UVM students, faculty rally in their cars to protest pay and classroom cuts

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A group of University of Vermont teachers, students and faculty gathered on campus Thursday to protest the news that 72 faculty members will have their teaching and pay cut by 25%.

UVM United Against Cuts, a coalition organized to oppose the decision, organized the protest, which was conducted in cars. The coalition is calling on the administration to reverse course and instead pursue a strategy of “minimum pain with maximum gain.”

“We just really want to get their attention and ask them to cut from the top,” Sarah Alexander, an associate professor of English, said. “Instead of cutting classes and the curriculum, which will hurt faculty members and students, we want the overpaid administrators to look at their salaries and cut those first.”

Alexander says the coalition also wants to know more about the university’s budget crisis.

“We have been told enrollment in the college is up for the fall,” she said. “So we want to know why they are cutting the salaries of the lowest-paid faculty members.”

According to the coalition, top administrators are making only symbolic gestures toward reducing their salaries. For example, President Suresh Garimella, whose base salary is $480,000 and whose total annual compensation is more than $630,000, pledged to forego one month of pay.

Rachel Montesano, a senior lecturer at UVM and a single parent, said the salary cuts will hit her family hard.

“It is going to produce food insecurity for my family and housing insecurity and also it’s going to force me to start looking for a part-time job while I am teaching full time,” Montesano said.

The administration also announced a hiring freeze that will terminate many part-time faculty who teach courses for about $6,000 per section. Members of the coalition said non-teaching staff, many of whom already earn well below a livable wage, worry that the university’s budget-cutting will strike them next.

Montesano said UVM has been making educational program cuts through the years, while bolstering non-academic areas. “they have been putting more money into marketing, branding, and administrative positions,” she said. “So, students have fewer choices.”

Alexander said the protest isn’t just about the pay cuts, but about the university community and the quality of education, as well. She said they have written a letters to the Board of Trustees, but have yet to hear an answer.

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