UA Scholarships and Petition

Dear Colleagues,

I hope everyone had an enjoyable break. As we head into this last stretch of the Spring Semester, I am writing with a few upcoming opportunities.

United Academics scholarships for students working on social and economic justice

Please encourage your students to apply for one of our United Academics scholarships. Applications are due this Friday, March 22. These annual scholarships support students who are pursuing social and economic justice. Please share the attached scholarship flyer with students, and direct any questions to Vijay Kanagala.

Petition to save the liberal arts at UVM

Thanks to all who have signed the petition to reinstate lecturers, freeze introductory course caps, and preserve the liberal arts at UVM. If you have not yet signed and shared, please take 30 seconds to sign now. The petition has been signed by nearly 500 students, alumni, faculty, staff, and community members. Be sure to add your name.

Stand up in support of our colleagues and programs

We will be delivering petition signatures to the administration on Tuesday, March 26. Please plan to join us at 2:30 p.m. in front of Waterman to stand in solidarity with our faculty colleagues and in support of maintaining strong liberal arts at UVM. 

All best,

Sarah Alexander

President, United Academics

Save the Liberal Arts Petition

Dear faculty, students, staff, and supporters of the liberal arts at UVM,

Please consider adding your name to a petition to save the liberal arts at UVM. The petition, which you can link to below, is sponsored by United Academics, the union of faculty at the University of Vermont. We will present the petition to senior administration and to the press. We also plan to publish it, with the names of all who sign, as a full-page ad in the Vermont Cynic. For more information, see some FAQ about the crisis in CAS.

Sarah Alexander
President, Untied Academics

Save Liberal Arts Education at UVM!

We, the undersigned members of the University of Vermont community, know that students’ academic experience depends on a vibrant liberal arts curriculum, small classes, and mentoring by experienced faculty. All are under attack by an administration that has

• increased class sizes for many Arts and Sciences introductory classes
• terminated lecturers and senior lecturers
• downsized the positions of 10 continuing faculty to less than full-time
• embraced a five-year budget plan for the College of Arts and Sciences that will result in further layoffs, position reductions, class size increases, and decreased course access and choices for students

We call on the UVM Administration to immediately:

• Reinstate laid-off faculty in Classics and Romance Languages
• Freeze course caps on introductory courses campus-wide
• Commit to preserving UVM’s language, arts, and humanities programs


United Academics Condemns Threats to Free Speech

Dear UA faculty members,

United Academics is issuing a statement in response to recent warnings made to faculty members and students by administrators. See below. Please get in touch if you have any questions or concerns.


Katlyn Morris

UA Executive Director

This week, individual students and faculty have been subject to warnings or reprimands from UVM administrators about possible sanctions for speech and assembly. As the faculty union at UVM, United Academics stands for the rights of faculty and the students we serve, and condemns the University administration’s attempts to silence members of the community who wish to advocate for ourselves and our programs.

Many of these threats of discipline made by the administration were not in response to anything that had occurred. They were not based on evidence of any actual violations of code. Rather they were in anticipation of something that could potentially result in what the administration would classify as disruption. This sends a loud, clear message, which ripples through our community: You will be punished for speaking out against the administration.

The AAUP Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom, incorporated in our faculty Collective Bargaining Agreement provides: “Faculty are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of the University. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline.” 

The administration’s threats to discipline faculty and students have a chilling effect on our community’s ability to question, express disagreement, and speak freely. In some cases these tactics have been effective in silencing community members. Many faculty at UVM are feeling particularly insecure about their jobs, in light of recent layoffs and expected further layoffs. We urge the administration to cultivate an atmosphere that promotes free speech, academic freedom, and shared governance. 

UA Condemns Threat to Free Speech

Letter to Suresh Garimella

Dear Colleagues,

I am forwarding an email from department chairs in the College of Arts and Sciences. They are asking faculty to sign a letter to Suresh Garimella. Please see their cover email below with a link to a Google Doc if you'd like to sign the letter. The letter to Garimella is linked here

All best,
Sarah Alexander

President, United Academics

Dear Colleagues,

Here you will find a letter to Dr. Suresh Garimella drafted by department chairs in the College of Arts and Sciences. We are respectfully asking our faculty colleagues across the university to read the letter and to consider adding their names to it through this Google Docs site by noon next Friday, 2/22: Sign the UVM Faculty Letter to Dr. Suresh Garimella

As department chairs, we are not members of the collective-bargaining unit, and we are accordingly very grateful to the faculty union for helping us to get this message out to the largest number of faculty in the shortest possible time. We are, moreover, eager to enlist the support of faculty who are not members of United Academics, and we will be grateful if those on the UA mailing list who support us will pass this appeal on to faculty administrators in their units, including department chairs, and to members of the faculty who are not members of the union (e.g., those in the Larner College of Medicine).

