The Cynic recently spoke with SGA President Bryce Jones and Vice President Katherine Ash about the budget cuts and the financial future of UVM.

Q: How do you think the administration is currently doing on trying to compensate for the $28 million deficit?

Bryce Jones: The administration had to make decisions, and I understand that. Time was a factor, and we all do wish that there was more time to involve more people and have more conversations and I think it would be retroactive at this point to really push for a different strategy. I think at this point the strategy for the percentage reductions is the one that has been chosen, and we’re starting to see the impacts of that. It’s hard to make definitive arguments because so much is still in the air; how much are we getting from the state. I heard a new fact that the state still needs to appropriate enough money to higher education for them to receive some of the stimulus funds. Right now the rumor for phase II is going to be something a lot less impactful than the first one, which I’m hoping for. Now there’s been a lot of demands for a more democratic process, and this is where it gets really sticky. It’s not fun to admit but higher education has always been administrative in the US as a business. The reality is the administration, they’re the bosses: it’s there decisions we have to follow. However, do I wish that certain methods of communication could have been approved? Definitely. Could there have been feedback on the strategy before it was enforced? Definitely. Right now I think the best way to move forward is to support the current strategy and make sure we voice our concerns when they arise at this process. We are a very high tuition based institution, so our voices here at this University do have more say because this university functions a lot more with our tuition dollars. So it is something that we understand and want to help and inform students as much as possible.

Katherine Ash: It’s been a really interesting past few months. Bryce and I have been very involved in the budget process in a variety of ways. We’ve really been looking at the information that we’ve gathered, and the feedback that we’ve heard from such a variety of angles that it’s really allowed us to understand the concerns. Which I think is more of the exciting parts of coming up with this next week, we do have a valuable grasp on that. I certainly agree with Bryce in that it was an administration decision because it had to be. I am disappointed to see the detrimental effects this is having, and students and faculty have a right to be concerned that class sizes may be growing or some faculty have to leave, but the reality of it is, and the administration focuses on this a lot, there are a lot of other institutions who are facing even greater problems. It’s exciting in one way; I had a meeting with the Dean of Nursing and Health Sciences. She said she’s spoken to so many faculty members and have gotten a lot of positive feedback, and that there are still decisions to be made by the board. Things are constantly changing. Bryce and I at this point are also evolving with that information, and the ways and strategies we have to connect with the information that is going to be coming in and the strategies that will be taken up by the administration. It’s a working process.

Q: What do you believe are your responsibilities on this issue?

Jones: First and foremost is to be active, and proactive, for the students. Our role is to make sure the students concerns are getting through. I think that would be by far the most crucial involvement for SGA. It’s what SGA is here for.

Ash: Absolutely. Also, one of our responsibilities is that since Bryce and I have such primary access to the administration and to members all over the state who are involved in these budget making decisions. The fact that we have that accessibility and we use it in a positive way so that we can educate the students and our senators, so the SGA senate knows what’s going on and has a foot in the door on the topics that are of main concerns of students. Our biggest responsibility is attempting to get everyone on the same page with information so people can make informed decisions for themselves. I think its really important that we allow variety and recognize that there are going to be students that disagree with the administration.

Q: Which relationship would you say is more important, your relationship with the administration or your relationship with the students?

Ash: I think they’re very different. But I would say we work with the administration, but we work for the students, and that’s the difference.

Jones: The students are obviously the first priority, but having a good relationship with the administration is also good because then they’ll be responsive to our concerns. The openness of the administration, as far as meetings and involvement of the process, is reflective of this relationship, and is something we would not see if we did work toward removing ourselves with that good connection. They’re both very crucial, it’s hand in hand. The student’s voice, if not respected or heard, is a negative and I wouldn’t like to see SGA go in that direction. Our goal should be at least to try and condense and produce information the administration has to its available to students. When you don’t know really what’s going on, and you hear class sizes are going from 80 to 250, how do you not get freaked out about that? What we’ve experienced is, we’re finding out stories and every situation is different. For example in the history department, one class size went from 80 to 150 or 250. But that’s one professor who took one for the team, and took all the increases onto his plate so the rest of the department could still be sustainable. It’s a very complex issue, and it’s going to be a very difficult for us to work toward presenting it in an easy understandable way.

Ash: And to go back to the question, one thing to remember that’s very crucial is that Bryce and I have established a relationship with the administration on different levels. We have also established a relationship with the students on different levels. Students are aware of our positions; they agree and disagree with us on certain things, it’s different. What’s most crucial is that we have established a relationship with the administration, but we haven’t yet established a relationship with the entire student body. I think that’s going to be the most important thing that we look into the next few months.

Q: What are going to be your future goals regarding this issue?

Jones: My goal with this is to prevent any further stratification, or try and play the best role with the resources we have and can potentially create. Our biggest challenge is getting that information out. It’s an issue that students feel the administration hasn’t fulfilled its responsibility in passing the information clearly. It is a challenge; how do you take such a complex issue and simplify and condense it so it’s understandable to present in a easy way. So that’s my goals for this issue. Another goal I see that falls onto our plate is doing the research and finding out what the impact is going to have on us students, whether it’s class sizes and what that environment is going to be like. We’re already doing that with our budget ad-hoc committee, as far as contacting deans and trying to figure out how their colleges are going to be affected and what they foresee. I think next year a big issue will be to see if students really do notice the extra few students in their classes. What’s going to happen next year is really unforeseen right now so my goal is to make sure we have a foundation to take on the impact.

