No Confidence in the Leadership of University of Vermont President Suresh Garimella
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In year two of President Garimella’s tenure as President, it is now clear that he and his administration have betrayed the mission of the University of Vermont. We understand that mission, broadly stated, to include well-rounded and wide-ranging educational options for Vermont students who may not have the means to go elsewhere; a strong liberal arts core; our land-grant mandate to focus on education, not amenities; a tradition of academic excellence backed by resources, not just rhetoric; and commitments to environmental justice, racial justice, and diversity. What follows is a partial list of betrayals of this mission by the administration of President Garimella.
• The UVM administration has manufactured a budget crisis by funneling money out of the academic mission and into executive salaries and bonuses, multi-million-dollar consultant contracts, and vanity projects like the planned $95-million supersized sports arena. Meanwhile, a five-year effective hiring freeze has left most College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) departments with gaping holes in their course offerings and has resulted in significantly larger classes—the opposite of what UVM students, parents, and prospective students want and deserve.
• Closing the Campus Children’s School, with no alternative provisions, in Summer 2020 dealt a pandemic blow especially to female faculty and staff members who are parents as well as to some dozen early childhood educators who lost their jobs and healthcare benefits.
• The proposed elimination of three departments and consolidation of many others, as well as the termination of three esteemed senior lecturers in CAS, threaten UVM’s environmental, land grant, and racial justice commitments. For example, the department of Religion, slated to be cut, offered sixteen separate D1 and D2 diversity classes that will be lost. The English department is slated to lose the campus’s only faculty member teaching Native American Literature. Eliminating the Geology department, whose members worked regularly with the Vermont state government on public safety and environmental projects, undermines our civic stewardship. Cancelling the Classics department will end its celebrated public humanities programs including the Home from War program for UVM student veterans and Latin Day for Vermont high schools.
• The proposal to cut more than thirty valuable majors, minors, and programs in the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Education and Social Services (CESS), and the Larner College of Medicine (LCOM), places a short-sighted emphasis on the number of majors, rather than the number and needs of students served. Among the proposed CESS cuts is the elimination of the Early Childhood Special Education major despite a national shortage of special educators.
• The abrupt cancellation in December 2020 of TRiO student support services shows a lack of commitment to racial justice and diversity. The forty-year-old program provided first-generation, limited-income, disabled, and minority students with academic and financial supports including advising, scholarships, and a food pantry. The administration’s justification for ending the TRiO program—that a federal grant supporting the program had run out—is meritless given that UVM has received $45 million in federal CARES COVID-19 relief funding and is slated to receive close to $11 million more.
UVM’s own public financial disclosures confirm that there is no fiscal crisis driving these drastic changes; instead, it is a crisis of values. In view of this, we, the undersigned, conclude that UVM must be restored to its core mission; we declare No Confidence in President Garimella and call for an immediate and complete reversal of course. Rather than undermining the university’s core educational mission at great human cost, UVM should redistribute resources in order to retain and support the faculty, staff, and students who are the heart of education at the University of Vermont.
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