Dr. Garimella spoke in his public forum about his vision of UVM’s special combination of Land-Grant mission and commitment to the liberal arts in the New England tradition. The letter we are asking fellow faculty to consider signing greets that vision with enthusiasm and calls on Dr. Garimella to act on it at a moment when the entire University is at risk due to the ongoing budget crisis at its liberal arts core, which generates the great plurality of tuition dollars in UVM’s General Fund Revenue Budget.

We respectfully commend to your attention the letter we are asking you to sign. Thank you very much. 


Joseph Acquisto, Professor and Chair, Romance Languages and Linguistics

Paul Besaw, Professor and Chair, Music and Dance

Thomas Borchert, Professor, Interim Chair and Director of Asian Studies, Religion

Terence Cuneo, Marsh Professor of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy, Interim Chair, Philosophy

Daniel Fogel, Professor and Chair, English

John Franklin, Professor and Chair, Classics

Jack Gierzynski, Professor and Chair, Political Science

John Green, Professor and Chair, Psychological Science

Randall Headrick, Professor and Associate Chair, Physics

Sara Helms Cahan, Associate Professor and Chair, Biology

Dale Jaffe, Professor and Chair, Sociology

Jane Kent, Professor and Chair, Art and Art History

Christopher Landry, Professor and Chair, Chemistry

Andrea Lini, Associate Professor and Chair, Geology

Emily Manetta, Associate Professor and Chair, Anthropology

Gregory Ramos, Professor and Chair, Theatre

Helga Schreckenberger, Professor and Chair, German and Russian

Sara Solnick, Associate Professor and Chair, Economics

Sean Stilwell, Professor and Acting Chair, History

Beverley Wemple, Professor and Chair, Geography

John Jing-hua Yin, Professor and Chair, Asian Languages and Literatures

Email Exchange with President Sullivan

Dear members,

Some of you may have heard about an email exchange between President Sullivan and UA leadership. I am copying the emails below for your information.

All best,

Sarah Alexander

President, United Academics


Dear President Sullivan:

Thank you for your email and for the opportunity to respond to you and the others copied about your concerns. We have heard from many in the university community, students and faculty, both within and outside the bargaining unit, about the following issues of critical concern:

  1. the non-renewals and reductions to the FTE of faculty in CAS, the proposed increase to course capacities in CAS with its far ranging impacts on the morale and work life of faculty, both those directly affected by these changes and those indirectly so, and on the education of the students we serve;

  2. the presidential search process that has, in spite of the open search process outlined last year, resulted in inviting a single finalist to campus and the delay in informing the university community about this change until February, a change that negatively affects both the shared governance and transparency that we value on this campus;

  3. the exclusion of United Academics, an organization that represents the vast majority of faculty at UVM, 623 of which are its members, from the smaller meetings with Dr. Garimella.

As a result of these concerns, we invite all community members to attend a rally and teach-in on Thursday at noon on the green between the Howe Library and the Davis Center. Secondly, we encourage faculty, staff, and students to attend the forum with Dr. Garimella to ask their questions and articulate their concerns to him directly.

We welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss any and all of these concerns. We also hope that as leaders of the faculty union, we will be invited to meet with Dr. Garimella, as have many other student and faculty groups.


Sarah Alexander and Julie Roberts

President and President-elect, United Academics

Valentine's Rally and Teach-In to Defend UVM Education

Dear members,

Many of you have been in touch with me about recent announcements by the administration: the single finalist for president, the layoffs and cuts in CAS, and the proposed increases to course caps in CAS. At the special meeting we held on Tuesday to discuss these administrative decisions, I heard very clearly from the faculty and students who packed John Dewey Lounge that we need to act now and collectively to defend education at UVM. 

In response to your calls for action, we have planned a Valentine's Day rally and teach-in. We hope you will attend next week on Thursday, February 14 at 12 noon. We will gather between Howe Library and the Davis Center. We encourage faculty who feel comfortable with doing so to suspend their classes during the noon hour, so you and your students can attend this critically important campus-wide convocation.

Please share this invitation widely among colleagues, students, staff, and all concerned community members. Attached is a poster you can print as well. And be sure to join and share the Facebook event page widely too!