Ash: As Vice President, one of my main responsibilities is working directly with the Senate itself. Part of my biggest job is figuring out how to manage, how to work with appointments, and seeing a really diverse group of individuals within Senate to properly represent the student body. I’m thrilled to see such a different group of people on Senate; this huge range of individuals who are plugged in to so many different parts of our community and who are involved in so many student groups and know so such a diverse group of people. One of my goals is to properly use that body to really inform ourselves and encourage people to go out inform their peers. Hearing it from peer to peer is much different than hearing it from a website or from a microphone. It’s much different, and much more one to one. Students can relate to that a lot more, and it’s my goal to establish some kind of means for that.

Q: Kate: you had said you were mainly going to focus on being more transparent on this issue. What specifically were you thinking?

Ash: I’m a member of the budget ad-hoc committee, and one thing we’re working on a presentation that is a full-fledged PowerPoint presentation. We are going to every possible spectrum that we can, and that will be published. How its given to the student body we haven’t determined because it’s not finished. Something else I’d like to see established is monthly, maybe even bi-weekly areas on campus where students can be accessible with the senators. That’s one on one, five minute time where students can ask whatever they want. It’s our job to make those resources available, and it’s my job to make the Senators available. That’s part of my upcoming strategy.

Q: The Editorial in last week’s issue of the Cynic offered some specific suggestions, such as a Gmail account, AIM, etc. Is that anything you might be able to incorporate?

Ash: Actually, instant messenger exists: It’s UVMSGA. It’s not used, and I don’t know if it’s been used in recent years. As I first year and my sophomore year I had in on my instant messenger, did I use it? No. I did read the editorial, and I remember reading that paragraph and thinking “well that exists; that’s happening; we do want to do that,” so it’s good to see suggestions are being made and being a part of the current strategy. Those things listed are all listed on our to-do list, or highly to do list. Coffee with President Fogel – similarity with SGA is something that has been discussed for almost a year. Things like this really is our goal. We are still stepping into this, and we are still trying to define our body and what our senate is going to look like, and I think that will have a lot of impact on the presence we will have on campus when we see what membership we will have.

Q: Bryce: You have mentioned you feel that you understand the Administration’s actions. Do you have any fears that your opinion might spark resentment in students?

Jones: If it does spark resentment, I would hope to encourage those students to look at it from my perspective. There are many times that we feel we’re completely disconnected from the administration; we’re a younger generation with new and progressive ideas. I just have faith the administration is here to uphold our quality of education. It’s our future. It impacts what our next step after undergraduate. It affects the staff and faculty jobs – the competiveness of them. It affects the reputation of the administrators. Everybody has invested interest in keeping our quality of education because it reflects at our rankings. I believe the administration would work to make a decision so that impact from the current economic crisis is the least as it can be. Now, just because I support them in their decision making doesn’t mean that I completely am on the same page as far as did they do it 100 percent the best way. And that’s where I differ from the administration. I do understand and do believe there is lots of room for improvement. But how many times are we in an economic crisis such as this? Not everyone is an expert on how to prepare for this. I’m excited that because this has happened, the University realized that the way things were run and how we have been working with the budget process is one that needs to be improved. I think that’s what the new Vice President of Finance Richard Cate is excelling at. Yes, the new strategy of budgeting has added to that budget gap we’re facing, but that’s something that is very beneficial because we aren’t going to be so reliant on the economy and our one term reserve funds. That’s what I think should be looked at – the positives. There’s so much negative, and it’s so easy to get caught up in what could’ve been done, what could’ve happened. We need to look at this on a global perspective; we’re still maintaining our academic programs. There are universities as Kate mentioned; I mean, just look at Arizona State. There are universities out there, and it’s unbelievable how much their being affected. I don’t want to undermine the folks we won’t see next year, it’s definitely disheartening, but the reality is I’d rather see us not be so hostile toward everybody. Yes, we do need to be there when there are mess ups and bad decisions, we do need to voice our concerns and I think the student’s are doing a good job at bringing awareness. It’s a sticky situation, and I just hope that those comments don’t spark too much resentment in students. At this point, the strategy was picked so quickly, and we’re being impacted right now, we should not necessarily embrace it, but join forces and tread forward together.

Q: How do you feel the former SGA President and Vice President have done working on this issue?

Jones: This is something that came out so quickly with so many factors and was hard to grasp. For my position in Jay Taylor, he put a lot of effort in organizing the forum that happened with representatives with all different perspectives. Yes, students were very upset with the content of information that came about, but that shouldn’t be something that is reflected on Jay. In the end, Jay did organize that, and put in the effort in contacting everyone, and that’s something that is overlooked. It’s disheartening, because it does take a lot of effort, and it was very crucial, and SGA did step up. As far as what could be improved – and this is not something that they necessarily didn’t work toward – is passing on the information. That’s why I think they let us create the budget ad-hoc, to achieve these goals, and this is more reflective of what the budget ad-hoc needs to do right now. That’s the only criticism I have of Jay right now.

