Citing a highly uncertain environment around COVID-19, the University of Vermont announced a series of tough decisions—including changes to faculty teaching schedules.
Thursday, that prompted protests.
To keep their distance during the pandemic, UVM lecturers let their car horns be their voices, screaming to administrators how reductions to teaching loads would affect them.
"It puts me into the realm of food insecurity and housing insecurity because I'm a single parent," UVM lecturer Rachael Montesano told NECN.
UVM has said COVID-19 dumped a long list of questions at its feet: how many students will come to campus this fall? Will some who put down deposits end up staying closer to home instead? And how can the school cover virus-related costs plus the expected extra need for financial aid?
The protestors Thursday from the College of Arts and Sciences argued the school's looking in the wrong place for an answer to the last question.
"We want them to support the non-tenure-track faculty," Sarah Alexander, a UVM associate professor of English, said of university administrators.
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The university said some of its more junior faculty members are being trimmed back to a three-quarters teaching schedule. That means a lecturer who made $65,000 full time would now make less than $50,000.
Protestors said they are aware of at least 72 faculty members who were affected by the schedule cuts.
"I'm more than willing to take a cut, and I understand there's going to be some pain," UVM political science and global studies lecturer Brad Bauerly said. "But I just wish it were more equitable and the decision-making was more broad-based."
Bauerly and other protestors called for more transparency in cuts, for educators to have a seat at the table, and for cost savings to come from the top levels of the university—not the bottom.
UVM counters the measures are spread out.
Earlier this week, the university said there's a new hiring freeze and that service contracts are being renegotiated. Additionally, $30-million in borrowing is on pause at a new multipurpose facility now under construction, UVM announced, adding that many senior administrators are giving up a month of pay.
Thursday, the school added in a statement that it is well within its rights under a collective bargaining agreement to adjust lecturers' workloads annually, depending on student demand. UVM also said that pay rates aren't being lowered—the workloads are.
Benefits will remain intact, UVM added, including health care, retirement contributions, and even free UVM tuition for the lecturers and their kids.
According to the statement provided to NECN from the university, some teaching schedules could end up being upped to full time, if the virus doesn't end up changing student demand for certain courses.