All best,
Sarah Alexander

President, United Academics

Reminder: Special Meeting, Tuesday, 4-6 pm, John Dewey Lounge

Dear members and supporters of UA,

UVM’s faculty union, United Academics, is holding a special meeting—inviting faculty, students and community members—to discuss the layoffs and position reductions in the College of Arts and Sciences as well as the CAS Dean’s announcement that starting next fall the minimum size for nearly all introductory classes will be 60 students. (That means courses doubling and even tripling in size in some instances—and it means that lecturers whose positions and pay have been reduced by 25% to 50% might still teach the same number of students!) The meeting will be on Tuesday, February 5, 2019, 4:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m. in John Dewey Lounge (Old Mill). Come for any part of the meeting.


Please invite students and colleagues—and please announce in your classes and at club meetings. We want to make sure students and faculty know what is going on. We also want to strategize about responses. Although Arts and Sciences is most directly affected at this moment, other colleges have also been told they must increase their student numbers. These layoffs and curricular changes pose threats to all faculty, and they are a threat to the education and future of students too.

See you on Tuesday.

All best,
Sarah Alexander

President, United Academics 


Special Meeting to Discuss Layoffs and Class Sizes

Dear colleagues,

I write to alert you about a Special Members Meeting we are holding to discuss the layoffs and cuts to FTEs, as well as the CAS Dean’s announcement that many introductory classes will now have much larger caps of 60 students. The meeting will be on Tuesday, February 5, 2019, 4:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m. in John Dewey Lounge (Old Mill). Come for any part of the meeting. Please invite your students and colleagues. We want to make sure students and faculty know what is going on. We also want to strategize about responses. Although CAS is most directly affected at this moment, these layoffs and curricular changes pose threats to all faculty and have ripple effects across all ranks and units.

And a reminder about more opportunities to get involved in the union . . .

We currently have the following office/seats open

Full-time Member at large of the Executive Council (one-semester replacement and/or 2 year-term)

Delegates Assembly (Delegates for Rubenstein, CEMS, CALS, and CAS)

Get involved in union leadership! It’s meaningful service that makes a difference in our working conditions and campus culture.

As always, please feel free to contact me with questions or concerns.

All best,
Sarah Alexander

Welcome to Spring Semester

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to the new semester. I hope you all had a nice break. Today I write with an update and two opportunities for you to get involved.

As many of you know, Tom Streeter has left UVM to take a position at Western University in London, Ontario. I want to thank Tom for his excellent leadership as our president over the past couple of years and his long service to the union in many capacities over the years.

Last semester you elected new delegates and officers for the two-year term beginning July 1, 2019. Until the new term begins, I will be serving as the president of United Academics. As of July 1, Julie Roberts will begin her term as president, and I will return to the role of vice president.

One of UA’s most important tasks this semester will be to appoint a Bargaining Team for the next round of negotiations beginning in Spring 2020 for the full-time bargaining unit. I’d like to put out a call to anyone interested in serving on the next Bargaining Team. Please contact me directly at if you’d like to be considered for a position on the team.

Another one of our goals this semester is to fill the vacant seats on the Delegates Assembly (DA). Serving on the DA is an opportunity to represent the concerns and issues of your unit and to participate in decision-making within our union. To that end, we will soon hold a special election to fill seats on the DA for the term July 1, 2019-June 30, 2021. The DA meets once monthly during the regular semesters. We currently have open seats for

Grossman School of Business

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

College of Arts and Sciences

College of Education and Social Services

Rubenstein School

If you are a member in any of these units and would like to serve as delegate, please email me at and tell me you’d like to run for the DA. Serving as a delegate is a great way to engage in service that really makes a difference. To read more about getting involved in UA, see our website:

Finally, I’d like to invite you to get in touch with me if you have any questions or concerns.

All best,

Sarah Alexander

President, United Academics

Worried About UVM's Future?

Dear colleagues,

As you finish up the semester with a flurry of exams and grading, consider taking a break to provide your input on the State of Vermont's budget, particularly regarding higher education. Governor Scott has opened his public budget forum inviting comments on the budget. The forum page is here:

I get it: this does not sound fun or relaxing. But particularly if more than a few of us weigh in, we could have an effect. As I've said before, life is better if you care. 

Why should UVM faculty care about Vermont's budget? It's about money and vision. Regarding money: Vermont spends less per capita on higher ed than almost all other states in the country. In spite of what folks may tell you, this can and must change. 

Regarding vision: encouraging the state to invest in higher ed would affirm the principle that higher ed is a public good, that it is good for everyone, not just a private benefit. UVM is increasingly being pushed in the direction of thinking of itself as providing private benefits for pay: if the market demands a playground for the children of the wealthy or heavily indebted, so be it. If the state invests more in higher ed, perhaps by way of a "free tuition" plan for Vermonters, that would push an idea of education as a public good more to the fore. 