Ash: To begin with Jay for a little bit, I remember after the forum I spent a good hour and a half speaking with students one on one who were very disappointed with the content of the forum. Something I had to remind students, and even myself, was that President Taylor was a part of that conversation, and the fact that we were all at a forum with United workers, Graduate Student Senate, the Administration, Faculty Senate, and students all at the same table discussing the same issues at the same time was really the significance of the forum. Unfortunately a lot of people were still disappointed with that. But I was very happy to see that Jay made the effort and has made such a presence of himself within the administration in dealing with the budget crisis. He has really been firm in wanting to be involved in that process, and they want him a part of the process, and I’m pleased to see the work he’s done in establishing that relationship. I have not seen as much involvement from the Vice Presidential role with the budget realm, simply because of how the positions are separated. The President typically works more on policy issues, and this is very much a policy issue. I would like to see myself, because I have been a part of the ad-hoc budget committee, and because Bryce and I have worked so closely on this is the past few months, I would like to see my position as Vice President be more involved in that. I would like to continue to use my position in order to research and create new ways of information with the Administration; perhaps meeting and discussing how this is affecting the diversity of the student body – not so much academically, but how is this affecting student socially.

Q: What criticism did students have of the forum?

Ash: Some students were disappointed because they felt their voices and their opinions were not adequately represented by Jay, simply because he made many of the same points that we’re making right now – that it is a sticky situation. I was pleased with what was said from all aspects at that table because there was a real effort to address the issues.

Q: What is the budget ad-hoc committee?

Jones: Right before Christmas I attended a press conference that was put on by the Students Faculty Staff Together (they had a different acronym before) about when they were issuing for a moreatorium? I contacted a couple folks to see what sort of involvement SGA could have. Once I heard what they wanted I realized that I couldn’t bring into a resolution the arguments because the action statements were so unknown because of the situation and what was going on and what was actually feasible. I addressed Jay and Emma and asked if I could create an ad-hoc committee that was basically a research hub, and try to get as much information from the students prospective to compile and then present. We’ve reached out – I wanted it to be not just from SGA, so we brought on a couple students from the Student-Faculty Staff Together, and we also have a student that expressed interest from an outsider’s perspective. We brought it in to try to work and collaborate; “these are the numbers we’re getting,” and comparing numbers. Right now we’re just focusing on getting the foundation agreed upon by all aspects. The next step is getting it out, which is a big one. It’s exciting because the students on it really want to take it on, and with our new positions we aren’t going to be able to have as much of a guidance role. I mean, right now I’m the Chair, so I’m the one kind of organizing it. But I will definitely have a presence and will definitely be a part of it once we roll over.

Ash: I am the only other SGA member on it, so that’s when Bryce and I started to be in our working relationship, almost a precursor to this, so that’s been positive. It’s been unbelievable how much information as senators we have been given, and how much interest we have received from administrators and even deans. We’ve split up every dean from every college between the members that make the ad-hoc budget committee, so we are learning outside of our own realms, outside of our own colleges. We’re learning how it’s being affected, if it’s really being affected at all; I mean, is this something that’s mainly been just an upset in the faculty sentiment or is this something that is truly changing the entire process of a school? So it’s been really interesting to have that conversation, and the budget ad-hoc committee has given me a lot of insight, which I mentioned during the debate and in my platform; it gave me a lot of understanding to what the needs of the students are as a result of what’s going on, and that’s been a great motivator.

Jones: And as a message to students: I haven’t come across any problems in contacting any of the people we’ve talked to, whether its faculty members, deans, administrators. Everybody’s willing. You don’t need to be on Senate in order to send an email and set up a meeting time. If there’s more information, they’re willing and they want to present it. You can only do so much, and have the resources readily available, so there needs to be that 25 percent to reach out and grab it. So I encourage students, if they have questions people want to answer them.

Q: What is your outlook toward the situation for next year?

Jones: All of the current phase one and phase two is closing the gap for fiscal year 2010. We’re basically set for fiscal year 2010. So next year, unless something horrible happens to the economy which we’re all hoping doesn’t, we’re set. So once phase two comes out we’re going to be set for fiscal year 2010. There’s some projections that the following year there might not be as many returns, and we might need to figure that out then, but as far as one year ahead of us, we’re set.

Ash: For my personal opinion, I certainly am optimistic. I’m excited for Bryce and myself to be a part of this, and see where we can make a positive influence on the decisions being made. I’m also optimistic in our new Vice President Richard Cate. I’m very optimistic to see the goals and plans they’ll be working through next year. I think there is a common misconception that this is a one year issue – it’s not going to be over, and this is something that is going to need to be addressed for the next few years. We don’t know what that’s going to look like right now, and for my position I can’t say what it’s going to be. But I can say that I’m optimistic, and that as vice president I want to be involved in the process.

Q: What will be the easiest way for students to come to you with opinions on the matter?

Jones: For me I foresee email. We finally have a functioning website; it’s up, although there are still a couple areas that need tightening, links that still aren’t working correctly, but it’s up with all the contact information and office hours. Our doors are always open. Those will probably be the two best ways. Even being approached; if I’m walking on campus and students recognize me and pull me aside I wouldn’t be angry with that or resentful, I really encourage that. I want to be a resource for students, and I want them to feel like they can come to me anytime, and they will be able to.

Ash: For me, it’s person to person. I loved to be approached, it’s a lot of what I based my campaign upon, just one on one dialogue. Along with Bryce I encourage that 110 percent. I would also love to see students utilize the open forum during Senate, every Tuesday at seven o’clock is our senate meeting. From seven to whenever, you can come in and voice your opinions, tell about an event your club is doing, and speak on your concerns on the budget. Bryce and I will be sitting at the head of the table with our ears open eager to listen to students concerns. Secondly, email of course, and I encourage students to utilize their Senators, and part of the website’s new capabilities is that they’ll be able to contact students directly who are on certain committees. They’ll be able to look at their voting records directly and see where they stand and which Senator represents them most. Or just send a comment or a concern. I think that’s going to be a very valuable resource that people can use as well.

