Today I write first with some invitations, and then some information about recent events on campus.
First, you, your colleagues, and your students are invited to two events this week:
Wednesday, February 28, 12 noon-1 pm, Davis Center Atrium: United Academics invites the campus community to join us at a Hyde Park-style Speakers' Corner. Share what's on your mind about Budget Cuts and Layoffs, Building Boom and Debt, Racial and Social Justice, UVM Image v. Reality, and the Struggle for UVM's Future. Poster attached. Join and share our Facebook event.
Thursday, March 1, 5:30-6 pm, Old Mill's Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Conference Room (between the Geography and Economics department offices): United Academics faculty invite students to join us over pizza for discussion and strategizing, to hear about what students care about, what's driving the downsizing of Arts and Sciences, and what various faculty and students are doing to respond. Join and share our Facebook event.
Next, some reports about recent goings-on.
1) As a point of information, some students are planning a walk-out for 12 noon today (2/26). Last night, some faculty attended a meeting with activist students. Those faculty report to me they had thoughtful discussions with student protest leaders about their demands, ways that faculty can support and connect with students seeking Racial justice and equity and about the vital issues facing faculty. The faculty in attendance report they gave particular attention to encouraging students to frame demands in a way that prevents administrators from blaming faculty and the contract, leads to supports for meaningful professional development, and reinforces the call for fair and equitable hiring. I would encourage faculty to approach today's walk out in a deliberate and understanding fashion, informed by a deep sense of the urgent challenge to address issues of racial justice in our time and the potential shared interests of students and faculty.
2) Last week, a number of faculty from around the university met to discuss what’s going on and what might be done about looming cuts. Here’s what information we gathered: Things seem to change daily, but apparently CAS Chairs were told last week that the provost has called for an immediate 40% reduction in part-time faculty in CAS and over the next five years the elimination of perhaps 70 full-time faculty positions (20 lecturer layoffs plus no planned hiring to replace the 50 senior professors expected to retire). For students across the university, this could mean up to 458 fewer available classes. The quality of education and the environment for research are at stake. Meanwhile, last week forty CAS chairs and directors sent a letter to the IBB overview committee (which they also shared with faculty). The letter pointedly argues that IBB has been the source of numerous inefficiencies at UVM and calls for a major redesign of IBB. Some faculty have also heard that the provost is concerned about the “optics” of mass layoffs, which suggests that faculty and student voices are having an effect. But these concerns are ongoing. Over time, trend lines can shift, and any school or college is vulnerable to what one colleague terms “death by a thousand cuts”: without consideration for academic value or faculty governance, the lines of retiring faculty can go unfilled, part-time faculty and lecturers with fewer than two years of service can be let go in the quiet of summer, and curricula can be watered down due to class eliminations. Budgets need to be balanced, but
this can be done without ignoring academic quality or the wisdom and expertise of faculty.
3) Finally, as a point of information, the UA Civil Rights Committee is sponsoring a faculty petition in support of students' demand for a Bailey Howe name change. The text of the petition and current signees can be viewed here and faculty who want to add their names can write to firstname.lastname@example.org. This is simply for faculty who would like to consider signing the letter. The Executive Council of UA has not yet addressed this issue.
You'll also find details about UVM finances, spending priorities, and the resources UVM could put into supporting academics at www.uafaircontract.org and at http://www.unitedacademics.org/facts-about-uvm-spending/.
Please keep in touch.
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.