UVM’s Honda Civic

The new Transdisciplinary Research Initiative that the UVM administration is implementing is equivalent to getting a new paint job for your ‘95 Honda Civic. It’s immediately going to make the school look better, but inside you’re still driving a Civic.The plan creates more research opportunities at UVM and contains eight areas of study, or “Spires of Excellence.”  Spires of Excellence.  Catchy.And that’s exactly what this plan is.  It’s catchy, progressive looking, respectable-sounding and, most importantly, rushed and flawed.While the research element of the initiative may temporarily improve UVM’s reputation as a top-notch school — it may even raise our rank in U.S. News and World Report — yet the overall cost burdens may hurt the school.Now is a time when faculty is being cut, class sizes are ballooning and students are having more trouble than ever registering for classes.Sinking money into our graduate student research programs is not working toward solving those critical problems with undergraduates’ education.Grad students make up only about 10 percent of the student population.That means undergrads get to supply the extra money, either with higher tuition costs or having funds for their programs cut.  The money has to come from somewhere.TRI has another problem: it was a move made almost entirely by the administration.  Faculty were given very little say during the planning process.It makes perfect sense. Why ask the people — who work most closely with students — about their students’ strengths and needs, right?And now that the planning is all over, what can the faculty really do?  If you’re not tenured you can’t very well stand up against the administration.  You just have to nod your head, smile and mumble your complaints under your breath.   The Cynic certainly believes in taking steps to improve the quality of education offered at UVM, but we believe that TRI just isn’t the right step. It comes off as a rushed publicity stunt, meant to expand the school’s reputation in the short term while hurting it immediately financially. TRI may make UVM shinier but it doesn’t address its current problems — it may just amplify them.Maybe UVM just needs a new car.