UVM’s identity crisis


If the University goes further with an initiative to focus on the three ÒSpires of ExcellenceÓÑ complex systems, food systems, and neuroscience and behavioral healthÑ we hope that the quality of these programs are not at the expense of others.

This University is becoming increasingly well known as a research institution. The graduate programs based around scientific research and these three spires are some of the UniversityÕs strongest areas, and itÕs obvious that these fields are popular in the professional world.

However, one of the things that makes UVM so great is that we are more than a research institution.

The University has appealed to so many people in that it can be a prominent liberal arts college while also excelling in fields of scientific research. It can graduate students with degrees in engineering who have also had strong course loads in the humanities so that they know not only how things work, but what they mean.

Dennis Clougherty, chairman of the physics department, told the Burlington Free Press in 2009 that while the administration termed this initiative Òinvest and grow,Ó a fellow professor of his has referred to it as Òdismantle and grow.Ó

In a world that has become increasingly dictated by technical work and specified techniques, this seems reasonable and it is understandable why the country as a whole is moving in this direction.

Yet UVM has abandoned principles that were seemingly inherent in the character of this institution Ñ a diverse education in both the sciences and humanities that prepares students for more than just their future jobs.

And while supporters of the spires claim they are transdisciplinary, we hope the administration understands that spires are not the only guiding principles for a future UVM education.

On a positive note, President Tom Sullivan said in his early days as president that he would look to expand these spires to include the environment and humanities.

To borrow an expression from religion professor Richard Sugarman, we at the Cynic think this is necessary in order for students to make not just a living, but a life.