably wouldn’t mind a salary increase. So yes, we should be critical of UA ads; we should probably question exactly who needs a salary raise. But there are a lot of other things I think y’all need to question at the same time.

    Your focusing on “funding sources” is valid, but misses the point. As I understand it, a key concern being raised by UA is that CAS is facing layoffs and a hiring freeze while administrators and some faculty reap huge salaries, and flashy PR rules the day. Instead of pointing out that a new stadium comes from a different funding source than faculty raises, why don’t you question the UVM Foundation and “Move Mountains” campaign, and what its priorities are? Where the money comes from is inextricably related to where it goes. Why don’t you focus on the incentive-based budgeting model, where the library is a “drain” and instructors are strongly pressured to maintain “butts-in-seats” and treat you all like fragile clients?

    Instead of just saying “the books are open,” I think we need a conversation about what can be read in them. This is a really nuanced issue; but I think that going after UA is akin to watering a houseplant while your house is burning. I’d love to see the Cynic apply its critical lens to ludicrous administrative and faculty salaries, student debt, the elitism of University, and the classroom experience under IBB, for starters. That is, if course, unless you don’t think these issues affect you. Then you should just keep reporting the perspective of administrative officials making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

    *https://www.uvm.edu/~oir/?Page=base_pay.html&SM=submenu_fac_staff.html

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Faculty union ad deceives students