Brent Hallenbeck, Free Press Staff WriterPublished 12:27 p.m. ET Nov. 16, 2017 | Updated 2:10 p.m. ET Nov. 16, 2017
D. Thomas Toner, professor of music at the University of Vermont, explains why music matters to students not majoring in the subject
The University of Vermont has cut a dozen classes in its College of Arts and Sciences – half of those coming from the Department of Music and Dance – leading a music professor to resign his position as department chairman.
D. Thomas Toner stepped aside from his Department of Music and Dance chairmanship last Friday after being asked to recommend cuts to help reduce a budget shortfall in the College of Arts and Sciences that’s estimated between $3.7 million to $4 million. The college’s total annual budget is $110 million.
The cuts came as students were about to begin choosing classes for the spring semester. Registration began Monday and ends Friday.
“No one wants to cut any classes anytime because it is disruptive to everybody,” Toner said Thursday morning from his office in the Southwick Building on UVM’s Redstone Campus. “It just seemed like it was happening so late.”
According to William Falls, dean of the College of Arts and Science, 12 of the 63 spring courses offered by part-time faculty in the college were canceled. Six were cut in music and dance, Falls noted, while others were trimmed in art, anthropology, theater and psychological services. The cuts represent less than 1 percent of the total class offerings in the college, according to the university.
“I’ve been fielding some questions (from) students that suggest to me that there is a perception that this (is) targeting the arts, or at least music and dance directly,” Falls wrote Wednesday evening in an email to the Burlington Free Press. “Nothing can be further from the truth.”
Toner said he has “tremendous respect” for Falls, who said cuts were deep in Music and Dance because the department relies on numerous part-time faculty. Still, Toner said, “it is difficult not to feel singled out.” Classes cut in the music department include group lessons in conga and djembe, brass techniques and music history and literature.
D. Thomas Toner, professor of music at the University of Vermont, resigned his chairmanship of the Department of Music and Dance after being asked to cut classes on the eve of registration for the spring semester. (Photo: BRENT HALLENBECK/FREE PRESS)
Though he quit his chairmanship, Toner remains at UVM, where he has been a full professor since 2010 and taught since 1995. The Swanton native said his tenure of more than 10 years as chairman of the Department of Music and Dance was due to end Jan. 15, but his early resignation means he will forfeit a portion of his approximately $18,000 annual chairman’s salary.
“I can say I was not OK with (the cuts), and they (administration) would have to believe me,” Toner said, explaining why he decided to quit his chairmanship. “I just didn’t want to be a part of this any longer.”
Toner said the cuts on the eve of class selection for the spring semester is hard on students, though he made the effort to recommend cuts in classes that would not affect students’ abilities to graduate. “It does create a problem for the students running around at the last minute” to find new classes, according to Toner.
A former part-time faculty member himself, Toner said he feels especially bad for the adjunct music faculty who arranged their schedules to accommodate spring classes. As musicians trying to make a living in the small state of Vermont, Toner said many count on their salary of $1,900 per class credit to augment their incomes.
The half-dozen classes cut in his department will save about $50,000 in salary and related costs, according to Toner, which he said doesn’t seem like a lot in the face of a $4-million shortfall. “It’s not insignificant,” he said of the reduction, “but in a way that gives you the perspective that that amount of money should be significant but it isn’t.”
According to a statement issued Wednesday by UVM spokesman Enrique Corredera, the College of Arts and Sciences “has not met its enrollment and retention targets and has not yet been able to adjust costs so as to keep its budget in balance.” Toner said the cuts have many within his department on edge.
“The students and the faculty are concerned both about what’s happened immediately,” he said, “and what the potential is down the road.”
Contact Brent Hallenbeck at 660-1844 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Brent on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BrentHallenbeck.