Tag Archives: Parwinder Grewal

Is This the Worst Job in Vermont?

A fond farewell to Parwinder Grewal, the president of Vermont State University who didn’t even make it to the first day of VSU’s existence.

Grewal has “resigned for personal reasons” without further explanation from himself or anyone affiliated with the nascent university. I can think of two ways this might have gone down, and neither is flattering to the VSU board.

First, Grewal realized he had an impossible job and decided to GTFO. He was tasked with merging three institutions into one while imposing severe spending cuts and somehow making the thing more attractive to students, but couldn’t count on the backing of the board or Vermont’s political class. In fact, he’s the guy who was encouraged to go out on a limb only to turn around and realize all his friends are wielding saws.

Second, the board got cold feet and fired the guy. That would be a spectacular display of gutlessness. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of severance package he’s getting, all at taxpayers’ expense of course.

Look, I was loudly and repeatedly not a fan of Grewal’s plan to close the system’s libraries. In addition to all its flaws, it seemed unlikely to save any money. But the board thought enough of him to hire him in the first place, and then they balked at the first sign of trouble. I wonder what kind of luck they’ll have in their search for a successor. If you were a potential candidate with the kind of administrative chops needed to guide VSU into a successful future, would you want to step into this political briar patch? I don’t think so.

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Grewal’s Revised Plan: Puppies and Rainbows For All

Earlier this week, Vermont State University President Parwinder Grewal appeared before a legislative committee for the first time since he stunned many by announcing the elimination of physical libraries on the system’s five campuses. The backlash was swift and strong, including a piece on this very website.

So it’s not too surprising that when he testified before the Senate Education Committee on Valentine’s Day, he seemed to have thoroughly revised his plan. (His testimony can be viewed here.)

We’re not closing any libraries, perish the thought. We aren’t getting rid of all our books, what nonsense. In fact, the libraries will still be called “libraries” or maybe “libraries and learning centers,” but they’ll be better in every way. The gates to the universe of digital information will be flung open. There will be more computers, printers, and other technical resources. There will be more spaces for individual and group study. Librarians will be available in all five libraries for student and faculty consultation.

Libraries aren’t going away, far from it. They’ll be transformed to better fit the learning needs of students and the teaching needs of faculty.

Wow. Either he radically rewrote his plan, or he did a piss-poor job of explaining it initially.

Spoiler alert: It’s the former.

We know this because VSU posted an explainer about the changes on its website. The headline refers, in all caps, to a NEW ALL-DIGITAL LIBRARY, EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2023. 

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So Why Is VSCS Really Closing Its Libraries?

The president of the soon-to-be Vermont State University, Parwinder Grewal, ruffled some feathers and rattled some bones last week when he announced, with no advance warning, that the system’s libraries would close by July 1. That’s bad enough. What makes it worse is that I can’t figure out why he’s doing this. His public pronouncements don’t add up.

You might think this is a cost-saving move. After all, the VSU merger is being driven largely by costs. The member institutions have been underfunded by the state for decades, to the point where then-Vermont State Colleges chancellor Jeb Spaulding felt compelled in 2020 to suddenly announce the closure of three VSCS campuses. Predictably, the plan was killed. Predictably, he lost his job.

And less than a year later, his successor went before the Legislature and testified that preserving the colleges and campuses would require $203 million over five years — on top of the system’s base appropriation, which at the time was $30.5 million.

So it’d be understandable if Grewal engaged in a little belt-tightening. Or a lot.

But he has not even suggested that closing the libraries will save any money.

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