Things have pretty much gone to shit at the University of Vermont. The latest installment features the announcement of a plan to take a meataxe to humanities instruction. A total of 24 academic programs are to be cut, totaling roughly one-fifth of the College of Arts and Sciences’ course offerings. The administration thoughtfully unveiled the plan via mass email because that’s the way Ebenezer Scrooge would have done it if he’d had email, right?
That very same day, after metaphorically turning out the lights in many a campus precinct, UVM President Suresh Garimella posted the cheery tweet reproduced above. Tone-deaf much?
The plan has not been received well, to say the least. The UVM-related Twitterverse has been ablaze with recriminations. Nearly 2,000 people have signed an online petition to reverse the cuts. Campus reaction has been muted because, well, the students have been sent home and teaching is being done online.
Hard to put together a protest under those conditions.
UVM administration has often seemed out of touch and, shall we say, uncollaboriative in management style. Garimella, an engineer by trade, has been in office for less than two years, and his hiring was seen by many as signaling a turn away from the humanities. This year has seen contract talks with the faculty union go nowhere. The administration was forced to rescind planned cuts in lecturers and adjunct faculty after it was met with an uproar.
So, you’re expecting me to slag the top brass and brand Garimella as an enemy of the humanities, right?
You’d be wrong. There’s plenty of blame to go around.
Anyone who’s read this blog for more than ten seconds already knows how I feel about Peter Galbraith. The Most Hated Man in the Senate. Happy to obstruct legislation for obscure points of principle detectable only to himself. Narcissistic. Oil baron of questionable provenance. Leaves a trail of enemies wherever he goes. Questionable temperament for the state’s highest office.
I’m not voting for the guy, but he did a couple of things this week I truly appreciate.
First, he unveiled the most progressive higher-education plan of any of the three Democratic contenders. And second, he made a practical, hard-headed, economic argument for a social safety net initiative — which is something Democrats almost never do.
It’s a shame, because there are solid, evidence-based arguments to be made. I mean, appeals to fairness and helping the unfortunate are fine, but they’re not enough.
But first, back to the college issue, which is one of the most crucial in terms of helping people achieve success AND boosting the economy. After all, employer after employer complains about the lack of trained workers. Getting more high-school grads into college is a sound investment in our own future.
Galbraith’s plan, unveiled Tuesday, would cover the cost of a college education for Vermont students at state colleges and universities, and offer reduced tuition for some UVM students.