If you do weigh in on the state budget, you might consider the following points: 

  • Vermont has the highest family share for student tuition (meaning VT families pay 82% of the tuition burden for public institutions) (SHEF report)

  • Vermont has the highest high school graduation rate of the smaller New England states (87.7%), but one of the lowest rates for 5 year enrollment rate to post-secondary education, just over 50% (Common Data Project 2016)

  • Vermont ranks 47th out of 50 states for state support for higher education per $1,000 household income ($3.12) – Bureau of Economic Analysis

  • Vermont has one of the highest rates of students leaving Vermont for college (only Washington DC is higher) – Institute of Education Sciences

  • Because of the high cost of tuition at the VSC and UVM, economically disadvantaged students are disproportionately affected. Only 38.1% of students who are economically disadvantaged go on to college. (Common Data Project 2016)

  1. Thanks for considering this. I will probably have only one more message to send out to faculty before I leave UVM for Western University, but I know that your union and your colleagues are strong and active, and will continue to work to make UVM a better place. 


    Tom Streeter

    President, United Academics 

Minutes for tomorrow's UA member's meeting, Wed at 3:30

Dear colleagues,

With apologies for adding yet another missive to your inboxes, attached please find the minutes from last spring for approval at our Fall Member’s meeting, this Wednesday (tomorrow) at 3:30 in Waterman Manor (note the new location: it has been moved from Waterman 413).  

Again, this should be both informative and fun, with a reception for outgoing staffer Steve Finner following the meeting. 


Tom Streeter

President, United Academics 

Essential UA member’s meeting 11/7, 3:30, Waterman Manor

Dear colleagues,

As a follow up to VP and Prof. Sarah Alexander’s recent email, I write to remind you to attend our Fall Member’s meeting, this Wednesday at 3:30 in Waterman Manor (note the new location: it has been moved from Waterman 413). There is union business to be conducted, an important discussion to be had about the future structure of UA, colleagues from around campus to meet or catch up with, and a celebration of Steve Finner upon his retirement. (Agenda below.)

But also, if you believe in academic professionalism, in science, in sustained critical reflection, in the life of the mind, come to support UA. All of those values are under serious threat in the U.S., and we cannot take them for granted at UVM. United Academics, through contract administration and more, is a crucial legal bulwark of support for those values. I truly believe that. UA provides strong legal protections of academic freedom and rigorous peer-reviewed promotion standards. UA constantly reminds UVM, sometimes using its legal powers, that UVM’s mission is to educate and inquire, not merely to entertain or extract tuition money.

So if you want your work to be supported and respected, come to the meeting on Wednesday. If you can’t come at 3:30, come later; we will be in the Manor until 6:00, and drinks and refreshments will be served. If you are not a member, you can join at the door.

And whether or not you can attend, consider serving UA in a leadership role and encourage your colleagues to do so. Newly elected positions start in July 2019. We need a new President and more. It’s work, but it’s satisfying work, it’s not overwhelming, and it counts as university service. Do not take UA for granted; it will only be as good as the faculty who step up to serve it. There are 800 faculty represented by UA, so I can’t personally reach out individually to you all, but please contact me to discuss possibilities. For many of you who have not been involved before, especially if you are tenured, it’s time to do your part.

Of course, I also expect the meeting to be fun. I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday.


Tom Streeter

President, United Academics

Regarding Recent Events and Elections

Dear Colleagues,

It is impossible to find words adequate to the horrors of the racist shootings in Pittsburgh and Kentucky and other recent events, and yet impossible not to mention them. The horrors are clear. The question is what can we as faculty do? There is no one answer, but UA has long had a commitment to ending racism at UVM and beyond. If you are interested in participating in UA’s Civil Rights Committee, contact CRC Chair Leon Walls ( to share your thoughts and let him know you would like to be put on the email list. You also might consider donating to the global refugee support organization that has been reported as a target of the Pittsburgh shooter, HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society

Meanwhile, elections are coming up—across  the nation on Nov. 6 and not long thereafter for United Academics. I do not need to remind UVM faculty of the importance of voting, but I offer the statements we solicited last August during the primaries from gubernatorial candidates Phil Scott and Christine Hallquist regarding their views on higher education funding, unions, and more. Both statements are attached to this message, and are revealing about the candidates and about the state of the debate about higher education in Vermont. 

Our own elections for UA officers are scheduled for mid-November. Please consider running for a position with UA in this fall’s elections, which will be held shortly after the Nov. 7 Member’s Meeting for terms running from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2021. Serving as a Delegate for your college or a representative for your department is a modest time commitment (meetings once a month) and a good way to get to know UA and colleagues from around campus. There is still room to run for a position on the Executive Council, for Vice President, President, or more. Email our Nominations and Elections Chair Charles-Louis Morand Métivier at, and/or read about opportunities with UA here:   

I’m one of the 293 faculty at UVM with tenure. Given that extraordinary security, I believe it is critical to try to do something about the problems of people outside my immediate circles of family, career, and self-care. If you agree, please consider involvement in UA, especially if you are tenured.