Q: What are your opinions on the baseball/softball removal?

Jones: It’s unfortunate. Nobody ever wants to see any of our students’ niche is taken away. It’s a decision that had to be made, and is one that happened so quickly that nobody foresaw it coming. That whole area, even with our resolution, is complex; they were dealing with a 1.1 million dollar deficit they had to come up with. That’s a lot of money. Personally, from what I have heard and the opinion I have right now, I really would’ve liked to have seen more belief in the students to at least give them a chance in fund raising. I mean, I know the idea of fundraising that amount of money each year – because it’s not just this one time, it’s that much money every year, and I understand that – but it would’ve been cool to at least seen a trial and what they could’ve done for a year. Maybe it’s only a year that we need to somehow locate the resources to support them again. That’s what I’m most upset about, although I know it’s also asking for more time. But I definitely want those athletes to know we’re supportive of them, and we hope they create clubs and come to us with whatever they’re dealing with right now.

Ash: I agree. The athletic department, unfortunately, is like every other department and had to make cuts. In SGA we were given three to five different scenarios; we had the athletic director come in and give us these scenarios, and we saw what different possibilities might look like, and to them this seemed like the most feasible, the best. I wish there had been more consideration gone into that; I also don’t sit behind the desk. I don’t work at the athletic department. So it’s not fair for me to say, without the proper information, that there wasn’t the quality decision making there. However, I’ve spoken to members of both the softball and the baseball team, and their education and their future really relies on how they’re going to be supported as a result of their program being cut. That is one issue SGA really needs to be a part of – this is a very big change, there are hundreds of students within the athletic program, so as things continue to move along in these next few years, how is SGA going to support this group of students who oftentimes are grouped together, and I think we know that. Someone came in last night from the Student Athletic Council and there were only a handful of us who had even heard of the Council, which was very frustrating from my point of view. Just having that kind of involvement perhaps we could’ve helped the situation, perhaps the SGA could’ve used some sort of influence or gone and received feedback from these students. Our job is to be a connector, and use its resources and use its skills and try to help out.

Q: We’ve touched upon this, but for next year: what can I tell the students your plans and goals are?

Jones: It’s hard to speculate what concerns and issues are going to arise for next year, because a majority of that process is happening right now. I think the most controversial issues are being experienced right now, so next year I think the focus will be different because all these decisions right now are going to be made, so next year it will be like “well this is what we have now.” My goal is to make sure that we are still upholding the university’s values and goals as being the environmental university, and focusing on the initiatives. Our enrollment practices should still be bringing in a diverse population and I know the administrators are on par with that as well with the three million dollars they’re putting into financial aid to make sure that pool is still diverse. Also to make sure that these current cuts now, especially in areas such as support services, if there’s areas that are lacking because of budget issues, that SGA steps up to the plate and can help and provide those that would otherwise be disappearing. In general my goal is to make sure we still are the university we came here for. To shed light on how that is going to be accomplished is our networking goal. To make sure that we at least make the relationship with students and clubs and organizations so they feel they have an easy route to communicate with us. It’s one that is going to be very difficult and is yet to be a success, not to undermine the past administration and SGA’s work, but it’s a difficult one. We’re going to have a high bar and high expectations put on our committees for next year, some that are going to be significantly higher, especially in the area of public relations since it is a committee that has a lot of room to improve. That would be one of my goals, and to make sure leadership on Senate is one that is upheld, and hopefully we can encourage the leadership we’d like to see and the students need.

Ash: I’m so excited for us to take on this position because I think students will see a change in the approach on how we take on these jobs. The budget issues affect more than what is just on our campus. They’re affecting what’s going on with students at home, whether they can live off campus this year, and they’re affecting our neighbor community members and colleges and the other colleges in the state. I would really like to begin the dialogue with Champlain college, Burlington college, and establishing, “What changes are you being forced to make? How are you being affected?” It’s more than just the UVM community it’s the Burlington community and I would really like to see a dialogue there because I really haven’t seen that, and that’s something to be improved upon. I think it would give us, the students, a lot of insight to how our entire community is being affected rather than in our own little UVM square, I guess.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

Ash: I would like to say that I encourage students to take the initiative to ask a variety of people what’s going on with this; whether that’s an activist, faculty member, administrator in Waterman. Just taking a minute to say “I don’t understand what this means,” or “Could you elaborate a little bit on that?” I encourage students to do their homework on what’s going on and become active on it. Or not, I mean, there’s a variety of interests, but I think it’s very important that we try to encourage that.

Jones: We’re experiencing a difficult time, and I feel like that’s so cliché, but one of my general goals is to make sure next year is fun. I feel like this has been a very heavy year; we’ve seen deaths and cuts and budget issues, and I don’t want that to spill over into next year and prevent that from being a year that we can grow and have fun. I guess if there’s any other message I want to make sure student’s know is that we’ll provide the support that clubs and organizations need to fulfill that.

Ash: We got to do what we got to do, and that’s one of the most important parts of our job: to make sure students are enjoying their experience here at UVM, and if they’re not, what can we do to tackle that issue.

Jon Stewart to come to UVM

According to uvm.edu/bored, Comedy Central comedian Jon Stewart is scheduled to come to UVM on March 28, 2009.

UPDATE (Feb. 24): For more information on Jon Stewart’s visit, click here.

