JOHNSON, VT – By the beginning of the 2024-25 school year, things will be a little bit quieter on Vermont State University’s five campuses, as 33 administrative and staff positions are being cut between now and the end of the 2023-24 school year.
While university leaders are in a position where they have to make money-saving decisions to the tune of $5 million annually, some staff members say they’re angry with the recent cuts, and think VTSU leadership could have found better solutions to reduce their deficit. Specifically, staffers are upset that some higher-paying positions, including the university’s vacant chancellor seat, are being kept around.
“We’re losing our friends, long-term employees, people that we care about … and yet absolutely no cuts or changes at upper management,” said Dr. Janet Bennion, a professor at VTSU’s Johnson campus and a member of the university’s faculty assembly.
Some say they specifically asked VTSU’s former interim president Mike Smith, who wrapped up his six month stint at the college on October 31, to cut only administrative positions. However, they feel their requests were ignored.
“All of us all along have been saying we really need to reduce administration costs,” said Amy Miller, Co-President of Vermont State Colleges United Professional.
“It’s so corrupt,” Dr. Bennion said. “These lofty positions coming out of central office, they really don’t need to be there. Just cut those. We will survive, and we’ll save millions.”
Instead, the 33 positions being cut are a mix of administrative and staffing positions, expected to save the university $3.3 million annually. Among them are 17 buyouts and only one layoff, but staffers say their colleagues were forced to make a decision between those two options.
“You either buy out or you get laid off, that’s the implication,” Dr. Bennion said. “Mike Smith, you know, he’s not a hero in these last set of cuts. He did not take any advice from students, staff, or faculty in his cuts.”
After announcing the cuts, Smith offered a statement saying in part, “These caring and dedicated teammates will always be part of the VTSU family. My pledge is to work with the unions to ensure a financial relief package that reflects our respect for their service.” Smith has also gone on record before saying these cuts were ‘incredibly difficult to make.’
Even with that, staff say they’re concerned about what the 2024-25 school year may look like.
“The impact on students will be felt,” Miller said. “Who’s going to be assisting them in creating their resumes and securing internships? Or, who’s going to be assisting them accessing their financial aid?”