Faculty in University of Vermont’s Department of Romance Languages and Cultures Release Letter Protesting “Recklessly Made” and “Morally Troubling” Cuts and Terminations
March 29, 2021
Dear President Garimella, Provost Prelock, Dean Falls, and Board of Trustees,
We in the Department of Romance Languages and Cultures join our colleagues in English and Sociology to register our disapproval and dismay over ongoing austerity measures that threaten to undermine our academic mission to the State of Vermont and national reputation.
Recently proposed and recklessly publicized program terminations based on criteria that have not yet been vetted by the Faculty Senate run afoul of established procedure and counter the interests of our College since institutional disinvestment discourages faculty and student recruitment and retention. The unprompted non-renewal of three senior-lecturer contracts for long-serving faculty with stellar teaching records and a long list of accomplishments defies understanding and decency. Both the fact that these personnel and programmatic cuts were made and the manner in which they were made — on top of the threat of exorbitant 25% salary reductions for our lecturers and under a pandemic — are morally troubling to us and academically untenable. Indeed, recent “compromise solutions” of merger that dissolve departmental structures not only make tenured faculty vulnerable to termination but also, and with painful irony, provide proof of the indisputable value of their programs. The recoup of $600,000 gained by cutting 24 programs, and which amount to ten full-time tuition-bearing out-of-state students, is on its face outrageously disproportionate. The additional fact that losses from our faculty ranks represent a loss in diversity is also a result of these unconscionable cuts. Finally, the fact that these cuts fall in line with a vision and under a framework of institutional restructuring, as President Garimella has made clear in the press, suggests that our College’s so-called “structural budget deficit” is a strategic tactic rather than a shortfall in departmental performance by any measure.
We are an institution dedicated to a mission, including “dedication to the global community, a grasp of complexity, effective problem-solving and communication skills, and an enduring commitment to learning and ethical conduct,” in order to foster the development of accountable leaders. These are precisely the transferrable skills we teach in our College, not least of all in the programs being scuttled, or, if not, then reassigned, downsized and diminished. We have moreover enshrined this mission in Our Common Ground principles.
However, what has transpired over the past ten months in no way reflects the intellectual and moral tenets that our institution has long embodied through the model of John Dewey and which we seek to foster in our graduates and bring to the global community. The strategic maneuvering of our top administrators has been an all-out attack on our institutional values and it therefore compels us to speak out in defense of our College’s curriculum, members who have contributed to the intellectual reputation of the University, and in a word the soul of UVM. This is not a budget crisis. We are very much in a crisis of values, a crisis generated by the top members of the administration who do not include the core of the liberal arts in their vision for our university, nor do they embody them in their practices and communications on behalf of the university. In short, we have reached the conclusion that they are doing devastating damage to UVM.
The Faculty of the Department of Romance Languages and Cultures