Tag Archives: Vermont State University

We’re Not Retreating. We’re Advancing to the Rear.

What is an institution to do when it makes a decision that kinda blows up in their face? Well, one option is to stick with the decision but modify it just enough to quiet the critics. Or to put it metaphorically, apply enough lipstick to a pig and make people stop noticing it’s a pig.

As it happens, two august Vermont organizations are currently engaged in the messy business of searching for the minimum acceptable capitulation. Vermont State University is trying to figure out how many books it will have to preserve, not because it wants the damn things, but because it desperately needs to quiet the howls of criticism; and the Green Mountain Care Board is looking for a way to give away $18 million while convincing us that they’re not giving away $18 million.

VSU’s nascent leadership continues to fumble its plan to close the campus library system… sorry, create something better than libraries… no wait, they’ll still be libraries but unencumbered by books… oops, now we’ve got a “refined plan” that will select the most academically important volumes while disposing of the rest. (You can tell they’re proud of their plan because they posted it online last Thursday with no formal announcement or public event of any sort.)

Gee, it’s almost as if the original plan was thrown together in haste with minimal forethought. Which inspires no confidence in the ability of this administration to lead a troubled system out of its current straits and into a better tomorrow. The future of VSU’s library system is way down on the list of critical issues to be addressed. If they can’t handle this without it blowing up in their faces, how will they address a massive structural deficit when they’ve already squandered their credibility dicking around with the library plan?

And all the while, they insist they’ll implement this vaguely defined thing by the end of June, come Hell or high water.

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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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