After facing backlash and a vote of no confidence, leaders at Vermont State University are defending decisions to cut staff and academic programs.

The cuts, which include 33 administrative or staff positions and ten academic programs, are part of VTSU’s refined ‘Optimization 2.0’ plan. Released on October 31 by former Interim President Mike Smith, it’s expected to save the university $3.3 million annually over the next few years. The plan was sent to VTSU’s Faculty Assembly for consideration Tuesday afternoon, and will go to the president’s office soon after for final approval.

“I think it really sets Vermont State University on a path of both fiscal sustainability, but also being able to meet its mission in serving students,” said Sarah Truckle, Vice President of Business Affairs at VTSU.

But ever since the plan was released, it’s faced mixed reaction from students and staff members. This past Wednesday, November 1, the Student Government Associations at Vermont State’s Castleton, Johnson, Lyndon and Randolph campuses jointly filed a vote of ‘no confidence’ aimed at the Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees, VTSU’s president’s office, and Truckle.

University leaders say that while they understand the frustrations and realize change is hard, they believe Optimization 2.0 is still their best path forward for saving money, supporting students, and addressing Vermont’s workforce needs.

“Change is incredibly hard and uncomfortable, and it is always difficult when a person is let go or a program is closed,” Truckle said. “I think this was a necessary part of our evolution of transformation and the merging of Vermont State University.”

“There’s a reason we call it transformation, it’s not called nibbling around the edges,” said Nolan Atkins, VTSU’s Provost and Acting President. “We truly need to transform how we think about public higher education.”

At the same time, Atkins says they are taking the vote of no confidence seriously, and are keeping students opinions in mind.

“I think what we need to do moving forward is to hear that, recognize it and acknowledge it,” Atkins said.