UVM CFO and Provost discuss upcoming budget cuts

The Cynic sat down last week with UVM Vice President of Finances and Administration Richard Cate and UVM Provost John Hughes to discuss the upcoming budget cuts.

The following is a full transcript of the interview.

Vermont Cynic: For starters, there’s been a lot of talk about what’s going on and what is the plan behind the action?

Richard Cate: You start with a baseline of a need to reduce the budget by $15 million.

All we did from that point is say that we would give everyone targets and, when I say everyone, it’s the major units — so the College of Education and Social Services, the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences — so that the colleges and the major administrative units, for instance my unit is the Division of Finances and Enterprise Services, so I’ve got all the people who take care of the buildings, all the people who do finance, all the human resource people, that sort of thing.

And they have a vice president for Student Life, who has all the residential activities and athletics, these types of things.

So each of the vice presidents and each of the deans was given a target and the way it worked is it was a 4.75 percent cut target for academic units and a 6.5 percent target for administrative cuts.

And the provost and the president, at best, could get the target to the leaders of these units and have them come back with a plan rather than sit here and say, well, that particular program in that particular college should go.

So the deans consulted the faculty and staff, I consult with my staff and then in the latter part of January, we all had to submit our plans to the provost and the president in terms of how we would reduce our budgets by that amount.

They are currently in the process of reviewing those plans and then, our original time frame was, in the last week of February they would render judgment on those plans and we would announce what we were going to do.

Most recently, because of some uncertainty about the size of the appropriation we get from the state, what we said is, we’re going to go forward with the bulk of those plans subject to the approval of the provost and president, but most of the layoffs associated with those plans would not occur.

And I say most, because there are some limited layoffs that have to occur in February that have nothing to do with this budget gap — there are particular parts of the organization that were running structural deficits before any of this budget situation came up, so there will be limited layoffs that you will hear about, not from the academic units probably, but mostly from the administrative units.

VC: So those layoffs are being put off because of the fact that the governor has said that he might not decrease appropriations?

RC: Right, the rest of the layoffs, other than those that I just described. What the president has said is that we will revisit this matter probably in April when we have a better sense of what’s going to happen with this appropriation.

The governor, actually, recommended an increase in funding for the University over this past year, but obviously they’ve got some major issues to deal with and we don’t know what the legislature will come up with as a result of that recommendation.

So what we’re hoping for is that, by probably early April, the House will have acted on the budget and sent it to the Senate — somewhere in that April time frame.

It’s not for me to judge, but just based on past experience, typically by that time, they will move the budget to the Senate and we will have a better idea of where things are headed at that point, it won’t be done, because it’s not over till it’s over.

The Senate has to act and then they have to have a committee to conference and then the government has to sign the bill, but we’ll know more than we do now.

VC: When will non-personnel cuts be released?

RC: We’re actually talking about that right now in terms of probably a lot of it will be available in February, early March.

For instance, there are a number of positions the deans have offered up and said “let’s not fill those positions,” so they’ll probably be aware of that within the next few weeks.

VC: What reasoning is there behind deciding what’s on the table to be cut and what’s not?  For example, why not filling positions, but not pay cuts for senior members of the administration?

RC: I think everything was on the table, the plans in front of the president and the provost are from the units, for instance, the example you just gave is something that would have to be decided University-wide.

We’ve got a list of hundreds of recommendations that people have sent to the president in terms of recommendations of what to cut and what’s not to cut.

That’s still on the list, that’s still out there — President Fogel hasn’t said absolutely this is going to happen or that’s going to happen.

John Hughes: Perhaps I can step in there, as Richard says, the recommendations come from the units and everything is on the table.

Some units chose not to fill [any] vacant positions others chose to fill vacant positions, some chose to fill some [positions] and not others. The whole goal is to preserve the academic mission as best we can and emerge faster and stronger than any other institution — and I’ll give you some background on that in the nation.

As to cutting administrators’ pay, when things like this happen, people say, “Cut the football team and cut administrator’s salaries,” — it’s two knee jerk things that you hear across the nation. But as we look, we have been spending a lot of time trying to get the faculty up to the median salaries in their positions, we’ve used the OSU survey, the Oklahoma State University survey.

We believe that now in the latest contract we will be at the median for faculty salaries, and we think it’s very important that we can do that to attract people from around the nation.

And same for administrators, I get very nervous every year when I look at some of our gain salaries, they’re not near the median salaries and I think it’s important that we at least get to that area, so a knee-jerk reaction of cutting administrator salaries may not be the best answer, certainly it’s on the table, but it may not be the best answer.

RC: I think, also maybe another piece of this is I think we have to be careful not to presume that the ship can operate without the qualified people at the helm.

The president and provost put the academics of the institution far on ahead of everything, but somebody does have be looking at the whole picture and, I think if dig deeply, you’ll find that we’re actually light in administration compared to a lot of our peer institutions in terms of the way we’re set up.

Now, you can cut back anything in this life, but, the provost and I, we have to be careful in the message we send to anyone.

VC: Was there any concern at all when considering the message that might be sent to students with the specifics of what will be cut?

JH: There certainly is that, but what I would urge you to do, is take a look at the national picture — if we were the only one experiencing this I would be very nervous.

I truly believe we are in a much better position than the majority of other institutions. So, several weeks, or maybe a month and a half ago now, or two months ago, I spoke before the faculty senate and I stood up there and said, “I think every institution in the country of higher education except Harvard, is facing what we’re facing.”

