UVM, faculty at impasse over contracts, WCAX, Feb 02, 2018

Posted: Fri 7:45 AM, Feb 02, 2018  | 

Updated: Fri 11:38 AM, Feb 02, 2018

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) The University of Vermont and the faculty union are at an impasse in their contract negotiations. Some faculty members and students feel the university should focus on education, rather than new amenities to attract more students.

"Many faculty members believe that university priorities have gotten a little bit warped," said Tom Streeter, a professor of sociology and the president of the faculty union at the University of Vermont.

An informational session on where and how UVM spends its money was held Thursday night.

"Building new buildings, doing things to attract new students is a great idea if it’s not the case everyone else is doing the same thing," Streeter said.

Streeter says new complexes like the STEM facility and the future Multi-Purpose Center shouldn't be the top priority of the university. He argues focusing on the physical development of the campus is not unique. Other schools are doing similar things to attract students. Streeter thinks the money could be better spent.

"It doesn't have to be a giant change, but a modest change could right the ship," he said.

UVM leadership declined to speak with WCAX News on camera but sent a statement that read in part, the "Multi-Purpose Center will be funded through private philanthropy and debt service paid through student fees." And that it is "not competing with faculty compensation." They also say the university has "a very significant backlog and continues to renovate and replace buildings" to "compete nationally for students faculty and staff."

"I mean things change, it’s progression, it’s natural," said Esther Rosen, a junior in UVM's College of Arts and Sciences.

Rosen also believes the university is prioritizing bringing in new students rather than focusing on the ones already in Vermont.

"Everybody here is getting an amazing education but there's definitely an imbalance in the way the administration looks at the university as a product and the university as an institution," said Rosen.

It was announced late last year that 12 spring courses were cut at the college due to UVM's $4 million budget shortfall. Potential faculty layoffs were also mentioned.

"Which will inherently impact me as a student and my peers because we have less lecturers, we have less classes," Rosen said.

Streeter falls short of advocating for money to go to specific colleges or departments but says the union wants everyone that contributes to UVM to be treated equally.

"We need the business school, we need the classics department, we need the nursing school, we need the STEM researchers-- that’s what makes the university what it is," Streeter said.