As always, keep in touch.

Tom Streeter

President, United Academics

Workshops Oct. 23rd, Members Meeting Nov. 7th, elections, and a triumph

Dear colleagues,

I write today about workshops on Oct. 23rd, the members meeting, and more. Before I get into details, I just want to say that working for UA over the years, in various capacities has sometimes been relatively easy and sometimes hard, but it has always been the most satisfying kind of university service I’ve done (and I’ve done many other kinds of service, including being a Chair). Life is better if you care. As long as faculty step up and help out, UA makes UVM a better place.

So please take seriously the following opportunities.

First, please consider joining in one of two workshops on Oct. 23rd, led by Jamie Daniel from the American Association of University Professors' national office. The focus: building United Academics' membership, member involvement, and union voice across all of UVM's academic units. Jamie will join us to lead these workshops, both in the UVM Alumni House's Hurd Library, on Tuesday, October 23, and you have your choice of two workshop times: 8-9:30 am, with continental breakfast, OR 5-7:30 pm, with dinner and choice of beer, wine, or nonalcoholic beverage.

The workshops 1) will explore fresh ideas and inspiration we can take from other faculty unions around the country to reach out to new faculty and keep current members informed, engaged, and involved; 2) develop plans to recruit and train department representatives for every unit on campus so that we have a robust communication network to reach out to faculty about issues as they arise, and inform and support our next round of bargaining (which for the full-time faculty will likely begin by February 2020--just a little over a year from now!)

Please let Nancy Welch know if you can attend one of these two workshops:

Second, on Nov. 7th, at 3:30-5:30 in Waterman 413, please plan to come to our fall semester UA Members meeting, where we will discuss and vote on major issues before the union, including UA’s future financial and administrative organization. The event will conclude with a celebration of Steve Finner, our beloved and unstoppable long time consultant and higher ed union expert, who is retiring at the end of this semester.

Third, consider running for a position with UA in this fall’s elections, which will be held shortly after the Member’s Meeting, for terms running from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2021. Serving as a Delegate for your college or a representative for your department is a modest time commitment (meetings once a month) and a good way to get to know UA and colleagues from around campus. You can also run for a position on the EC, for Vice President, President, or more. Email Nominations and Elections Chair Charles-Louis Morand Métivier, and/or read about opportunities with UA here:  

Finally, some great news: the UVM part-time faculty membership has voted to ratify a new part-time faculty collective bargaining agreement, which all agree is one of the best contracts ever achieved for part-time faculty. Our bargaining team has been in negotiations with UVM's administration for over 6 months, and we are appreciative of the work of both teams and the mutual willingness to compromise to achieve a fair contract for UVM's part-time faculty. Gains in this contract include a 8.75% pay raise over 3 years, a $2000 promotion bonus, increased professional development funds, a new part-time faculty award for excellence in teaching, increased access to tuition credits, and improvements in per diem payment for additional duties. Congratulations and many thanks to Chief Negotiator Katlyn Morris and the tireless negotiating team: Dan Wells, Fabio Fua Nascimento, Heather Fitzgerald, Jean Sienkewicz, and Brian Tokar.

As always, please keep in touch.


Tom Streeter

President, United Academics

Fall preview from United Academics

Dear colleagues,

Welcome back to campus, and a special welcome to the new faculty. In between scrambling to organize my fall classes, I wanted to greet you all, update you on events over the summer, and give you a preview of United Academics activities for the coming months.

After more than a year of negotiations, UA members deliberated and at the end of May voted to ratify the full time contract. Over the summer, UA cooperated with the administration in producing a final version of the new contract, which is now available online.

Understanding how the contract works is essential to navigating faculty life at UVM. Whether you want to refresh your understanding or are starting from scratch, Grievance Officer Keith Burt and staff member Steve Finner are offering two “Know Your Contract” sessions next month, on Thursday Sept. 20, 4:30pm-5:30pm, Waterman 427A, and again on Friday Sept. 21, 4:30pm-5:30pm, Old Mill Annex A304. RSVP to appreciated.  Both sessions will cover the same material.

