UVM fabricated ‘structural deficit’ to justify program cuts, faculty critics say

Editor’s note: Notably, Prelock did not provide any detail on the nature of the ‘structural challenges’ that she refers to. She also apparently misread the press release, or does not understand the meaning of “unrestricted funds.”

 

BURLINGTON, Vt. – A group of University of Vermont faculty members and other advocates sounded off on administrative leaders Monday, claiming financial reports show the school isn’t being honest about a ‘structural deficit’ that lead to program cuts.

In a December 2020 report, Moody’s Investors Service gave the University of Vermont a ‘stable outlook’, and that combined with rising administrative spending has some questioning why 12 majors, 11 minors and 4 master’s programs are being cut.

“These cuts to liberal arts programs and academic departments in the College of Arts and Sciences are simply not justified given the low cost of these programs,” said Meaghan Emery, a professor and member of the group UVM United Against the Cuts. “To put it simply, this is a money and power grab by the administration, and UVM is in outstanding financial shape.”

In response to the group’s claims, UVM Provost Patricia Prelock said the decision is about more than just budgets, audits and financial reports – they’re about work that needs to be done to ensure future success.

“We do have ongoing structural challenges in some areas of the university that must be addressed if we’re going to position UVM for success, so that means if these occur every year and we fail to do something to address them, we’re going to be managing them year over year at the expense of progress for our students and our community,” Prelock said.

UVM United Against the Cuts is also insisting that there are other sources that should be used to fill any budgetary shortcomings, including rainy day funds, reserves and executive compensation.

“These most recent cuts are just the latest in a long term trend of increasing the percent of compensation that goes to administration and services, and decreases the percent devoted to instruction and research,” said Ellie Hagopian of UVM United Against the Cuts. “I see an organization that is healthy and thriving. It has cash in the bank, and is adding to that stockpile every year from operations.”

The group is calling on the administration to halt program cuts pending a full public examination of university finances. They’re also calling on the Vermont Legislature to insist that any emergency funding for UVM come with requirements to reduce administrative compensation.

“I wish the solutions were as simple as the faculty is suggesting in their press release, we wish there were indeed funds that the university could access to address all of our budget challenges, but all the funds they cite are there for a specific purpose and can’t be necessarily redirected to fit another purpose,” Prelock said.

Originally published at MyChamplainValley.com, by Devin Bates, April 12, 2021.