We have to act if we want to protect quality teaching

Seth Wade

Last week, I distributed memes across campus, critiquing Provost David Rosowsky and the rollout of major cuts to the College of Arts and Sciences.

Though merely memes, they used facts from UVM’s 2017 Annual Finance Report and American Association of University Professors Financial Analysis to raise a serious question.

Students and faculty must decide if education is a public good or a commodity. Diversity, faculty, the liberal arts — this distinction impacts everything.

Consider incentive-based budget modeling. Each college is assigned a specific multiplier which determines how much money they get per student.

The College of Arts and Sciences is assigned a multiplier of 1.0. Others colleges get a higher multiplier, meaning CAS receives less money per student. The College of Medicine, for example, has a multiplier of 1.3.

The dean of CAS, Williams Falls, proposed a five-year budget scenario for dealing with the roughly $2 million deficit imposed by IBB. It details removing 26 full-time instructors and a 40 percent decrease in part-time instructors over the next five years.

We are in year two. And I think we all can agree that the belief that something’s not worth teaching if it’s not profitable exists in the minds of investors, not academics.

Furthermore, administrators are misleading us.

Consider enrollment. According to The Cynic, Rosowsky cites a 16 percent decrease in enrollment since 2015 as justification for recent cuts.

At the same time, administrators want to decrease enrollment, with a goal for accepting 2 percent less students next year, to increase the “quality” of the applicant pool.

I think we all see the misleading nature of this. The administration can’t blame low enrollment while actively implement policies to maintain low enrollment.

I’m also genuinely disturbed by emails in response to my memes and other points raised by students and professors. They don’t rebut anything specific, just declare we’re fake news and go on to regurgitate the same talking points.

This is bad. We can’t agree on basic facts. And I don’t trust our administration to communicate to the student body in good faith.

Add to this fact that our board of trustees chose a “sole finalist,” depriving students and faculty of our ability to meet and question multiple candidates, as has been UVM tradition. The “open forum” held Feb. 14 was a gussied-up meet and greet, with most of our questions unanswered.

The rally held Feb. 14 is only the beginning. The Coalition for Student and Faculty Rights — a collective working with various groups making many bold demands — fought back to what many see as the final nail in our school’s corporate coffin.

I fear bolder actions will be required. Strikes. Walk-outs. Admitted Student Visit Days disruptions. Our provost and board members will be targeted.

Let’s avoid this. Let’s host an open forum, in public, where we can agree on basic facts. Let the public decide who’s misleading who.

We must come together or else our school will continue on its current plan. UVM will become academic hospice, a place for the liberal arts to expire because — hey: it’s just business.