Part-time negotiations, meanwhile, are still ongoing. The next bargaining session for the part-time contract is next Thurs., 8/30 at 9:00 am in Davis Ctr. 419, probably going to 1:00 pm or beyond. The team welcomes visitors for the sessions at any time; dropping in provides needed support to the hard working negotiating team, and if you’ve never been in a bargaining session, it can be eye opening. Feel free to contact Chief Part Time Negotiator Katlyn Morris if you are thinking of dropping in.

As expected, in the Janus decision at the end of June, the conservative majority on the US Supreme Court overturned forty years of precedent allowing public unions to charge agency fees. Working with UVM administration, we made sure to comply with the new law, and recently put up a new membership form that removes references to agency fees. So far it looks like we have made a net gain in membership since Janus. Please reach out to colleagues to encourage them to be union members: more members means a stronger faculty voice. As I said last June, “Part of the calling of being a professor, I’ve come to deeply believe, is taking responsibility for the institution. Contributing to UA by being a member is an important way to do that. It’s about professionalism, about taking some responsibility. Besides better salaries and benefits, UA makes the university more fair, predictable, and professional.”

Along those lines, UA’s biennial elections are upon us. Working for UA is a form of service the university, a way to get to know and interact with colleagues across campus – and it offers the satisfaction of service that engages in some truly consequential matters. Positions up for election, according to our constitution, include President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, EC Members at Large, and Delegate Assembly members. Please contact me or Nominations and Elections Committee Chair Charles-Louis MorandMétivier for information, or if you wish to run or nominate someone to run.

Finally, some news: in January, I will be leaving UVM for a faculty position at Western University in London Ontario. The main reason is that my spouse, Lisa Henderson, has taken a position as a Dean at Western. She and I have been commuting between Burlington and Western Mass., where she has been a faculty member at UMass. Amherst. We will finally get to close our commute.

This is very bittersweet for me: I’m looking forward to Western, but have been at UVM just short of thirty years, raised my son here, and have come to love the university, the city of Burlington, and the many, many great friends and colleagues from over the years. You all will be sorely missed. I will remain on the job as UA President through the coming semester, and the EC is actively working on securing a plan for covering the role through the last five months of my term.

Heartfelt greetings and best wishes to all you for the coming semester. As always, keep in touch.

Tom Streeter

President, United Academics

Gubernatorial candidates’ views on higher ed in Vermont

Dear colleagues,

UA does not generally endorse candidates for office but we do share information about candidates. In anticipation of the Aug. 14th primaries, I recently asked all six legally qualified candidates for Governor of Vermont to answer four questions about higher education policy in Vermont, letting them know I will share with faculty all responses received by today verbatim. PDFs are attached containing the answers of the four candidates for which I have received responses so far. I will share any more responses that I receive as soon as they come in.

Each candidate was asked to answer, in 100 words or less, the following questions:

1) UVM is the only public research university in Vermont. Roughly 70% of its 11,000 students come from out of state. Out-of-state undergraduate tuition, much higher than in state tuition, is UVM’s single largest revenue stream. Do you think UVM is serving the state as well as it could, or do you think there is room for improvement. What might those improvements be?

2) Vermont has long been very near or at the bottom of per capita spending on higher education. Do you think this is an acceptable situation, or do you think it should change? If you think it should change, how should it change, and what would you do as Governor to change it?

3) Most public higher ed faculty in Vermont are unionized, including at UVM. What is your view of faculty unions?

4) Ideas have been floated in the Vermont legislature to create free tuition for all Vermont residents. What is your position on this idea, and what would you do as Governor if legislation is introduced to move the state in that direction?


Tom Streeter

President, United Academics


Dear colleagues,

A quick update on agency fee deductions. This afternoon we learned from HR that payroll was unable to modify this week’s paychecks. Any agency fees deducted this week will be refunded in the subsequent check. In their words, “faculty who see agency fees deducted on 6/30, will have those monies refunded in their 7/15 paycheck.” 

If you are a fee payer, please let UA and/or HR know if you encounter any issues or have questions.


Tom Streeter

President, United Academics

United Academics is the union of full- and part-time faculty at University of Vermont, with over 700 members from departments and colleges across the campus. We represent faculty in negotiating and upholding contracts, and we advocate for fair labor practices within and beyond our academic community. We are a member-led union­ committed to academic freedom, shared governance, social and environmental justice.

Get to know us at, and United Academics on Facebook


Janus vs AFSCME implications, membership, UVMMC nurses

Dear colleagues,

Today, three things: the implications of the Janus decision, an invitation to membership with comments about the crucial role of the CAC, and some news about one of our fellow unions, the UVM Medical Center nurses. 

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court announced their decision in the Janus vs. AFSCME case, and as expected the conservative five person majority has broken with precedent and ended the practice of charging agency fees for union services to individuals represented by public unions. 