And that very afternoon, while I was speaking, President Drew Gilpin Faust, of Harvard announced their salary freezes, their hiring freezes and the large problems that Harvard’s facing.

I would urge you to just hop on some Web sites — I’m a Dartmouth alum, and just this week we got the letter from Jim Wright, President Wright, outlining the problems at Dartmouth.

I don’t know if you’ve heard about that, but I suspect it’s on their Web site and I can even give you a copy of the letter, but don’t quote my numbers here until I give you the letter, but I think they have to cut 72 million or 70 million, 150 positions, 90 vacant ones, and I think 60.  But Dartmouth is just one — Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Cornell is facing some very, very serious difficulties.

RC: Arizona.

JH: Oh, Arizona is the worst, they were talking about cutting $600 million from their higher education budget, they’re talking about closing whole campuses.

So I don’t believe in delighting in the woe of others, if you read a newspaper, you watch television; you know what’s going on around the world.

I truly believe we will emerge from it stronger, many places are cutting salaries, freezing salaries, our faculty salaries are going up 5 percent a year for the next three years, and that will give us an advantage against those institutions that are freezing salaries or cutting salaries.

So, it is bothersome, but I like our position.

RC: I think the president’s been clear on our first and foremost priority; it really is about student-based issues.

And the data don’t demonstrate significant changes on average in class size or anything else. There are a few anecdotal instances, where partially because of the reorganization and partially because of the budget, there may be significantly larger classes, but on average, it looks like the average, our median class has got 19 students in it now.  It looks like it will have 20 or 21 after this, so there aren’t significant changes in what’s really happening.

The student experience is a priority across the board, but that doesn’t preclude a need to cut the budget.  I would argue that anything we do here has some effect on the student experience, even if we had fewer administrators.

JH: If it doesn’t, we shouldn’t be doing it.

RC: That would it affect it as well.

VC: I was also wondering, back to how other universities are experiencing similar issues, how does the endowment play into all of this in our school and in other universities?

RC: Well, the good news about the endowment is that we do not rely on it for a significant portion of our budget, so the income from the endowment is only about 1.5 percent of the operating budget.

So if you’re at Harvard or Dartmouth or Yale and you’re getting 30-40 percent of your operating income from the endowment and the value the value drops by 40 percent, you’ve got a problem.

With us, the endowment dropped, it didn’t drop as much as a lot of endowments did, but the degree that which we rely on it is much less.

A lot of people say, “Cure the problem by spending from the endowment,” and the bottom line issue with that is, we have a structural problem that is going to go on forever unless we fix it.

So it’s not like we can take $15 million out of the endowment and solve the problem, because we would have to take it out next year and we have a commitment to those donors that those assets will be preserved in perpetuity for the benefit of the institution. So that’s really not an option.

Most of out state peers at other state universities rely more heavily on the state, so state budget cuts hurt them. Our private peers rely on endowment, so the endowment declines and the stock market decline has affected them.

In some ways, we’re fortunate that we’re more dependent on tuition.

VC: You mentioned that the effect on class sizes will be fairly small — are there any places where the effects of the cuts might be felt more by students, faculty and administrators?

RC: I think that there are some classes, based on what I’ve heard — and this is still anecdotal — but there are some classes that were larger classes anyway that are going to be much larger.

I wouldn’t argue, necessarily, that that makes it a negative student experience, but it will make it a different student experience, and of course it depends on how it’s done.

I have heard of some classes that have been 80 that are going to be 150, but that’s a very limited number on it of classes of that size on campus to begin with, so I think there is something like that.

You know, in terms of affecting faculty, one thing that’s going to affect faculty and staff on this campus is that custodial services will be different. We won’t be doing things quite the way we have been, because there won’t be as many people doing the services, because we won’t be back filling some positions.

Some people may have to engage in some part of the custodial services on their own, those types of things.

But mostly, this is — a lot of it is — about trying to do things differently and not bringing in quite as many more people to do them.

VC: Is that a trend that might prevail for a long time?

RC: I don’t think class sizes are going to decease dramatically.

I think the provost and the president have been trying to get the ratio up between 16 and 17 for some time — and the strategic plan has called for that — and so, I think after this, we’ll be where we have been trying to get to all along.

But I don’t think the average student is going to detect it on a regular basis.

There may be one class where a student says, “This is bigger than it used to be,” but most cases, again in comparison to our peers, we are still in the land of small classes.

JH: Our student-faculty ratio, as Richard said, was our target in 2004 — 16-1.  We never got there because it is more fun to add faculty and times were good.  We did not have to.

16-1 puts us among the lower if not the lowest in public higher education.

I recently completed a comparison for our board of our top 25 competitors in terms of cross-admissions.

In other words, UNH is our top competitor among students that apply both here and there, and, if we compare our top 25 among those, in the publics we are second to lowest in student-faculty ratio.

Delaware does 13-1, I don’t know how they do it.  I assume they get a huge state subsidy.

I decry what is happening in higher education, but I certainly like our position and our leadership through this better than the vast majority of institutions.

Even the mighty are falling — Stanford, Cornell, Harvard, Yale.

VC: Is there concern how hikes in tuition will affect incoming students?

JH: Every other night I wake wondering how students are going to pay for it and then every other night I wake wondering how we do it so inexpensively.

Our 6 percent tuition increase puts us in the lower half of publics, and my guess is way lower half.

Because a lot of schools are solving the problem by —it takes so much to run a university and when the state cuts back it has got to come from somewhere — and they choose to do it by raising tuition.

