With apologies for adding yet another missive to your inbox, I wanted to update faculty after the many events this week, and try to shed some light in areas that could be prone to confusion. I have comments about non-renewals, news coverage, responses to student protests, and a reminder about an opportunity to talk with students informally this afternoon at 5:00-6:30 in Old Mill.
1) CAS Dean Falls announced that close to 5 FTE non-tenure-track positions in the college will be non-renewed, and some lecturers received notice yesterday. UA remains concerned that trying to save money by thinning the ranks of lecturers in any college is at best penny wise and pound foolish, given their relatively low salaries and high teaching loads. Technically, these are end-of-contract non-renewals rather than layoffs; they involve Article 14 of the contract (not Article 15, which addresses retrenchment and which is not being invoked by the administration). Thanks to United Academics, the contract provides better protections to lecturers than most non-unionized non-TT faculty in other schools: specifically, multi-year contracts, and requirements of notification if a contract is not going to be renewed (Dec. 15 for senior lecturers and March 1 for lecturers with more than two years of service). But those protections as currently written have their limitations, which we are seeing now. Our remaining leverage on this issue at the moment is to try to influence public understanding in a way that might shift university priorities. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have concerns about your own status as lecturer; all communication to that address is confidential.
2) Recent news coverage: There have been a few stories involving UA of late and will likely be a few more. Most people understand that news is rarely a perfect representation of events. To correct any false impressions people may get, let me mention the following. At our public speak out in the Davis Center yesterday the faculty and students who spoke up did not make an argument that UVM relies “too heavily” on adjuncts. Also, we are not against new buildings. We argue that if choices have to be made, that expenses should go to teaching and research, including to teaching and research in the STEM fields. United Academics argues that all colleges and schools are valuable to UVM, and that we are all best off if decisions are made with an eye on the
interdependence of all parts of the university. UVM needs the School of Business and the Classics Department, it needs sciences, humanities, social sciences and the arts. Our concerns about cuts in CAS are about how and why they are being made, and do not reflect a preference for any one college over any of the others.
3) NoNames for Justice: In my capacity as UA President, I was asked by UVM’s administration to attend a meeting yesterday afternoon between the NoNames for Justice student leaders and UVM leadership. The students presented a set of proposals for change at UVM, which they said were “not set in stone” but would be considered as starting points for working out practical approaches to what they think UVM should do to address problems at UVM around diversity and inclusion. The main outcome was that meetings with leadership from across the university were promised to address the proposals. I was asked, and agreed, to participate in a discussion about developing diversity and inclusion training for faculty and staff; I imagine the concerns I bring to the discussion will include that whatever is developed is demonstrably effective, and that it respects faculty concerns about workload and departmental oversight of AEG and RPT guidelines as per the contract. (I am aware of many interesting conversations going on related to these issues around campus, and thank the many faculty who have been making helpful contributions.)
4) I would like to remind interested faculty that this afternoon we will be meeting informally with interested students, March 1, 5:00-6:30 pm, Old Mill's Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Conference Room (between the Geography and Economics department offices): United Academics faculty invites 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, concerns about diversity, and more. My sense after the past week is that students from many different parts of the university are curious and eager to talk to faculty about issues in general, and hope that those with an interest will drop by.
Please keep in touch. Best,
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.