I will start with the mechanical side of this issue for UVM faculty. United Academics has made it clear to UVM’s administration that the practice of charging non-union members agency fees should cease immediately, and if payroll processing issues cause anyone to be charged an agency fee after today they should be reimbursed. We are cooperating with the administration on this and expect things to go reasonably smoothly. Fee payers whose next paycheck is due in September will not notice anything until then. Ten and twelve month fee payers who are still being paid for their regular workload, nine month fee payers who chose to have their pay broken up over 12 months, and any part time fee payers who are teaching may be impacted in their summer paychecks. Please feel free to contact me or if you have questions or concerns. 

In the near term, changes in how UA operates should be minimal. (We have already adjusted our budget in anticipation of Janus.) We will continue to negotiate and support contracts that maintain professionalism and academic values at UVM. Some states have passed laws allowing public unions to charge non-members for services like grievance support, but I for one would be reluctant to go down that road. The problem with making the union into a fee-for-service operation is similar to the problem with the underlying logic of the Janus decision itself: experience has convinced me some things just

work better when done collectively (even if there’s some democratic disagreement involved, or a bit of a free rider problem). 

In this context, I will reiterate my invitation to fee payers, sent out earlier this month, to consider reasons why joining the union might make sense, and I ask all of you to consider talking to your colleagues about the value of UA. Now’s the time; no point in putting it off. And I’ll add another bit of information: If you’ve never felt a need to make use of the CAC, you may have the CAC to thank for that fact itself. Over the decade and a half of its existence on campus, administrators have gotten the message that they need to follow rules, and be fair, transparent, and professional. Believe me, it was not always so. That said, the Contract Administration Committee fields over 100 inquiries a year and routinely follows about a half a dozen cases at a time. The vast majority of CAC issues and questions are resolved collaboratively without filing any formal grievance. But every year the CAC handles a handful of complex and difficult issues in ways that benefit both individual faculty and, by clarifying rules and upholding the contract, all faculty. 

Finally, you may have heard that UVM Medical Center’s nurses are in difficult negotiations for their contract, and several of you have contacted me asking what UA is doing to support them. They have some very compelling data showing how their below-industry-norms-pay causes staffing problems that negatively impact patient care. I’ve written in the past about the value to UVM faculty of supporting other unions, particularly in our own neighborhood. The UA Executive Council recently passed a resolution in support of the UVMMC nurses, and noted that their efforts to keep the hospital’s resources in patient care mirrors our efforts to keep UVM’s resources focused on academics. Please consider signing a petition of support by clicking here. (More information can be found in the links at the end of this message.)

Tom Streeter

President, United Academics

P.S. Information about the nurses’ contract negotiations can be found here:

For background on executive pay at UVMMC:  And for some not-so-ancient history of problems on the executive level at our university hospital:

United Academics is the union of full- and part-time faculty at University of Vermont, with over 700 members from departments and colleges across the campus. We represent faculty in negotiating and upholding contracts, and we advocate for fair labor practices within and beyond our academic community. We are a member-led union­ committed to academic freedom, shared governance, social and environmental justice.

Get to know us at, and United Academics on Facebook

Retroactive paychecks coming

A message from your union, which brought you protection of sabbatical benefits

Dear colleagues,

Today, some administrative detail: many of you have been asking about when you will receive your retroactive pay. UVM’s Human Resource Services and Division of Finance are putting together all the details. 

Your individualized salary letter should be out soon, and will contain the details of your FY18 and FY19 salaries. Our best information at this point is that faculty can expect to receive a lump sum for their FY18 increase retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018 (minus applicable taxes and any dues/fees) by the end of July. University retirement contributions will be made on these retro payments, as applicable. 

If you taught or are teaching a summer class which is being administered through CDE, you may also be eligible for retroactive pay for the period May 21 and June 15, 2018. If this is the case, this retro pay should be calculated and payment made to you by the end of July.  

If you were paid for supplemental or additional work you were contracted to perform between January 1 and June 15, 2018, AND your rate of compensation was contingent on your base salary, then you can expect to receive a lump sum payment for any retroactive monies owed, minus applicable taxes and any dues/fees deductions, by mid-August.

Again, the raise pool increase for FY18, this past year, is 1.5% ATB, 1% performance, and for FY19 and 20, 2% ATB and 1% performance, for a total of 8.5% over the three years of the contract. 

Thanks, and keep in touch.

Tom Streeter

President, United Academics


United Academics is the union of full- and part-time faculty at University of Vermont, with over 700 members from departments and colleges across the campus. We represent faculty in negotiating and upholding contracts, and we advocate for fair labor practices within and beyond our academic community. We are a member-led union­ committed to academic freedom, shared governance, social and environmental justice.