The average among publics last year was 6.6 percent and we raised 10 percent lower than that at 6 percent. But keep in mind that when we raise tuition by 6%, that only increases our recovered money by 3.8 percent, because a third of it, or little more than a third, immediately goes to financial aid.

So if you are receiving financial aid and tuition goes up by 6 percent, we raise your financial aid. So out of that 6 percent, a third immediately goes to financial aid, so we realize, 4 percent, or in this case 3.8 percent, so it’s not a draconian increase, because we plow a third of it right back to you, and you and your colleagues.

RC: What we are finding in the analysis we’re going through right now is that on a proportionate basis we actually are going to have to drive more money to financial aid — we’ll be putting up more financial aid on a proportionate basis because of some of the impacts that incoming students are feeling.

So that is going to be another budget challenge that we’ve got to deal with.

VC: Will you be able to make the enrollment targets of 300 additional students?

RC: Well right now we have record applications — about 22,000.  I don’t think there is any doubt we can fill the positions.

The challenge is always about maintaining the academic excellence of students and the diversity of students.

And that is what is driving this additional financial aid, because as the enrollment management folks bring forth that quality and diversity, basically it is costing more financial aid to maintain that this year.

But I think the president, the provost and I are all confident that the students will be there.

VC: What about housing for those students?

RC: So, obviously, they are not all going to be first year — maybe about a half of them — 140 of them, perhaps, will be first-year students.

And what we took to the Board this weekend was a proposal to renovate a dorm over on Trinity Campus, that will hold about 160 students.

VC: Will there be more dorm crowding?

RC: Well, what we are doing is talking about adding more room than the increase in on-campus students so we should be staying neutral.

We have another project that is a couple years out that we call Redstone Two, which would add another 400 beds that would hopefully alleviate some of the crowding we have now and then perhaps down the road perhaps yet again more dorm rooms.

JH: One exercise I might suggest you try — Do you both live on campus?  In doubles or triples?

Well, we’ll choose the example of a double.

If you go down Williston Road and choose a cheap hotel, motel, call them up and see what their rates are — it will  be $89, $99, $79 a night.

Add the taxes and calculate what it would cost you to live in that room, double occupancy, for 224 nights.  If you do that, you’ll find about $22,000 to $24,000 a year.
What do you get?  You get a room, double occupancy, maybe a color TV.

If you come to UVM as a Vermont student, you get a room — double or single occupancy — you get world-class education, you get a library with millions of volumes, you get health care, you get counseling, you get a marvelous faculty, you get admission to NCAA sporting events, you get an art museum and a geology museum, you get computer labs, you get wireless, you get access to computers, you get transportation and oh, food! You get three squares a day.

As a Vermonter on the average it costs you $9,000.

That is what keeps me awake — How can we provide that for you for $9,000, on the average, as a Vermonter?

Yet if you went and made that comparison, I think you would find that interesting.

VC: Has the ratio between in-state and out-of-state students changed at all over the past few years?

JH: It has been fairly constant.  We are going to keep an eye on it over the next few years because people like you are getting more and more rare.

Vermonters are, the number of Vermont high-school graduates is declining, the decline starts this year.

And we are getting larger and stronger pools of Vermonters as we become more attractive to in-state students.

So we hope to buck the trend of there being fewer and fewer of you in the demographics, and attracting more and more by simply being a desirable place to be, which we have seen happen in the past few years.

I don’t know what the buzz was in your high school, but we are hearing that people are thinking that UVM is a stronger and more desirable place to go these days.

IRA compensation bill tabled

A bill brought up for consideration at the Inter-Residence Association’s (IRA) bi-weekly meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 11, was to provide compensation for the seven student members of the IRA executive board.  The full text of the bill can be found here.

According to Sarah Rouhan, the Cynic’s reporter covering the meeting, the compensation bill was tabled until the IRA constitution is revised, which may happen sometime before the end of the semester.

A transcript and audio of an interview with IRA President Bob Just and the bill’s creator, Peter Cesiro, can be found here.

Quoted is the text of a speech by UVM student Jimmy Candon that he delivered at the meeting:

Hello,

My name is Jimmy Candon. I am here speaking on behalf of myself, one of your constituents, an on-campus resident who pays the IRA fee each semester. I apologize for writing this, but please understand I need to choose my words carefully so that my role right now as an “IRA fee-paying on-campus resident” doesn’t get confused with my two other roles, an RA and SGA Senator.

Some of you may be familiar with who I am because of my initial role publicizing your executive board’s proposed bed waiver compensation. I have come tonight to express similar disapproval for an increase in compensation now. I primarily opposed the compensation last semester due to the reallocations of money compared to the previous year your executive board made, then you approved, in order to create an additional $40,000. The Readership program was reduced from $35,000 to $7,000. There was a reduction greater than 50 percent in the cumulative amount of money allocated for Social, Educational, and Community Service Programming and no money was allocated for Co-Sponsorship, Sponsored Programs, or the Resident Support Group. For an organization whose role it is to represent all on-campus residents, I found it hard to justify that this was in the best interest of the students. 

My disapproval tonight falls upon the same ethical question: is this right? What areas of IRA have suffered financially to make this a possibility? Would the on-campus student body approve of IRA spending almost one fifth of its working budget towards their seven executive board members? Did the Board of Trustees intend for the IRA fee to be used this way when they approved the fee?

As I told your President last semester before I went public with their proposed compensation package, “I don’t feel like the on-campus student body would approve of this use of money.” Despite untrue excuses of misinformation, I say with confidence, I was right.

