On November 15, 2023

Vermont State University student leaders protest budget cuts, seek greater voice

By Babette Stolk/VTDigger

As Vermont State University enacts a series of cost-cutting measures, members of the school’s student government say that their voices are not being heard.

During a press conference said Monday, Nov. 13, at the Statehouse, students implored school officials to give them a seat at the table and allow them greater input as budget cuts are being made.

“Rescind these decisions, reevaluate what is best for your student body, request student feedback, meet us and allow student voices to be heard,” said Zachary Durr, treasurer of the student government association at the university’s Castleton campus.

In recent months, university leaders have begun to implement deep cuts to address a $22 million structural deficit. It offered buyouts to dozens of faculty members and eliminated 33 administrative and staff positions. The moves come soon after Northern Vermont University, Castleton University and Vermont Technical College merged into the newly christened Vermont State University.

Faculty, staff, labor unions and students have objected to the cuts. Earlier this month, student government associations at each of the university’s campuses cast no-confidence votes in the leadership of the Vermont State Colleges System. 

At a meeting Monday, the system’s board of trustees issued a statement of support for Sophie Zdatny, the outgoing chancellor, and the cuts her leadership team has proposed. The board called it “a smart and actionable plan to right-size course offerings and restructure administrative operations” in order to achieve financial stability. 

The board said it was “time to move forward” and focus on implementing the plan. 

But at Monday’s press conference at the Statehouse, students made clear they were not prepared to move forward. They emphasized the essential roles many staff members play at the university, ranging from personal guidance to career development. 

“As the university has shifted throughout the transformation to become a workforce readiness institution, it seems a bit backward we’re going to be cutting positions within career development,” Durr said.

Other students mentioned the importance staff members have in supporting certain community initiatives, such as the peer leadership program at the Lyndon campus.

Josh Porter, vice president of the student government association at the Randolph campus, said that the organization had relied upon an assistant dean of students to provide critical support. 

“When you get rid of positions like that you are basically removing our ability to communicate with the administration,” Porter said. 

While many of the proposed cuts are not scheduled to take effect until next academic year, students expressed concern Monday that they may be felt sooner. 

Faculty members who accept buyouts will be leaving before some students have finished their degrees, they said, potentially undermining the quality of their education and experience.

“We’re not opposed to change,” said Annie Walker, president and treasurer of Lyndon’s campus activities board. “We are opposed to having no say in these changes.”

By Natalie Williams/VTDigger

Adsel Sparrow, a student at Vermont State University-Castleton,

delivered opening remarks during the press conference Monday.

By Natalie Williams/VTDigger

Two Vermont State University students shared a supportive hug

after sharing views during the press conference at the Statehouse, Nov. 13.

 

By Natalie Williams/VTDigger

Amelia Vlahogiannis, a student at Vermont State University-Randolph,

speaks during a press conference at the Statehouse on Monday.

 

 

 

 

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