Get to know us at, and United Academics on Facebook

Follow up to last week’s email r.e. Janus: a correction, and UA budget info

A message from your union, which brought you expanded and guaranteed professional development funds

Dear colleagues,

I received a few helpful suggestions about the email I sent out a week ago regarding the expected Janus case decision and the value of being a member, so today’s message is a follow up. 

First, there was an embarrassing typo in my last message: fee payer status under existing law costs 0.8321% of a faculty’s salary, not .082%. My apologies. (Current membership fees are of 1% of salary.) Thanks to those who pointed this out. 

Second, I was asked if I could summarize where those membership fees go. The budget for this coming year was emailed to all UA members in the lead up to our spring membership meeting, but it is complex. So I will provide here a very brief, broad summary of UA’s expenses with some explanation. (Thanks to UA Treasurer and faculty member in Math & Statistics, Joe Kudrle, for his help with this.) 

I’ll preface this overview by saying that, for a number of reasons, UA leadership is currently looking carefully at its structure and organization. So if you have questions or concerns about where the money goes, now is a good time to talk to colleagues and consider getting involved in the discussion about how best to organize UA in the future.

That said, the budget passed at our 2018 spring member’s meeting projected total expenses for FY 2019 to be $425K (down a bit from previous years because of the expected losses due to Janus). 

Honoraria: By choice, we have been a heavily faculty-run union, and thus have historically paid more than many unions in stipends (for course releases or equivalents) to facilitate the large amount of work UVM faculty have done on behalf of UA. This budget’s 13% is substantially down from previous budgets, as we have cut the majority of our stipends in half, but the work done by individual faculty is still very substantial. For example, our Contract Administration Committee does an enormous amount of work, almost all of it confidential, helping individual faculty throughout the year. This could not be done without some teaching relief for its most active members. 

UA fy19 expenses chart.png

Staff: For the same reason, our staff costs (13%) are lower than many, perhaps most, higher ed unions. Our staff budget goes largely to our part time 10-hour-per-week administrator, Patti Gannon, and to our consultant, Steve Finner, who has been working for us part time (officially, five days a month) providing expert legal and policy help since he retired from a lifetime career with AAUP. 

Other: The “other” category of expenses (18%) is made up largely of negotiation- and contract-related expenses. For example, we occasionally pay for legal advice about specific grievance and contract details, and we needed a lawyer with expertise in Vermont labor law to represent us in the fact finding hearing and related issues in our recently concluded full time contract negotiations.

Dues and Fees: More than half our expenses go to payments to our two affiliate organizations, AFT and AAUP, according to fixed formulae based on our own income from dues and fees. This is typical for higher ed unions. What do we get for all that? 

In general, unions have found it efficient to pool resources, so each union is not faced with reinventing the wheel on its own when dealing with legal and policy complexities. Some of that money comes back to us for efforts directly on behalf of UA. For example, Katlyn Morris (UVM PhD 2013, Lecturer since 2012) is serving us in several ways, including as Chief Negotiator for our part time unit’s ongoing negotiations, and her salary is paid for by VT-AFT. We also regularly consult with experts in higher education issues at both organizations on matters ranging from intellectual property policies and the legal and policy complexities of implementing things like the Janus decision. And both organizations keep an eye on political and legal issues in a way that UA could not do on its own: AAUP is particularly engaged with matters of intellectual freedom and trends in higher education policy nationally, and AFT is engaged with legislative issues both nationally, and via AFT-VT, in Vermont. They represent UA’s interests in arenas we are not well equipped to

Besides direct benefits, there is a “pay-it-forward” logic to union umbrella organizations. Unions help each other, and a stronger union context nationwide helps everyone. When faculty at UVM first organized UA, we received enormous amounts of support dealing with the logistics and legal issues surrounding the creation of our union, and that help was paid for by union membership fees paid for by other unions. So it makes sense that some of our contributions now go to help organize other unions.  

Again, all of these matters can be subject to change over the long term. Some (e.g., stipends) are fairly flexible, whereas our relationships to affiliate organizations are determined by a three way contract that would be quite complex and difficult to change. But we are currently exploring alternative organizational structures for the future, and nothing is completely off the table. 

As always, I welcome comments and questions. 

Tom Streeter

President, United Academics

United Academics is the union of full- and part-time faculty at University of Vermont, representing over 700 faculty from departments and colleges across the campus. We represent faculty in negotiating and upholding contracts, and we advocate for fair labor practices within and beyond our academic community. We are a member-led union­ committed to academic freedom, shared governance, social and environmental justice.

Get to know us at, and United Academics on Facebook