It might interest you to know that SGA Senators like myself receive no compensation, the President of our largest club, the Outing Club, receives no compensation, the President of the WRUV radio station, even the President of UVM Rescue receives no compensation. There is a quote in The Adventure of the Norwood Builder where the fictional character Sherlock Holmes says, “The work is its own reward.” I ask that the IRA executive board look to this philosophy for compensation instead of continuing to attempt to further their own.

As Sarah Glassman put it last semester when she was explaining to me why she single handedly voted down the bed waiver compensation, “I thought of it as an ethics check.” So it’s up to you, I urge you to make the right decision. As your President Bob Just stated in the Cynic interview, his name may not be on this legislation but he did help to create it. I urge you to disregard your executive board and make the decision based on what you believe will be the best for the organization.

I wish I could stay, but I have to get back and study for an exam tomorrow. I will T the P, trust the process. I trust you will all make the right decision tonight. I look forward to reading about it in the Cynic next week, Sarah Rouhan does a great job keeping the rest of the campus informed on this topic. Thank you very much for your time. 

Details of UVM cuts to be released soon

According to a communication from the President’s office to the UVM Faculty Senate and UVM faculty prior to Dec. 15, 2008, Feb. 18 is when the preliminary details of the cuts on the FY2010 budget are expected to be firmed-up:

Feb. 9-12 — Ad Hoc Budget Advisory Group meeting

Feb. 18 — Budget Plan back to the Units. Joint meeting of Deans and Vice Presidents

United Academics, the faculty union at UVM, is planning on holding a forum about the cuts on the same day, as well as one Friday, Feb. 13.

From the United Academics Web site:

United Academics United Academics is teaming up with the Faculty Senate to host a series of fora to give faculty a formal venue in which to express concerns and questions about the budget and about restructuring. This is your chance to share your perspective with your fellow faculty and with the administration (who will, in the words of Faculty Senate President Robyn Warhol-Down: “be there to listen, but not to speak.”) The Fora will be held from 4-5:30pm: on Friday Feb. 13th at the Ira Allen Chapel; on Wednesday February 18th at the Silver Maple Ballroom in the Davis Center; and on Monday February 23rd in Waterman Building’s Memorial Lounge.

Board of Trustees Meeting updates, Saturday, Feb. 7, 2009

Updates from the second day of UVM’s Board of Trustees meeting. For more information, check out the Board’s of Trustees Web site here.

11:00 — Executive session adjourned.

9:30 — Board moves to executive session to discuss personnel issues

9:22 — Board resolves that Richard Cate and John Hughes will retain their positions as Vice President and Provost, respectively.

8:49 — John Snow, on how UVM’s investment committee is facing: “It’s an absolutely abysmal market.”

8:40 — Martha Heath, on how financial aide is based on previous year’s salary: “Chris [Lucier] hates that … he will get calls as family’s situations change.”

8:36 — Public Comment Period ended

8:32 — Jacques Bailly, Classics Professor: “Some cures are just as bad as diseases.”

8:28 — “It is very difficult to improve the reputation of UVM, but it is very easy to destroy it.”

8:00 — Public Comment Period began.

Board of Trustees Meeting updates, Friday, Feb. 6, 2009

Updates from the first day of UVM’s Board of Trustees meeting. More updates will be added as events occur. For more information, check out the Board’s of Trustees Web site here.

2:40 - Board of Trustees endorsed the conversion of Mcauley Hall into dorms.

12:14 – Annie Stevens: “We would be moving Delehanty Deck to Mcauley …”

12:12 – Richard Cate about the quality of our meal-plans: We’re at the back of the pack and we’re hungry.”

12:10 – Dan Fogel: “Once we get the right formula [to appeal to prospective students], we need to say it over and over.”

12:03 – Robert Cioffi: “The marketplace sees us as an expensive alternative.”

12:01 – Bill Ruprecht: “At what cost do we achieve excellence?”

11:48 – Peer Assessment begins

10:14 — Fogel announced that Howard Dean will be the new commencement speaker.

10:08 — Deborah McAneny questioned the separation of the funding priority list and the opportunistic project list. “We still need to keep it all on the same priority list.”

9:44 — John Hughes, regarding the addition of 300 students next year: “We need beds for approximately half of them.”

9:31 — Item 11, acceptance of gifts and grants report passed.

9:23 — John Smith: [“The decision to outsource internal audits] is not simply a matter of cost”

9:11 — James Leddy: “PeopleSoft has been ‘People-Hard’”

9:07 — Richard Cate: “PeopleSoft is only a tool … but the accountability has to be there.”

8:42 — Robyn Warhol-Down: “In 26 years at UVM, I have seen the faculty this riled up only two times, once just before the end of George Davis’ presidency and once just before the end of Tom Salmon’s. I speak for the Executive Council of the Senate when I say we strongly support Dan Fogel’s presidency and we would not want to see it end for many years to come.”

8:40 — Robyn Warhol-Down: “The three minutes that the President of the Faculty Senate is allotted on the agenda are not enough time to convey the anxiety, dismay, anguish, and outrage that many faculty are expressing.”

8:36 — Dan Fogel: “In closing, I say this: we cannot allow our fear of change, which will occur whether we respond passively or actively- to incapacitate or divide us at this critical time. We must have confidence in our strength.”

8:26 — Dan Fogel: “We will defer action on most of the recommended layoffs.”

8:15 — Ian Boyce in opening address: “Opportunities are born in times like this.”