Fighting the cuts at UVM

December 16, 2008

BURLINGTON, Vt.--The newly formed coalition Students, Staff and Faculty Together organized its first action, a spirited picket of a meeting of the University of Vermont (UVM) Board of Trustees, which drew more than 50 protesters on just 24 hours' notice.

Some 30 students, faculty and staff formed the coalition on December 3 in response to President Daniel Fogel's announcement about university plans to push through significant budget cuts. These cuts will almost certainly mean layoffs for many non-tenure track faculty, and layoffs or pay cuts for university staff. It could also translate into more students per classroom and less support for students as they face a 6 percent tuition hike in the coming year.

The administration has used the recent economic crisis as an excuse for a projected $22-25 million-dollar budget shortfall and to justify its plans for cuts. Yet as coalition members point out, so far, only $6 million of the shortfall can be directly attributed to cuts in state funding and lowered returns on university stock-market investments. The administration itself admits that at least 40 percent of the shortfall is due to its faulty budgeting and outright money mismanagement.

Members of the Student Labor Action Project, the International Socialist Organization and United Staff called the coalition's first meeting. They have been joined by the Students Against War, Students for Peace and Global Justice, Food Not Bombs and members from the campus UE and AFT/AAUP unions.

Inside the trustees' meeting, coalition members chanted, "Money for jobs and education, not to bail out the administration!" Protesters carried placards declaring, "It's like a haircut, trim from the top!" to send the message that top administration officials shouldn't be allowed to balance their budget on the backs of students, staff and faculty.

In response to the administration's plan to move forward with budget cutting during the semester break, the coalition is organizing a press conference and rally on December 17 at 12 noon in the Frank Livak Ballroom at the Davis Student Center. Students, Staff and Faculty Together are calling for an immediate moratorium on budget cuts so that an independent investigation into the causes of the budget shortfall can be conducted.

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